July 9, 2017
Raising herbs is one of the most rewarding kinds of gardening, for many reasons. Here are five to get you going…
1 – Herbs Have Year-Round Elegance
Vegetable gardening often looks like a work in progress. A flower garden really only puts on a show for a few weeks a year, but an herb bed, or even a planter, is a thing of beauty all year long. Some herbs do have attractive flowers (think of chives), but the appeal of an herb bed is a close-knit pattern of textures and colors. Ten thousand cottage gardens can’t all be wrong.
2 – You Can Grow Herbs Inside
Despite certain indoor gardening products (we’re looking at you, upside-down tomato planters), herbs are the only edibles really suited to grow in an apartment. It isn’t just a matter of space: it’s the watering. Most of the herbs used in Western cooking come from the relatively dry Mediterranean basin: think thyme, sage, basil, parsley, oregano, and the like. These don’t need much water, a fact which will be appreciated by your floors, carpets, electronic devices, and/or landlord.
3 – Fresh Herbs are Just Better
If you really want to enjoy fresh herbs, you need to grow them yourself. Herbs from your own garden get picked a few minutes or hours before they go into your meal. Store-bought herbs got picked days or weeks before, and may have traveled thousands of miles. It is a miracle of modern transportation that you can get them at all, but they’re hardly in good shape: most of the flavor gets left at the farm.
4 – Growing Herbs Saves Money
Herbs are by far the most economical things you can grow. Most gardeners are doing it for love, not money–but you do find yourself wondering if it makes sense to spend a lot of money on, let’s say, a tomato trellis, when store-bought tomatoes aren’t that expensive.
On the other hand, herbs are incredibly value-dense. Dried herbs (including teas) often retail from $5 to $10 an ounce, and the same herbs grow like weeds in your garden. If you drink peppermint tea, for instance, you might well be spending $100 a year for a plant that will grow with absolutely no maintenance. Your herb bed is the most economical section of your garden, by far.
5 – Growing Herbs Changes How You Cook
Fresh herbs are a growing trend in popular cooking, but some cookbook authors (e.g. Ottolenghi) call for herbs on a scale that really demands growing them yourself. Once you make that leap, it opens a kind of door in the way you think about cooking. A few tablespoons of basil from the supermarket will set you back a few dollars, but if you are growing your own herbs, suddenly ideas like “basil soup” or “fines herbes salad” are in range.
Whether you are looking at a major landscape garden, a cottage garden entryway or just a single raised bed, herbs are beautiful, great value, and useful.
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