How Does Your Spring Herb Garden Grow?

How Does Your Spring Herb Garden Grow?

When winter has just about finished delivering its last frost, nurseries, home and garden centers, and supermarkets fill up their shopping areas with garden plants, many of them herbs.  Herbs are easy to grow either from seed or as starter plants. Here are some popular ones for your kitchen garden that will spice up your cooking. Home-grown herbs deliver such intense fresh flavors, and seasoning with them not only dresses up your food but keeps you healthy.

Classical Thyme

Thyme, the classic Italian seasoning, is such a fragrant and flavorful herb. It retains its strong flavor even after cooking. Use it fresh or dried in soups, stews, roasts, marinades, and stuffings.

A good source of Vitamin A, iron, manganese, copper and fiber, thyme is known for its many healing properties. It acts as an antibacterial, antiseptic, and antimicrobial agent. Did you know it contains oils that have been clinically proven to treat acne and other skin irritations?

Be sure to choose culinary thyme when you select a plant as there’s an ornamental variety too. Thyme can be grown from seed but many people start with a plant as thyme seeds are more difficult to germinate and can take longer to sprout.

If you’re new to growing herbs, thyme is a good selection. It thrives on neglect. It actually grows better in poor soil with little water. This also makes thyme a good choice for dry areas of the country where it’s often used in xeriscaping and other low-water landscaping.

Taste the Mediterranean With Rosemary

 Another intoxicatingly fragrant and full-flavor herb is rosemary. Among its needlelike leaves are dazzling violet flowers, which makes it a wonderful plant to decorate your garden with and season dishes. This plant from the Mediterranean complements chicken, potatoes, pizza, omelets and even desserts. Add some to your homemade ice cream or gelato mix before making it. If you don’t want to dry it, rosemary can be kept frozen until you need it.

Rosemary is particularly rich in iron, vitamin C and many of the B-complex vitamins such as folic acid, pantothenic acid, pyridoxine, and riboflavin. The B vitamin folic acid is where it excels, producing high levels of folate.

Like thyme, rosemary is a bit tricky to grow from seed. It’s usually propagated by cuttings. It requires about 6 to 8 hours of sunlight and loves warm humid environments. Rosemary is sensitive to cold so grow it in pots and bring it indoors in winter when the temperatures dip below freezing. Speaking of pots, it likes living in terracotta. Rosemary will grow nice and bushy if you occasionally prune it. Be careful not to take off more than a third at a time.

In a Pickle With Dill

Dill is often known for its use in pickling brine, where the seed is typically used. The leaves or dill “weed” are excellent in soups, stews and sprinkled atop any style of potato. It can be left in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks, still maintaining its flavor.

Dill’s fresh taste is irresistible, which is handy because it’s a good digestive aid and provides relief from insomnia, dysentery, bowel and respiratory disorders to name a few of its other medicinal properties. Dill is also used in oral care, provides powerful immune system support, is an anti-inflammatory, and protects from bone degeneration.

In very warm climates dill is best grown in spring and fall when temperatures are not extremely high. This heat-sensitive plant will bolt if it gets too hot. It likes direct sun and rich well-drained soil. Once roots are established water infrequently as they grow deep. Dill doesn’t like fertilizer more than once a week and it doesn’t like to be transplanted.

Other than that, it’s easy to grow, germinating quickly. Start harvesting when the plant has at least four or five leaves and keep the soil well weeded. To extend the growing season start a new crop every few weeks.

The added benefit to growing dill is that it attracts beneficial insects like wasps and predatory insects.

Prolific, Sweet Basil

 What’s not to adore about basil. For starters, in its raw state, it makes a wonderful lettuce replacement for sandwiches. It also adds a distinctive tang tossed into raw salads. Cooked, it enhances Italian dishes when blended with tomatoes to make a rich marinara sauce. And, last but not least, basil makes a heavenly pesto: that creamy, nutty green sauce that gives a tomato-based pasta sauce a lot of competition.

Basil is high in blood-clotting vitamin K and beta-carotenes from vitamin A. It’s an effective antibacterial capable of inhibiting numerous harmful bacteria including staphylococcus and E. coli, and one of its oil extracts provides relief from rheumatoid arthritis.

This prolific, almost sweet-tasting herb is so easy to grow it’s crazy. Grow it indoors or out. Begin with seeds or a starter plant, give it well-drained soil and make sure it gets lots of sunlight – 6 to 8 hours. It loves the sun. In hot weather water often. . If you’re growing it in pots – which works extremely well – use a simple compost soil. Water the base of the plant, not the leaves directly. Pinch off any flowers that appear to encourage more leave growth and to preserve its flavor.

Basil likes to be pruned often. Its gift for pruning is the accelerated growth of new leaves that will keep you in salads and sauces all summer long – and into the fall and winter.