I have been asked twice this week how to start and herb garden. Since this seems to be the jumping off point for many food growers (and a good point it is I might add!) I thought I'd give you some quick advice on this topic.
Why is the advice quick? Well there are two main reasons. Number one: farm baby is asleep right now and will probably only maintain that position for a few more minutes. Today is my first day with only one baby on maternity leave and so far it's been extremely productive. I'm hopeful this productivity continues, but I'm not banking on it! And although one person who asked about herbs called it my "baby vacation" anyone who has taken a maternity leave knows it usually anything but. Unless you only have one baby. Then it's totally vacation. But you will never know that until you go on leave with more than one. At the time that you are on leave with your first baby it too seems like a hectic madhouse full of terror and vomit. And poop. And urine. And __insert bodily fluid here__. Sort of how youth is wasted on the young, single baby maternity leave is wasted on the first time mommy.
Any who the second reason why this is brief is because there isn't much to it! You can plant herbs in a bed, container or in the ground. Out here in Arizona I'd recommend a bed or container. This is largely because our ground is more similar to concrete than dirt!
Just like in my pervious post about seedlings, I'd recommend using a good organic potting soil or compost. Our bed are 70/30 compost and manure. I like that proportion myself. Fill your container or bed with your dirt of choice. Then at this point you can start from seed or from transplants. If this is your first rodeo, I'd recommend transplants. I would NOT recommend you get them from Home Depot. For whatever reason, HD has some terrible plants. Go with a local nursery.
If you start from seed, you will need to keep them in a nice warm sunny place. But mind you I said warm, not hot. Too hot and your seeds fry. In Arizona, that balance can be hard to maintain unless you have them inside your home in a sunny window. Then go for it.
The following herbs are virtually impossible to screw up: curly parsley, basil, rosemary, and mint. Mint will take over your whole garden and influence the taste of other foods. So unless you like minty tomatoes, keep them a good two feet from your other foods. Or in a container alone. Mint is the Hitler of herbs. Not because of its hatred of any particular ethnic groups but because it spreads very fast. Blitzkrieg style. If you have an attitude of appeasement, your mint will cross the Rhineland, and that is no good for anyone. But I digress.
Basil needs to stay in the shade or it will bolt. Remember this term? It's VERY obvious when your basil is done for. It has flowers on the top and it tastes awful. If you notice it grow six inches in a day, it's over. Plant a new one.
Parsley is nice cause it gets bushy and you can sprinkle it on your food to make it look less grey all the time. It's the stuff restaurants sprinkle on dishes to give them color without too much taste. And if you are my mom, you can make tubule (sp?) every other week since it will grow quickly.
Rosemary is used in landscaping here. I've never watered mine and its still alive. I actively trying to murder it. So far, no dice.
Oregano, thyme, sage, dill and cilantro are a little more temperamental, but not much more. You just need to monitor their temperature more closely. Plant these in pots on your porch or under a big shady tree. If they start to get too hot, they Will wilt, or fry. You'll notice right away because they look brown and crispy or very very sad. Water these twice a day in summer and never in mid day. You water before the sun comes up, and just as it sets in order to keep your water frame evaporating and making sure it gets down to your roots.
That's really all there is too it. Pick it frequently to keep it growing back. ;)
And there's farm baby! Off we go!
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