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Kitchen Herbs: How to create the perfect herb garden
By Tamra Speakman - April 22, 2015

Kitchen Herbs: How to create the perfect herb garden

The ability to step outside your door and cut fresh herbs for your meal to nourish and heal your family is an experience that has become less and less common. Yet when we think of the Bible and how biblical families lived it is very likely that the kitchen garden was a normal part of most households. (Ebeling, 2010) Not only might these gardens contain vegetables but they most likely contained herbs for culinary use as well as for Holy days such as Passover. It truly is a blessing to go out and bring in fresh herbs directly from an herb garden for your meals. Today I am going to share with you some simple steps and resources to get you started on your own herb garden.

He causeth the grass to grow for the cattle, and herb for the service of man: that he may bring forth food out of the earth; Psalm 104: 4

Choosing The Perfect Outdoor Garden Spot

Herbs are fairly hardy and can be planted in many different types of soil however when deciding on a location for your herb garden there are several things to consider. You want to choose a spot that is fairly close to the door so that you can easily go out an gather your herbs while you are cooking. You also want to be sure that the spot you choose gets at least 6 hours of sun a day. In hot desert areas that get over 90 degrees you may want to choose a spot with morning sun and afternoon shade. Make sure that your water source is not too far away so that you can water with a sprinkle nozzle on your hose, a watering can, or even better a soaker hose. You want to make sure each plant will have approximately 12-18 inches of room to grow. For the 8 herbs discussed below a 4x4 foot plot will provide plenty of room.

Gathering Your Supplies

Supplies for an herb garden can be gathered from your local garden center that carries organic plants or seeds. In my area I can buy organic supplies locally at HomeDepot, Walmart, small garden centers, and even some herb plants at Vons Grocers. If supplies are not easy to find in your area you can use the list of resources below to order online and have them shipped directly to you.

List of supplies

Seeds or plants - Plants are an easier choice, though growing your own herbs from seeds can be a rewarding experience! Soil amendments - It is wise to amend the soil using compost, kitchen scraps, composted animal manure, sand, or peat moss depending on your specific soil type. You can also purchase soil specifically blended for vegetable gardens and mix 2-4 inches in to the top of your garden bed or up to  1/2 and 1/2 with your existing soil. Trowel - Small shovel or something to dig with. Water - Hoses, soakers, nozzles, or watering can. Plant markers - You can use popsicle sticks, painted rocks or markers made specifically for the garden. Writing implement - Permanent marker, paint, or a pencil. Garden borders - If you desire to make a raised bed or a fun garden spiral you can use rocks, bricks, wood, or buy pre made raised beds. Fencing - Fortunately rodents and wild animals are not as attracted to herbs as they are vegetables so fencing may not be necessary. However as I have found in this high desert squirrels and rabbits can take out plants in a day so I say "better safe than sorry."

Supply Sources

Making Vegetables Seed Collection You can find Seeds of Change organic and non-GMO seeds at Walmart or online. Horizon Herbs - A great source of organic herb seeds. Seed Savers Exchange - A source of herb seeds, some organic. Peaceful Valley - An online resource for all your organic gardening needs. High Mowing Seeds - Source of organic seeds. Bakers Creek - Large selection or rare, heirloom, and organic seeds. Mountain Valley Growers - A selection of herb plants shipped to your home.

Choosing Your  Herbs

Starting with the most common culinary herbs is a wise choice. You can also tailor this to the herbs you use most or make themed gardens for different foods like Italian. Below I give you a bit of specific information for 8 common culinary herbs. Oregano - Perennial. Seeds should be stratified for 1 week then planted inside. Transplant outdoors 12 inches apart in spring. Harvest aerial portions. Thyme - Perennial. Sow indoors and plant outdoors in spring. Can be grown from cuttings and root divisions. Rosemary - Tender perennial. Likes full sun. Reaches 12-36 inches or taller. Propagate from tip cuttings using rooting hormone. Keep moist and warm. Grows in clumps 12-15 inches apart. Rosemary can actually get very large if you give it room and so in areas where it will do well all year you may consider giving it 2-4 sq. feet. Harvest aerial portions using snips. Parsley - Biennial. Stratifying seeds for 1 week and soaking them in water for 24 hours with shorten seed germination time. Aerial portions can be gathered with snips. Dill - An annual herb easily grown from seed. Get's 3-5 feet tall and needs 10-12 inches of space. Thyme is a good companion plant. Harvest leaves and seed mid July-august for fresh or dry use. Basil - Annual. Basil seeds can be started indoors 2-4 weeks before last frost. Transplant outdoors after all chance of frost is gone, 12 inches apart. Aerial portions can be harvested as needed every 1-2 weeks. Sage - Tender perennial. Stratify seeds for 1 week. Keep warm and moist. Transplant in late spring. Sage can actually get very large if you give it room and so in areas where it will do well all year you may consider giving it 2-4 sq. feet. Harvest aerial portions in late summer. Mint - A great perennial herb for culinary use as well as tea. Enjoys full sun to shade. Peppermint needs to be grown from roots divisions, cuttings, or store bought starts as plants from seed will not have a good flavor. Mints can take over your entire garden so be sure to prune often, give them their own space or grow in posts. Harvest aerial portions. (Hartung, 2000)

Planting  and Caring for Your Herbs

After you choose your herbs prepare each seed as described above. In most areas you will need to start your seeds indoors before the last frost. Don't forget to keep your seeds moist. In warmer areas like the high desert I live in you may be able to start your seeds directly in your herb garden. Purchase plants or cuttings for any of the herbs that are difficult to grow from seed. You may also start all your herbs from organic plants. While your plants are starting from seed prepare your herb garden bed. As soon as you are able to work the soil choose your spot and decide what you want your garden to look like. You can choose a 4x4 area and plant a square foot herb garden, a circular area you can plant in more decorative ways, a rectangle to plant in rows, or a fun spiral. Wooden raised beds can be purchased or built and filled completely with vegetable raised bed soil. Here in the desert I plant in trenches to help save on water. I dig out dirt, and mix in my amendments so that my entire garden area or rows are 3-6 inches lower than the sides. Choose the best type of garden for your area and space then loosen your soil and dig in 2-4 inches of your soil amendments so you have a rich loose soil. It may be helpful to prepare your garden area before the long winter in cold locations with a lot of snow. Then in spring you can add compost and prepare it to be planted. Like people herbs have individual needs so, remember to pay attention to what the specific herbs you are planting need. As soon as your herb plants are ready transplant them out into your garden area. Water immediately. Allow the top few inches of soil to dry out before watering again and keep this moisture level fairly constant but not soggy. Herbs tend to like some humidity so here in my dry desert I mist them daily during the hotter months. Don't forget to mark what each herb is using popsicle sticks or rocks painted decorative colors. Each year you will need to remove the old annuals in early spring and prune your perennials. Pull and cut runners of any spreading plants like mints down to a small size so they don't take over the garden. Cut off all dead material off of other perennials. (Hartung, 2000)

Indoor Herb Garden

No room for an outdoor herb garden? No worries you can grow your herbs indoors. This great little video by Peaceful Valley can tell you all you need to know.

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Harvesting and Pruning

When your plants reach about 6 inches tall you can start harvesting. Harvesting early in the morning after the dew dries is best but I harvest whenever I need to throw them into my pot. Use sheers or scissors to trim off the portions you need just above the leaf intersection. Some plants like parsley prefer to have the outer older leaves trimmed first. (Herb Gardening for Beginners)  Do not take more than 1/3 of perennials at a time so that you encourage new plant growth. Annuals can be cut off at the bottom when ready to harvest the entire plant.

Storing Herbs for Later

After you harvest your herbs, wash or remove any dirt. You can bundle herbs and hang them to dry with stems in a warm dry area. Once dried remove any inedible stems. You can also use drying racks or a food dehydrator. Dried herbs should be stored in sealed glass jars away from light. You can also freeze fresh herbs for use in food later. Wash them well, lay them out to dry completely and then freeze in sealed freezer bags. You can also chop up herbs and freeze them in icecube trays with water. You can then use these herb cubes in soups and stews.

Other Resources:

Growing and Using Herbs Successfully Homegrown Herbs How to Use Herbs in Your Food Herbs in the Kitchen
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1 Comment

  1. Piter
    Thanx for this :) such a very nice knowlage