As a home cook and a food blogger, I am a big proponent of fresh food, the home garden, and the argument for herbs.
As a home cook and a food blogger, I am a big proponent of fresh food, the home 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. 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...
Container gardening requires diligent watering and regular feeding, but it can be easy and fun. Start with the easy plants, and the argument for herbs.
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. 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. Container gardening requires diligent watering and regular feeding, but it can be easy and fun.
Marjoram (Origanum majorana)
Dwarf Meyer Lemon (Citrus x 'Meyer Lemon Improved')
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. In fact, I'm considering buying an additional pair, as I am getting frequent comments on their attractiveness, and honestly, I am most delighted with their practicality.
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...
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.
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.
1. Crossette Outdoor Garden Planter in Aluminum with Finials – Available in a Variety of Size and Can be Customized
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.
The Basics of 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.
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. 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.
4. Botanical Trough Outdoor Planter, and the 5. Oakleaf Window Box Planter
Plants should get at least four hours of sunshine per day. Certain plants appreciate a bit of shade in the hot summer months during the afternoon hours. They can grow with less sunshine, but they will not grow as well. 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 places like Lowes and Home Depot and even the local grocery store. I personally have lots of luck with Bonnie Plants. Bonnie brand can be found just about anywhere, including the big box stores and for me, at my local Lowes Grocery Store.
Basil (Ocimum basilicum)
Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis)
An Easy Way To Make Use of 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 amazing in compounds, too. Just roast half to three quarters and remove from the oven. Allow to cool completely before attempting to mix in, so the cloves do not loose their shape.
A 100% adorable find was inspired by a recent dinner at my friend Missy's home. In addition to a home cooked Italian dinner, outstanding conversation and great wine, I found this on the dinner table when the bread was passed, and so, I hope Missy will be honored that I copied her great taste by scooping up a couple of these tiny butter dishes for my compound butter and my own table!
- 2 sticks unsalted butter at room temperature
- 6 cloves finely minced garlic
- 4 tablespoons assorted minced herbs such as basil, marjoram, chives, parsley, thyme, and rosemary
- zest of 1 lemon
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
ESSENTIAL TOOLS FOR THE CHEF IN ALL OF US (CLICK OR TAP IMAGES FOR PRICING)