Culinary herb gardening a tasty money-saver

Master Gardener

Cardoon, a close relative of globe artichoke, adds drama to any herb garden and also has edible stems.

Photo by Susan Brown
Published: Friday, April 18, 2014 at 12:58 PM.

The struggling economy has many people looking for ways to save money. One way to cut corners is to grow your own food. Growing your own will also ensure you know where your food was grown, what type of fertilizers were used in its production, and if any pesticides or fungicides were applied.

If you love to cook with fresh herbs, you should start a culinary herb garden. Most herbs are easy to grow, yet expensive to purchase from the grocery store. Nothing beats the flavor of freshly picked herbs in soups, stews, sauces, casseroles, pastas, salad and many other dishes. These steps will get you started in the right direction.

Finding the right place

The first and most important step is picking the right location. Find a sunny area close to the house so that you won’t have to go far to get your herbal ingredients. Six to eight hours of sun a day is mandatory for any herb garden. The fragrant oils, which give herbs their flavor, are produced in the greatest quantity when plants receive plenty of sun and are not watered or fertilized too much.

Second, you should always start a garden with great soil! Most culinary herbs need well-drained, moderately fertile soil to grow their best. Amend your beds with compost before planting. Then mulch with organic material such as shredded bark after planting. The compost provides nutrients for the plant and aids in root production. The mulch will eventually breakdown into organic matter. After finding the right spot, submit soil samples for testing to determine if lime or nutrients need to be added to the soil.

Although many herbs are drought tolerant, moisture is needed to maintain active growth. Water herbs thoroughly after planting but allow the soil to dry out somewhat before watering again. Plants should be watered early enough in the day that leaves can dry before nightfall.

Choosing the right varieties

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