If you love to cook, you need a kitchen garden with lots of fresh herbs to pick! Have one this summer, situated in a handy place not far from the stove. Nothing beats the flavor of fresh herbs!
Gardens of edible plants were planted and maintained in the earliest days of America. Thomas Jefferson’s gardens at Monticello are notable both for their design and their variety of vegetables and herbs. These types of gardens are often called "kitchen gardens" because of their convenient placement near the Colonial kitchen, which was usually in a separate small outbuilding (in case of a fire).
Your cooking garden, to start with, could contain a few basic herbs and salad greens. One easy way to create such a garden is to build a small raised square, using pressure-treated landscaping ties or the new recycled plastic ties. If you have an old sandbox, use that! Or make a freeform or rectangular garden. Draw the shape on paper, and make a list of what you’d like to grow.
You don’t need a lot of herb plants for savory cooking additions -- just a sprig or two of fresh herbs lend a piquant flavor to your recipes. One to three plants of each will be plenty for a small family. If you like, include some bunching onions and lettuce in your Cooking Garden. All are easily grown from seeds! To plant, follow the easy directions provided on the seed packets.
Can I Grow Herbs Indoors In Winter?
Sure -- any time of year! We suggest especially parsley, chives, basil, sage, oregano and thyme, because the plants stay small. Plant seeds in 4 to 6 inch pots filled with growing medium, and place in a sunny window. Clip off small sprigs as needed. Plants will thrive for a year or more indoors; then replant. You can also grow herbs indoors under fluorescent lights. Herb plants MUST have bright light in order to produce flavorful sprigs.
Is Summer Too Late To Start An Herb Garden?
No. Annual herbs such as basil and dill grow quickly in warm summer weather. You can also start any perennial herbs in summer, and you’ll still be able to harvest some this year. The next year, the plants will have grown into large clumps for harvesting from spring onwards. May through July is fine for planting annual herbs; June through August is fine for planting perennial herbs.
"How To" for Herbs
- To Dry Herbs: Cut young stems and leaves early in the day. Harvest before plants begin to flower. Bunch loosely and hang upside down in warm, airy place for 2-3 weeks, or spread small pieces on dehydrator tray and allow to dry completely.
- To Dry Herb Seeds (Caraway, Dill): Cut heads after flower heads have passed their prime (seeds are then developing). Catch seed heads in a paper bag. Shake bag to separate seeds from chaff.
- To Store Dried Herbs And Seeds: Put in airtight jars. Keep out of sunlight. Use as desired.
- To Freeze Herbs: Place small, clean, dry pieces on cookie sheet. Freeze several hours. Place in freezer bags. Flavors keep for several months. Use as needed.
Create And Edible Landscape
Eat Your Landscaping
Now there's another way to enjoy your beautiful landscaping. Help yourself to handfuls of blueberries. Pick some strawberries from your groundcover for breakfast. Go ahead and step on the thyme; you'll have a fragrant walk. You can grow all sorts of delicious fruits, herbs, and vegetables that double as landscaping showpieces. Here are some ideas that might work for your garden.
Want a Tasty Hedge? Plant a Gooseberry Bush.
Hedges and tasty fruit: what a combination. Gooseberry bushes can grow up to 3 feet high and six feet wide. True, they're not evergreen like boxwoods, but then, boxwoods don't produce fruit. Use the fruit when you want to make an extra-delicious pie.
Get Groundcover with Flavor: Grow Strawberries or Herbs
You tree needs some groundcover around it. Your tummy craves some delicious fruit. Strawberries are the answer. They choke out weeds, tolerate a wide array of conditions, and taste delicious. If you have a stone walkway, try planting thyme and other low-growing herbs in the cracks. You'll keep out weeds, and have a fragrant walk when you step on some. And as you know, there's nothing like cooking with fresh herbs.
Plant Blueberry Bushes
Tear out that burning bush and put in a blueberry bush instead. Blueberries are delicious and have all sorts of health benefits. Also, the bushes are lovely and can fit into many landscape designs. Just be sure to amend your soil to make it acidic. Just work some coffee grounds or pine needles into your soil, or feed with Miracle-Gro® Water Soluble Azalea, Camellia, Rhododendron Plant Food.
Put Some Red Jewels in Your Landscaping
If you like unusual foliage to contrast your flowers, grow some that you can eat. Varieties of Red Jewel cabbage can be stunners. Some have dark leaves, others have remarkable texture. Just put one wherever you have a little space that calls out for something beautiful and delicious.
Use Your Imagination
There are all sorts of plants that taste delicious and look beautiful. Grow bee balm for beauty and delicious tea. Have you ever tasted day lilies? How about dandelion salad? If you have any unusual ideas for edible landscaping, why not share them on our community page? Recipes are welcome, too.
Make Your Groundcover Beautiful, Fragrant, and Tasty, by Planting Herbs.
Herbs: they're not just for cooking anymore. You can use herbs to make unique, eye-catching groundcover in many areas of your garden. All it takes is knowing what herbs do well in what locations.
Types of Herbs to Use
Of all the herbs used for groundcover, thyme is the most common. It gives you more landscaping options, since it can grow in many different conditions. If thyme is not on your side, try flowering herbs, such as wooly yarrow or chamomile, which are easy to maintain. If you live where it's warm and dry, try lavender, rosemary, or lambs ear.
There's an Herb for Every Location
It's nice to have options. If you have a shade tree calling out for groundcover, sweet woodruff is a great choice. For low-growing groundcover, chamomile and thyme work well. Place them around pathways and sidewalks, and enjoy the fragrance if you step on them.
Tips for Growing Herbs
- Most herbs need full sun and don’t like wet feet (water that stays on the roots).
- No need to fertilize herbs.
- Give plants plenty of organic matter for good drainage and they will reward you with plenty of leaves to spice up any supper.
- For an early start, sow seeds indoors with a Jiffy pellet greenhouse in a sunny spot or try a seed starter greenhouse.
Tips for Using Herbs
- Use herbs to season fresh fruits and vegetables from the garden
- Leftover seeds will last for years in an airtight container in the refrigerator or share with a friend.
- When cooking with fresh herbs us 3x as much. (i.e. 1 teaspoon dried equals 1 Tablespoon fresh)
- For herb tips and recipes pick up a copy of Cindy Shapton’s book ‘The Cracked Pot Herb Book’
Growing Herbs From Seeds
Get an early start indoors and sow seeds directly outside in the garden or in a container.
- Basil – A tender annual that can be started indoors 6-8 weeks before last frost or outdoors after all danger of frost has passed and the soil is warm.
- Try different varieties like Sweet, Genovese, Cinnamon, Lemon and Greek Dwarf or Spicy Globe for containers.
- Use leaves in Italian dishes, eggs, or with anything tomato.
- Chives – Onion, round “onion” flavored blades with purple flowers in spring or; Garlic, flat “garlic” tasting grass-like blades with white blooms in late summer.
- Both are hardy perennials. Start seeds indoors 6-8 weeks before last frost or sow outdoors 3-4 weeks before last frost.
- Snip into salads, pasta dishes, vinegars, and salad dressings.
- Cilantro- Also known as Coriander. Cilantro is the leaf commonly used in Mexican and Thai cooking, while the seeds are referred to as coriander. Start seeds (outdoors only) near last frost. Sow seeds every 3 weeks for continual supply.
- Dill – An annual herb that is not just for pickles! Try the ferny leaves in dips, sauces, breads, and on fish or sandwiches. Sow seeds (outdoors only) 4-5 weeks before last frost.
- Lemon Balm – A hardy perennial with an intense lemon scent and flavor. Start indoors 6-8 weeks before last frost or outdoors 2-3 weeks before last frost. Snip onto fish and chicken and add to drinks, cake or bread.
- Marjoram – Tender perennial that in many places is treated as an annual. Start indoors 6-8 weeks before last frost or sow seeds outside after all danger of frost has passed. Use in soups, stews, sauces; on meat and vegetables.
- Mint – Although this herb gets a bad rap for being invasive, it is a real gem in the kitchen. Use it in teas, fruit salads and tabouli. Add fresh leaves to coffee grounds before brewing for gourmet coffee.
- Start indoors 6 weeks before last frost or sow outdoors 1 week before last frost. Note: Sow seeds directly in a pot and sink into garden or plant in a separate place to help coral this herb. Mint can also tolerate wet areas and some shade.
- Oregano – Sprinkled on pizza and sub sandwiches, this hardy perennial needs no introduction. Start seeds indoor 6-8 weeks before last frost or simply sow in the garden after the last frost to ensure plenty of seasoning for years to come.
- Parsley - Indispensable in the kitchen. Known as the balancing herb, this plant will help meld flavors together when cooking. Most commonly seen in two varieties – curly and flat leaf. The root of hamburg parsley is great in soups and stews.
- Start 8-10 weeks before last frost indoors. 3-4 weeks before last frost outdoors. Soak seeds overnight before planting. Parsley loves cool weather and will take some shade.
- Rosemary – Can be a bit of a challenge to start from seed…be patient. Sow indoors 8 weeks before last frost date; outdoors after last frost. This herb can be a tender perennial, try ‘Arp’ for cold hardiness.
- Snip onto pork roast, chicken or roasting vegetables. Use a rosemary branch as a brush when grilling.
- Sage – Best known for its flavor in Thanksgiving dressing and breakfast sausage. A hardy perennial that is easy to start from seed indoors 6-8 weeks before the last frost or directly in the garden 1-2 weeks before last frost.
- Thyme - Snip this perennial herb on meats and vegetables for a Mediterranean flavor. Easy to start indoors 6-8 weeks before the last frost date or sow outdoors 2-3 weeks before last frost.
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