Herbs are a great way to add flavor to any food without loading up the meal with salt, unhealthy fats, or other elements that may work against your weight loss efforts. With rising food costs, many people are turning to growing and propagating herbs, fruits, and vegetables at home. It isn’t difficult, but it never hurts to have a few pointers to get the ball rolling. Here are some useful reminders and creative ideas on how to grow flavorful herbs at home.
A few things to keep in mind. . .
Just as with other plants, it matters what herbs are grown together. For best results, follow these general guidelines when selecting which herbs to plant together.
Mediterranean Herbs: As the name suggests, Mediterranean herbs do well in weather that mimics the Mediterranean- hot and dry (in the summer at least). These herbs require more sun and do better in soil that isn’t too moist. Some Mediterranean herbs include: sage, rosemary, lavender, oregano, thyme, and mint.
Water Loving Herbs: All herbs require at least 6 hours of sunlight, and herbs that require more water are no exception. But, they do best if their soil is kept on the moist side. Keep this in mind when selecting the container you’ll use to grow the herbs, as some will lose moisture faster than others. Some examples include tarragon, basil and parsley.
Mints: Mint herbs are invasive plants and most gardeners will caution about what you plant together with mint. Some sources recommend that instead of mixing mints with other herbs, just grow a variety of mints together. But, some gardeners say that planting mints with basil, lemon balm, and oregano works just fine. Some mint varieties include: peppermint, spearmint, orange mint.
Lemon Scented Herbs: Lemon verbena, lemongrass, and lemon thyme are three popular lemon-scented herbs. They can be grown together or with dill, basil, and other herbs, but be cautious, as they can sometimes alter the taste or scent of neighboring herbs.
Other helpful tips
What containers work?
- Don’t just look to traditional pots or window boxes as the only options to house the herbs you’d like to plant. The general guideline is that drainage is the most important factor to consider. Most herbs don’t have large root systems and can do well in smaller containers- but do give them some room. Some ideas: water troughs, hanging baskets (even burlap hanging shoe racks!), and recycled metal cans,
- PRO TIP: If you find a container you love, but it doesn’t have holes, just use a hammer and nail to puncture holes or drill them.
- Potted herbs need soil with additional fertilizer, don’t just use whatever soil is in your yard.
- PRO TIP: Use a high-quality potting soil for the herbs. When in season, make sure to regularly fertilize the herbs as when water passes through the soil, fertilizer easily passes through as well.
For best results, give plenty of sunshine!
- Most herbs need full sun for roughly 4- 6 hours a day, but in the desert sun of Tucson, this might vary. Gradually expose herbs to more sunlight (if you can move their container) and ease them into the routine of more sun.
- PRO TIP: The best part about growing in containers is that you can move them when weather gets too hot (or cold). Use casters or rolling platforms to make it easier. Or, if you are going to use a container that is too large or needs a permanent location, pick an area that will provide it some shade during the hottest hours of the day.
Frequent harvesting is ideal
- Don’t be afraid to harvest the herbs often. The more you do so, the more it encourages growth.
- PRO TIP: Pinch off any budding flowers to keep the leaves at peak flavor all summer.
Gardening can be a great hobby that promotes relaxation, facilitates creativity with cooking and food prep, and can also help manage food costs. On Friday, we’ll share a variety of spices and herbs that can be included in any garden and are shown to help decrease inflammation and pain.