The Argument for Herbs

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As a home cook and a food blogger, I am a big proponent of fresh food, the home garden, and the argument for herbs.

a box of fresh herbs, with shears

All images and text ©Jenny DeRemer for Not Entirely Average, LLC

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What Are the Benefits of Planting Your Own Herb or Vegetable Garden?

If lowering your cost at the grocery store checkout isn’t enough of a reason to plant your own kitchen garden, consider this.
* Fresh herbs elevate the way we taste food. Herbs in a recipe trigger less prominent ingredients to better stand out.
* There are also educational benefits to growing anything on your own. The success of companion planting becomes personal, and the accomplishment when harvesting an occasion to be proud of.
* And if none of these spells it out, there’s always the argument for eating healthier, and THAT none of us can dispute.

The Argument for Herbs

As a home cook and a food blogger, I am a big proponent of fresh food, the kitchen garden, and the argument for herbs. Because I am constantly professing ‘fresh,’ you can well imagine I have a healthy stash of both ground-planted and potted herbs and fruit (trees) and vegetable plants.

My favorites among my collection (I am constantly adding to and bringing more home!) are my lemon tree and pretty much every herb, Marjoram being my bestie right now. If I cannot grow it, I will happily tread off to a farmers’ market to find it.

Herbs are much easier to grow than many houseplants. It’s really true. All you need is a sunny, warm place and containers large enough for your plants to grow.

Sunny decks, patios, and other such areas are great for container gardening. I can and will always, find the argument for herbs…

a mortar and pestle, with fresh herbs

Ten of My Most Herby-Delicious Recipes!

Container Gardening

Container gardening requires diligent watering and regular feeding, but it can be easy and fun. We are talking pretty clay pots, vintage burlap-lined wooden crates, and basically any bin large enough to put a bunch of dirt in.

By growing Herbs in containers, you save yourself the difficulty of digging which starting a garden plot requires. I say this and of course, there are exceptions.

Chives are best allocated to a plot of dirt. They require movement beneath the soil as they are a bulb. 

hands tending a kitchen garden, with herbs

Some plants, like chives, always prefer to be in the ground. Some plants grow quite large and do much better in the ground for that reason alone.

For now, I am mostly container gardening, as I’ve recently sold my house and now have limited space where I am. I absolutely love watching their progress and of course, cooking with the bounty.

hands tending a raised bed garden

What Are Some Of The Basics of Planting?

For planting Herbs, you need to allow for at least 8″ in diameter for each plant. Later you may want to transplant to larger pots because the Herbs will outgrow their pots over time.

Many basil varieties can grow over 2′ high. I started my potted herbs in large square box planters which admittedly, were investment pieces that I’ll plan to own and garden in forever.

If you allow your herbs to go to seed, it first means they must flower. Herb flowers are some of the most colorful and delicate flowers I cut for small arrangements in my home. Not to mention, they smell fantastic…

hands tending a raised herb bed

Basil and rosemary are the two biggies for the square box planters. In the south, the rosemary overwinters in my square box planters, as well does my basil with much of it re-seeding itself.

For smaller quantities of a variety, such as Marjoram or thyme, I chose a single antiqued patina urn with a drainage hole in the bottom. Not only do I adore the Marjoram on buttered baguettes, but I also adore the urn as the herb grows and spills out over the sides of the vessel making it look lush and ancient.

Estate sales and yard sales make THE BEST places to hunt for old, large cement planters. They’re generally chipped, weathered, even cracked, but FULL OF CHARACTER.

a weathered terra cotta pot

I do not always advocate buying containers or pots online. The reason for celebrating a trip to a local nursery or box store is due purely to pricing, as an online venue will likely charge shipping.

In the event you are architecting a garden and want to make the investment in antiqued or specialty containers, look for free shipping deals so you aren’t sunk before you even plant your first seed.

Estate sales and yard sales make THE BEST places to hunt for old, large cement planters. They’re generally chipped, weathered, even cracked, but FULL OF CHARACTER.

a backyard garden

What Herbs Should You Plant?

Plant what you will eat. Do you cook certain foods in abundance?

Consider the herbs you normally spend out for every time you hit the grocery. If mint is always on your list, why not begin with a few varieties?

Enjoy grilling? A healthy and mature rosemary bush has sturdy woody branches that make amazing skewers for kabobs.

Plant what will look and smell beautiful in a bouquet. I often snip parsley and sage to add to smaller flower arrangements as filler because they smell fresh and keep their shape for long periods. Dried branches of sage are also fantastic in the fall to add to harvest wreathes.

a hand holding carrots and an onion just pulled from the ground
If you will be planting directly in the ground or even in a very deep and spacious raised bed, consider companion plants to the herbs you are planning. Be sure to plant what you eat or cook with often. Recipes cooked with something you grew yourself is a thousand times better than anything you will buy in the grocery.

Are There ‘RULES’ To Follow for Successful Planting?

First, prepare a container or pot by filling the bottom with 1/2 to 3/4″ loose large gravel or broken pottery shards. The gaps between the stones or shards will allow for excellent drainage.

Fill in with good potting soil and add fertilizer according to the directions on the package for herbs or for most vegetables. Moisten the potting soil by mixing in water until the soil feels damp all the way through.

Place the pot on a saucer or casters if you need to protect your deck or table, and you are ready to plant.

fresh herbs in a raised planter

Next, dig holes large enough for each plant. Release the plants from their starter containers by turning them upside down, tapping the bottom, and gently pulling on the base of the stems until the plant comes out of the container. I like to break the root ball up gently with my hands to “free” the bare roots and give them room to spread.

Place the plant in the hole and gently press soil around the edges to fill. Water the plant immediately after planting.

Afterward, water them only when the soil gets dry to the touch. Over-watering can be just as bad for Herbs as under-watering.

a raised bed garden, with fresh herbs

Plants should get at least four hours of sunshine per day. Notice my reference here is about bright light, but not always does that mean direct sun.

Certain plants appreciate a bit of shade in the hot summer months during the afternoon hours. Check the plant marker that comes poked into the pot upon purchase for grow specifications and to set your plants up for success.

For harvesting, you simply cut off about 1/3 of the branches when the plant reaches at least 6-8″ tall. By cutting close to a leaf intersection your plants will regrow very quickly.

Most of the typical herbs to plant for all zones in the US are available at local big box stores, home improvement places, and even your grocery store.

a box of fresh vegetables, with a garden seat

What’s One Good Easy Way to Make Use of My Herbs?

It’s impossible for me not to think of and list all of the uses and recipes fostering fresh herbs in your backyard could yield. I will begin by offering one of the simplest recipes I know. They say that details are everything.

Wake up your corn on the cob or your next grilled steak with a compound butter, made from snippets of the herbs you plant. It’s a small detail that elevates a basic cookout to another level.

I often zest a lemon from my lemon tree and juice it to use in my compounds. Select and mix in any fresh herb or combination you like.

Roasted garlic cloves work excellently in compounds, too. Just roast half to three-quarters and remove from the oven. Allow to cool completely before mixing so the cloves do not lose shape.

a white bowl, with herb compound butter

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  1. I’ve had container gardens before but never grew any herbs, just veggies and fruits. Thanks so much for linking up with me at my #UnlimitedMonthlyLinkParty 18, open until November 26. Shared.

    1. If there is one singular Popular and engaging post on this site, it’s THIS POST. Herbs are the basis for cooking almost 100% of any food. They get expensive, so growing them at home, prettily and even in a regal way, makes me proud of them. Same for the fruit trees and vegetable plants – having a home kitchen garden or many containers is addictive.