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GardenSMART :: Easy to Grow Herbs Will Shake Your Supper and Then Some

Easy to Grow Herbs Will Shake Your Supper and Then Some

By Joan Casanova, Bonnie Plants, Inc.
Images courtesy of Bonnie Plants, Inc.

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 outside your backdoor.

You might ask why grow herbs when they're readily available at your grocers? Here's why:

You'll save money in the produce aisle – Fresh herbs can be expensive when you purchase them at your grocers 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.

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Convenient containers Growing your own herbs, right outside your back door 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 there are holes at the bottom of the pot for proper drainage. Use a premium potting soil, plant, water, and feed your food plants with a plant food of your choice, just be sure to follow label directions. Place pots on your patio in a spot with plenty of sunshine (6-8 hours). Pots full of herbs are not only practical, they're pretty!

Shake up your supper – Adding some different (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 – Did you know there are more than 30 different types of basil? Your supermarket usually only carries the most common, likely sweet basil. Bonnie Plants, the nation's largest supplier of vegetables and herbs, available at all Home Depot, Walmart and Lowes stores nationwide, provides some unusual basil varieties, like purple basil, Thai basil, cinnamon basil, purple dark opal and holy basil. Any 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.

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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!

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 flowerbeds if you don't have room for just an herb garden. Herbs blend in beautifully.

Getting started is easy. First, try using transplants, like Bonnie Plants, rather than seed. All the hard work associated with seed germination is already done for you and the 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 some potting mix. Be sure to use a premium potting soil, which is specifically formulated for growing plants in containers. Most potting soil already has a slow release fertilizer in it, so you will not need to fertilize with an additional product until the lower leaves of the plants begin to yellow – this is the sign that the slow release fertilizer has been fully used up.

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Try using a plant food to give your herbs a boost. Be sure it's specifically formulated for vegetables and herbs. Just follow manufacturer's label directions for rates and intervals.

All herbs are easy and great 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 are prolific producers, too! Pinching leaves off plants will encourage new growth. If you have an abundance of herbs, air-drying works well for herbs like oregano, thyme, marjoram, and sage. Before drying, shake to remove dirt and discard any withered leaves. (You can gently wash the herbs, but be sure to dry them thoroughly.) Secure the stems together using a rubber band or string and hang upside down in a warm, dry, well-ventilated place away from sunlight. Leave herbs hanging to dry until the leaves crumble. It can take anywhere from one to four weeks to dry herbs thoroughly. Dried herbs can be stored in an airtight container for use up to a year.

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Freezing is the best option for leafy herbs like basil, cilantro, parsley, and tarragon. You can chop the herbs and add to cells of an ice cube tray, then top off with water. Ice cubed herbs are easy to use, just pop them out of the tray and add to cooking.

Hard herbs, like rosemary and thyme can simply be rinsed, dried with a paper towel and popped in a zipper bag for freezing.

Or you can even infuse herbs in olive oil or vinegar. All you need is a clean bottle filled about one-third of the way with fresh herbs that have been well rinsed and patted dry. Pour the oil or vinegar over the herbs and allow the mixture to sit at room temperature for about two weeks. You can add the tasty mixture to cooking or to salads.

Herbs can not only be used in cooking, they can 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, or 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! To find more information on herbs, herb gardening, how to videos, tips and solutions, please visit www.bonnieplants.com.

 


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