Growing your own herbs can be a tasty and rewarding venture. While herbs are sometimes grown for medicinal or aromatherapy uses, the most common reason is their flavor. When starting an herb garden, M.S. Lowman of the Department of Agriculture recommends starting out with what the French labeled as "les fines herbes." This list consists of the popular herbs sweet basil, tarragon, sweet marjoram, thyme, rosemary, and chervil.
Herbs have played a part in many ancient civilizations' culture. The Greeks and Romans fashioned crowns from dill and laurel to honor their heroes, while the early Chinese used an herb called artemesia for medicinal purposes. Artemesia was also used in France during the middle ages to protect babies from the cold, and headaches were cured by chewing on rosemary leaves. When the settlers came to America, they brought with them the herbs they relied on to flavor their food and heal their sick.
There are four basic types of herbs: culinary, medicinal, aromatic and ornamental. When choosing herbs to plant, take into consideration which herbs will suit your needs. Popular herbs used in cooking are sage, basil and thyme, while an aromatic herb garden may include plants such as lovage, rosemary and mint. Lavender is also an aromatic herb, but it's beautiful, purple flowers make them a great addition to an ornamental garden, along with borage and chives.
Herbs can be grown in both traditional, in-ground gardens or in smaller containers. Container gardening is becoming popular with those who are pressed for space. Smaller herbs, such as parsley or mint, can be grown in 6- to 10-inch pots, while herbs that grow larger, such as basil or rosemary, would do better in 15- to 18-inch pots. If growing your own in-ground kitchen garden is possible, a space roughly 20 feet by 4 feet is usually acceptable.
No matter what types of herbs you choose to grow, there are some factors which do not change. Most herbs prefer to grow in full sun. A garden that receives at least a half day of sun works well, while herbs grown indoors do best in front of a south-facing window. When it comes to fertilizing your herbs, less is more. Herbs that are grown in overly fertile soil produce less of their essential oils and become weak flavored and less aromatic. The same rule can be applied to watering your herbs. Water herbs only once or twice per week and allow the soil to completely dry between watering.
Growing your own herbs at home has many health advantages. The act of gardening itself has been proven as a great reliever of stress. It challenges both the mind and the body while at the same time producing plants that you can enjoy the tastes or fragrances of. Flavoring your foods with herbs is a healthier alternative to salt-rich flavorings. By having your own herb garden you save money and guarantee you always have the freshest herbs possible on hand.