When you’re cooking a delicious homemade meal, is there anything better than adding fresh herbs? Beyond adding a burst of bright color to any dish, using fresh herbs just tastes better — and many common plants even have medicinal and health benefits that make them an excellent addition to your diet.
Buying fresh herbs can become expensive, though, which is why planting a kitchen herb garden is a great idea for most people. While ideally your kitchen garden would be a decent-size plot in an easily accessible location — and as an expert in yard work tips will tell you, growing a garden is a good use of your yard space — you really don’t need more than a sunny window or a small sunny spot in your yard to grow some of the most common and useful herbs.
5 Reasons to Grow a Herb Garden
Growing herbs in your garden have a number of benefits for your home, health, and pocketbook that go well beyond the fact that they are some of the easiest plants to grow. You can buy seedlings at any garden center in the late spring, but even if you choose to start plants from seed, they only take a few weeks to grow.
But why should you go to the trouble?
Always have fresh herbs on hand
If you like to cook, you’ve probably noticed that many recipes call for different herbs that you might not already have in your pantry. That usually means either making a substitute, which can change the flavor of the dish, or buying herbs that might end up going to waste if you don’t use them. Growing herbs isn’t expensive, and you’ll always have what you need right at your fingertips — and it will likely be much fresher than what you get at the store. Growing herbs indoors means you’ll have them all year round, but if your garden is outside, you can dry your plants at the end of the season to have dried herbs in the pantry and ready to go.
When you shop for herbs at the market, you’re limited to what they have in stock, which is likely to be basic herbs like Italian basil, parsley, and cilantro. When you grow your own plants, though, you can experiment with different varieties of herbs. After all, there are nearly three dozen types of basil alone!
Avoid gardeners will tell you that working in their gardens is a great source of stress relief. Not only do the sights and smells of an herb garden bring peace and calm (especially when you grow calming herbs like lavender) but the act of weeding, watering and caring for your plants can help reduce stress.
Increased home value
Adding an herb garden to your front or side yard can enhance your home’s curb appeal, thus increasing its value. In fact, because many herbs are just as attractive as flowers, you can intersperse herb plants into your flower beds, which is a great solution if you don’t have space for a formal herb garden. And if you plan to sell your home, a well-maintained, established garden plot is often a selling point.
Not only does gardening help relieve stress, but eating fresh herbs or using them for tea or medicinal purposes can improve your health. Not to mention, getting outside to work in the garden can help you get exercise, fresh air and some vitamin D from the sunshine.
What to Plant
So now you want an herb garden — but where do you begin? If you plan to have herbs indoors, it’s best to either start the plants from seed or choose plants that have been grown indoors, so as to avoid shocking plants that have been outdoors. Plant one variety of herb per pot or choose a stacking pot with multiple sections for different plants to avoid overcrowding.
For indoor growing, some of the plants that do especially well include rosemary, thyme, basil, coriander, parsley, chives, mint, and oregano. These also happen to be some of the most commonly used herbs in cooking, so once you have some success with them, you may want to move on to other varieties.
For an outdoor garden, the sky’s the limit, as long as the growing conditions (i.e., sunlight and moisture) allow for certain herbs. In addition to the common herbs, lemon balm is useful as an insect repellant and tension-relieving tea, sage and tarragon are useful for cooking and natural remedies, and calendula, chamomile, and feverfew have lovely flowers and medicinal uses.
When you’re thinking about starting a garden this year, don’t overlook herbs and their usefulness to your kitchen and your life. You might even find that you like growing herbs more than you like growing veggies!