Grow herbs at home this summer

Growing herbs at home is fun, convenient and easy.
Growing herbs at home is fun, convenient and easy.

By Joan Casanova

Growing herbs is a simple way to add edible plants to your garden. Most herbs are very versatile, and grow well in the ground or in containers. Herbs make a great addition to a traditional flower garden, and are also a pretty, practical accent to containers near a grill or right outside your back door.

Why grow herbs when they’re readily available at the market? Here’s why:

You’ll save money in the produce aisle. Fresh herbs can be expensive when you purchase them at the grocer, and you won’t always find what you’re looking for. Plus, cut herbs are already harvested and won’t last long. Herb plants keep producing fresh herbs all season long.

Containers are convenient. Growing your own herbs at home couldn’t be more convenient, and they’re always ready when you are. Herbs are a great choice for containers, and you can mix varieties in just one pot. Be sure the container you choose is big enough to accommodate more than one herb, and that there are holes at the bottom for proper drainage. Use a premium potting soil, water your herbs regularly, and feed them a plant food of your choice, being sure to follow label directions. Place the pots on your patio in plenty of sunshine—6-8 hours a day is required.

Shake up your supper. Adding different or uncommon herbs to a simple dinner can create a whole new meal. Suddenly, with fresh herbs, even simple side dishes become super flavorful. Add fresh rosemary to potatoes and they’ll burst with fantastic flavor. Your choices are only limited to the herb varieties you select and how daring and creative you want to be with your menu.

Exotic varieties abound. Did you know there are more than 30 different types of basil? Your supermarket usually only carries the most common, like sweet basil. Bonnie Plants, the nation’s largest supplier of vegetables and herbs, many of which are available at Home Depot, Walmart and Lowes stores, provides some unusual basil varieties like purple basil, Thai basil, cinnamon basil and spicy globe basil. Any of these will add a touch of unusual taste to basic recipes. Growing your own herb garden will allow you to cost-effectively sample some unusual, even exotic, herbs without breaking the bank.

They’re good for you. Adding fresh herbs to your diet is a great way to boost your meal’s vitamin value, but that isn’t the only health benefit you’ll reap. Gardening is good for you. It provides some exercise through digging, bending, and stretching, and it’ll get you outdoors in the sunshine. Gardening can also be a stress-reliever, plus herbs have beautiful aromas that your sense of smell will relish.

They’re practical and pretty. Adding an herb garden to your home’s landscape gives your yard real curb appeal. Most herbs are just as pretty as shrubs and flowers. You can even add them or create herb borders to your existing flower beds if you don’t have room for just an herb garden. Herbs blend in beautifully.

Getting started is easy. First, try using transplants rather than seed. All the hard work associated with seed germination is already done for you, and herbs are ready for planting and harvest.

Planting and growing herbs is a great project for kids, too. Let kids pick out a container and some herb plants. Buy a premium potting mix and a good plant food; food plants are hungry. Kids can plant up a container of herbs with just a bit of help. They’ll take ownership of the herb pot, can easily harvest herb leaves themselves and just might try some new taste sensations they wouldn’t have tried otherwise, since they’ve grown the herbs themselves. Plus, gardening will get kids outside in the sunshine.

Herbs are easy to grow. Choose varieties you know you’ll use, staples like basil, oregano, parsley, and rosemary. Then pick some herbs you haven’t tried to open up a wide spectrum on new taste sensations.

Herbs can also be incorporated into desserts—strawberries and basil pair amazingly well together, especially when served over vanilla ice cream. They’re a great addition to flavoring drinks; try basil in spiced tomato juice, add basil to pineapple juice with lime and club soda, or add blueberries and lavender to pink lemonade.

They say herbs are the gateway to gardening. Try some and get growing!