If you’re like me, you’ve gone to the grocery store to buy those small jars of herbs and been shocked by the prices of some of them. Even the herbs that are packaged fresh are expensive, especially when you consider that they don’t last very long once you open the package unless you freeze them or manage to dry them out without scorching them!
The good news is that nearly all of the herbs you use you can grow yourself, even if you don’t have a garden. A lot of herbs are happy in a pot in a sunny window. Another bit of good news is that many herbs are perennials, which means they come back year after year. Even annuals like basil can be grown easily from seed. Here are five of my favorite herbs, and why you should be growing them:
Tarragon is shockingly expensive to buy, but you’ll have to be careful if you grow it in the garden because it can grow like a weed! So I grow my tarragon in a pot.
One important thing to know about tarragon is that it doesn’t like rich soil, and it doesn’t like to get its “feet wet.” So I usually plant it in one part sand and one part potting soil and make sure it’s completely dried out before I water it. Like most herbs, tarragon thrives in full sun.
Tarragon grows from 12 to 36 inches high and has a spread of 24 inches. It is said to enhance the growth of just about any vegetable it’s grown beside.
This beautiful herb, with its bunches of long, oval, silvery-green leaves, is as tough as it is flavorful. It comes back year after year in my yard even after hard winters. Eventually, it grows into a shrub that can be over 40 inches high and 24 inches wide. Like tarragon, sage likes soil that drains well and can do well in poor soil, though it does better in soil that’s moderately rich. It can be grown from seed, though it takes about two years to grow to a mature size. Many gardeners grow it from cuttings. It is excellent with meats, breads, eggs, soups and stews.
This is a hot weather annual, very easy to grow from seed and easy to transplant. It won’t last past the first frost. There are many varieties of basil, including Thai basil, dark opal basil, holy basil and lemon basil. It loves heat and full sun, and it needs soil that’s kept evenly moist. Continuously harvesting the wonderfully fragrant leaves just encourages the plant to grow more. If the plant flowers, the flowers are edible and are amazing sprinkled over salads. Basil grows from 18 to 24 inches tall and 20 to 30 inches wide. Companion plants are, not surprisingly, peppers and tomatoes.
Rosemary is also a perennial. Some lucky gardeners have hedges made of rosemary, for the plant can grow up to 6 feet tall. It’s a tough plant that can tolerate a lot of soil conditions and shouldn’t be overwatered or overfed. Some people say it doesn’t tolerate light frosts, but I have a rosemary bush that, like my sage, has flourished from winter to winter. But if you live in a place where winters are brutal, you might want to pot your herbs and bring them in until spring.
Though dried dill is passable in soups, beads, salads and sauces, nothing beats fresh. The trick is to use only as much as you need at one time, for dill goes limp fairly soon after it’s picked. It’s grown not just for its fine leaves but for its seeds and likes full, hot sun and rich soil. It will self-seed if the seeds aren’t harvested.
About the Author:
My name is Sally Wong, and these are just five of the many herbs I grow and enjoy. I was born in China but live in Vancouver now, and work as a manual therapist. If you are interested in Healthy living like me, come and visit my blog.