How to Grow Herbs
To grow herbs, all you need is a sunny area, fertile soil and a little time. If your soil is clay or sandy, you will also need to add organic material such as compost or manure to get the best results.
Once herbs are planted, make sure they get at least an inch of water each week and keep the area weeded. If you have added plenty of organic material to the soil prior to planting, you probably won't have to worry about feeding the plants for a while. All I do is work in a layer of compost around the plants each season and my herbs grow fine.
If you don't have a whole area to devote to herbs, that's okay, you can squeeze them into your flower beds or vegetable garden. Herbs make a pretty combination to flowering plants and some will actually benefit nearby plants by repelling insects. Just be sure the area gets plenty of sun and the soil is fertile and weeded.
You can also grow herbs in containers provided they get enough sun. When growing in containers, you will have to water on a daily and sometimes twice daily basis. Be sure to check the soil often to see if it is drying out. You will also have to fertilize the plants often because as you water, the nutrients get leached out of the soil.
What it Will Cost
An herb plant at the local nursery will cost you between ninety nine cents and five dollars, depending on the size of the herb. I usually purchase the smallest size to save money because I usually don't need a huge amount right away.
If this herb is a perennial, it's going to be there year after year supplying you with fresh leaves for cooking and will be growing bigger each year which will also allow you to propagate plants by division, cuttings or seed which means more herb.
If, on the other hand, the herb you purchased is an annual, it will still supply you with enough herb to still make it worth the purchase. You can propagate annual herbs by collecting the seeds or by taking cuttings.
If you want to save even more money, start the herbs from seeds or get a division or cutting from a friend, neighbor or relative.
How to Use Herbs
Throughout the growing season, you can use your herbs fresh. If your recipe calls for one teaspoon of dried herb, substitute one tablespoon of freshly chopped herb.
Drying and Storing
For winter use or convenience, dry herbs. Cut herbs early on a dry day after the dew is gone. Bundle 8-10 stems of the herb with a rubber band at the cut end and hang them upside down in a well-circulated area out of direct sunlight. I have a piece of lattice hanging on one of my kitchen walls for this purpose and I also use a pegged, wooden coffee cup holder which is made to hang on a wall. Both make pretty decorations with all the herbs and flowers hanging from them drying.
In about a week or so (or less if weather is hot and dry), check the leaves to see if they are crispy to the touch and no moisture remains. If so, remove the leaves from the stem, crush and put into a lidded container, label and store out of direct sunlight. When removing the leaves, it helps to do it over a piece of paper so you can catch any fallen leaves.
Growing my own herbs has saved me a bundle of money and has provided an enjoyable hobby, fresh taste and something to offer my friends and family. You can even make your own herb seasoning mixes to bottle in pretty jars to give as gifts as an additional way to save money. I'm sure you'll find it worth the small effort.
Make Herb Vinegars!
Put your herbs to good use by making delicious herb infused vingars -- they're great to cook with and make fabulous gifts too. Best of all, they're easy and inexpensive to make.
Monica Resinger is the Editor of Creative Home Ezine, a fun ezine
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