Cultivate an Herb Garden

Nothing kicks your cooking up a notch like growing your own herbs. And it’s amazingly simple. Whether you plant indoors or out, the tiniest effort can produce a burst of tasty leaves and spicy seeds that will give your dishes international panache. 

 For the beginning gardener, herbs are friendly and incredibly adaptable. To thrive, most herbs simply need a well-lit area, sufficient water and humidity, and protection from drafts and extreme temperature. Given that, herbs can flourish almost anywhere—in pots, in vegetable beds, even tucked around flowers as borders. Just be careful not to plant edible herbs near traffic or they will absorb the pollution.

The first step in creating your own Cook’s Garden is deciding where to plant.

Grow your herbs indoors and delicious dishes will be a fingertip away. Kitchen window sills exposed to full sunlight make excellent sites for simple pots or boxes; add flourish by using hanging baskets, adding shelves, and positioning climbing herbs around the window frame. Plant a culinary spice you most often use—parsley, chives, thyme—or choose an array. Herbs love to be grouped together to benefit from the humid microclimate they create. Mints do well indoors because they require less light. And don’t limit yourself to the kitchen. The right herb can add zest to any room: try a tiny pot of peppermint in the bathroom, calming lavender in the bedroom, or lemon verbena in the entrance hall.

Balconies & Patios
An herb garden can turn a patio or apartment balcony into a private paradise, but you must maximize the small space. Think multi-tiered. Use barrels, urns, and troughs on the floor; interlocking pots on the wall, and creeping vines over the top of trellises and between bricks. If the space receives light only some of the day, try herbs that require partial shade, like chervil, parsley, sorrel, and mints. In darker spaces, you may want to use white tiles or a white wall to intensify the light. Roof plants must be protected from the wind with proper screening: rosemary and lavender are tougher than most herbs, but even they become gnarled in a high wind. And make sure you anchor everything down—including soil (a topping of gravel chips works wonders).

Planning a garden outdoors takes substantial forethought. Before choosing a site, spend time on the land watching how the sun falls; a slope receiving direct sunlight for 5-6 hours a day is ideal. Also, mark where corners are sheltered and soil gets waterlogged. Something else you will want to consider is irrigation—you might have to install a drip irrigation system to avoid dragging a hose around. Once you pick the site, think design: formal geometric patterns like a diamond, square, or wheel bed versus an informal profusion of color and species. Either way, take care that neighboring plants don’t run each other over by considering leaf size, growth patterns, and need for light and shelter. A reasonable guide that lets Mother Nature take its proper course is one plant per square foot or ten per square yard.

Garden Stores

Blooming Bulb

Brecks Bulbs

Ginnys Catalog

Home Marketplace

Home Visions

Michigan Bulb

Montgomery Ward

Plow and Hearth

Spring Hill Nurseries

Swiss Colony

The Country Door

Terry's Village

Wayside Gardens


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