I love herb plants. I have grown thyme, basil, marjoram, sage, mint, parsley, cilantro, chives, rosemary, oregano and more. My rosemary plant has now made it through two winters and it looks like a small shrub.
I love herb plants because I get to eat them, they are easy to grow, and they can be grown quite successfully in containers. My herb plants have all been grown in plain, cheap plastic containers from the local discount store. Some, like mint and the rosemary, have been grown in their own individual pots, while others, like thyme and sage, are planted together in window boxes that sit on the walls of my patio. These container-grown herb plants are incredibly convenient because they are all about two steps out my back door. If I decide I need an herb in the middle of cooking dinner, I can rush out and grab a little without having to worry if my kitchen will catch on fire (and without stopping to find my shoes). There is really only one rule to growing herb plants: grow what you like.
If you never cook Italian food, do not grow basil. If you do not like mint, do not grow it. You should never grow something you will not use just because it looks nice, smells nice, or seems like something that ought to be in your garden. If you cook a lot, you probably already know what kinds of herb plants you would like in your container garden.
If you do not cook, growing some herb plants just might give you a kick-start. Try easy-to-grow and use herbs like parsley, chives, cilantro or thyme. Or grow things that correspond to the cuisines you like to eat: cilantro for Mexican food, basil and rosemary for Italian, mint and chamomile if you love tea, lemongrass and Thai basil for Thai food, etc.
Then get a recipe book from the library and make sure those herbs do not go to waste! There are two methods for growing herb plants: you can buy already established plants or you can start your herb plants from seed. We usually do a mix based on which herb plants are available for sale at our local farmers market or garden supply store. The easiest herb plants to grow from seed are parsley, cilantro, chives, mint and other similar plants with small grassy stems. The woodier herb plants like rosemary, thyme and oregano are better grown from established plants. If you are planting established herb plants, you plant them in the same way you would plant any other plant; just dig a hole, put the plant in and water it well. If you are starting your herb plants from seeds, scatter them over the soil, cover very lightly with a little bit of soil and water well.
The plants will begin to sprout in about a week. The great thing about starting your herbs from seeds is that you can continue to plant seeds every couple of weeks all season long so you always have fresh herbs available. Parsley and cilantro in particular benefit from this continual sewing, because so much must be harvested to be of any use. Whichever way you choose to start your herb plants, make sure you keep them well watered through the season and they will produce well for you.
Established herbs can be harvested by simply trimming off what you need. The potency of dried herbs is about three times that of fresh, so if you are using fresh herbs in a recipe that called for dried herbs, triple the amount called for. Fresh herbs are not just for cooking.
You can also use them in craft projects, flower arrangements, and salads. Dry some of your harvest so you will have great fresh herbs all winter long. You will never go back to those sad little tins from the grocery store.
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