5 Tips for Growing and Enjoying Herbs From the Garden
Herbs are excellent additions in vegetable gardens. They can play an important role in the garden ecosystem as habitat plants, and they can positively impact our cooking and our health. Additionally, most herbs are low-maintenance and a joy to grow. Check out the tips below to learn more about growing herbs.
- Mix up your herbs and vegetables! Annual herbs make great companions to annual vegetables, and perennial herbs are excellent habitat plants to grow on the edges and borders of your planting area. Incorporating herbs into the garden can help to keep the garden diverse, attract beneficial insects, and provide you with fresh treats that can be used in cooking, food preservation and herbal medicine.
- Find out what your herbs like. In general, most perennial herbs can be grown in average soil and annual herbs will enjoy fertile soil, similar to your vegetables. Some herbs will need full sun to thrive, such as basil, lavender and sage, while others will grow well in part-sun or even shade, such as cilantro, parsley and mint. Consider the type of soil, nutrient needs, sun exposure and water needs of each individual herb you are choosing to grow. This will help set you up for success.
- Harvest throughout the season. Many of our herbs will continue to produce leafy foliage through the season, if we are harvesting them. If we don’t harvest them, they may go on to the next stage of their lives, developing flowers and seeds. Keep harvesting basil, parsley, shiso, chives, mint, oregano, and thyme to keep them abundant. If any of your herbs do go to seed though, they can provide wonderful habitat for pollinators and beneficial insects in the garden!
- Enjoy your herbs fresh, dry or frozen! Harvest leaves or sprigs as needed to use fresh in cooking. If you have more herbs than you can use, consider drying or freezing them, to preserve them for later. Hardy perennial herbs such as oregano, thyme, lavender and mint can be bundled and hung upside down in a dark, cool place – and once they are dry, you can store them in a container. Tender-leaved herbs often lose their flavor when dried, so they can be great choices to freeze in ice-cube trays and store for later, including cilantro and basil.
- Consider cooking time. Tender herbs are best to use towards the end of cooking, or just after, to preserve the flavorful oils and chemical compounds that can disappear when they are cooked – examples include basil, chives, cilantro, dill, mint and parsley. Hardier herbs can benefit from heat and time in cooking, to release their flavors – examples include bay leaf, oregano, thyme, rosemary, and sage.
There are so many ways to enjoy herbs in our lives, from tea infusions to creative herb salt mixes that can be added to any dish. Consider adding herbs into sauces, soups, pizzas, roasted or grilled vegetables, pestos, and salad dressings. Have fun!