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tips FoodFit's tips: How to build a raised bed.

Herb Basics - a grower's guide from basil to sage.

No backyard? You can still have a wonderful indoor herb garden

Tips and Techniques

The A-B-Cs of Herb Gardens

There are few greater pleasures than stepping out your back door on a summer evening to pick fresh basil for homemade pesto or sprigs of cilantro to top a burrito. The kitchen herb garden, which dates back to the Middle Ages, can range from a simple collection of annuals to an elaborate labyrinth of culinary and medicinal plants. However large or small your plot, any herb garden quickly earns its keep, both as a tasty contribution to the kitchen and an eye-pleasing, aromatic place in the yard.

Picking Your Patch

For the most part, herbs are hardy plants and grow well in the hands of any gardener, whatever level of experience. However, there are some basic ground rules to bear in mind:

  • Choose your plot carefully. It should get at least some sun. Some herbs, like oregano and mint, will thrive in lightly shaded areas, but others such as basil, cilantro, or lavender, need a lot of sun. See herb basics to figure out what will work in your yard.
  • Try to find a spot close to the kitchen for easy access and convenient to a reliable water supply. Although some herbs — once established — are drought-tolerant, many require regular watering during the hot summer months.
  • Be careful about lead and other common contaminants in the soil. If you live in a highly urbanized area or near an existing — or formerly existing — industrial site, you might want to get your soil tested. Soil kits are available at most garden centers. If your soil turns out to be of poor quality, don't despair, build a raised bed or plant your herbs in pots.

Planting Your Garden

Once you've found the ideal spot, you're ready to plant your herbs. Whether you start your garden from a packet of seeds or with seedlings from a nursery depends largely on what you're growing and the time of year. It can be a wonderful experience to watch a seed evolve into a mature plant or it can be equally rewarding to buy and plant an herb garden in a day.

  • Plant what you want to cook. If you like to make pesto, for example, plant as much basil as you have space for.
  • Plant for the future. Remember that perennials and annuals spread. An oregano plant can double in size in a month and a small rosemary plant will one day become a two-foot bush, so space your plants generously.
  • Water your plants regularly, but be careful not to moisten them in the midday sun. The process can actually burn the leaves and weaken the plant.

related links How to Build a Raised Bed
  1. Choose your garden spot, then dig down half a foot
  2. Erect a wood frame around the bed
  3. Put a perforated plastic sheet down to separate the old soil from the new
  4. Fill in the bed with a mix of top soil and manure

Make great use of your fresh herbs with these delicious recipes:

White Bean Soup with Shellfish and Pesto
Grilled Citrus Chicken with Fresh Salsa
Easy Herb Omelet
Roasted Parslied New Potatoes

This article was contributed by Ruth Prince

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