While I love having fresh fruits and vegetables available year round, I don’t have much of a green thumb. I hate the watering, pruning and general preparation of the garden beds for planting. Luckily, we have irrigation in all of our gardens and Brad does most of the prep work.
My herb garden, however, is fully manageable. Right out the back door off of my kitchen is a space big enough to plant all of the herbs that I use regularly. It is also small enough to easily maintain. The herb garden takes little effort and is very convenient. About twice a year, in the spring and fall, I thin-out everything, cut back dead stems and plant new annuals. I generally keep everything in the same location year after year. This layout always works really well so I stick with it.
Most of the perennial herbs – rosemary, oregano, spearmint, thyme, and chives – were planted three years ago. I also planted a new chocolate mint in addition to the parsley and cilantro that I plant twice a year. Through regular use and pruning they stay small and manageable. The pruning also helps to encourage new growth. When I’m thinning out the plants, I typically cut a bundle, wrap it with string and hang it in my garage for a few days to dry. After they are dry, I crumble the leaves, separate out the stems and store in an airtight container.
Since mint tends to be invasive and will easily take over the whole garden if you let it, I plant each of the mints in a pot in the ground. I then cover the top of the pot with mulch. This works well for the mints and I just cut back any runners that spread from the top of the pot. Below is my newly planted chocolate mint.
For the past two years I haven’t had much luck with growing lavender. I’m not sure if it’s the heat, humidity, or both. This year, I decided to try it again, but instead planted it in a pot to ensure better drainage and air circulation.
You can’t get anything more fresh, flavorful or convenient than herbs straight from your own garden. Herbs can compliment or enhance a recipe. You can use them as a garnish to add color and texture or as an ingredient to add bold flavor. If you are just starting out or don’t have the space to plant a full herb garden, I recommend starting with a few small herbs in pots either outside or inside by a window. You will be surprised how easy it is to grow fresh herbs.