There are many health benefits associated with gardening – lower blood pressure, reduced stress and a great way to exercise. Don’t have space or time for a vegetable garden? You still can harvest home-grown herbs for daily meals! The garden only takes about 15 minutes to create and needs about four or more hours of sun a day. You will need to water it two to three times a week. This approach allows you to still receive some of the health benefits from gardening, plus it gives your meals a flavorful kick.
Start by picking five to seven herbs that have compact or low growth, such as oregano or parsley – both of these are used often in the kitchen. You will need a shallow pot or container (14-in round is ideal) that has a bottom hole for good drainage, trowel and potting soil.
Put a layer of potting soil in the container, up to 3 inches from the rim. Transplant herbs into the larger container and loosen the root ball of each plant. (To loosen plant in its small plastic pot, smack the bottom of the pot with a trowel.) Arrange the herbs with the tallest-growing variety in the middle and four to six herbs spaced around it. Once plants are positioned, add more potting soil and gently firm it around roots. Water well and place in a sunny spot. Pinch herbs to use as needed and pinch back plants to keep them bushy.
When to feed
Add a little compost to the potting soil before planting to get your herbs off to a good start. Annual herbs need more fertilizer, usually every two weeks, and perennial herbs need to be fertilized every four to five weeks. When feeding, use a balanced organic fertilizer. Water the plants deeply before fertilizing. And don’t forget to water two to three times a week.
When to harvest
Herbs are most potent and aromatic just before flowering — usually in July or August. By pinching back flowers as they appear, you can keep the plant growing more shoots and prolong its peak. With basil and parsley, pinching back the flowers prolongs the life of the plant, too. Be sure to harvest your herbs regularly. And eat the flowers as well as the leaves, particularly from perennial herbs such as thyme and rosemary. They are delicious and more robust and sweet than the leaves.
In addition, the herb garden can double as a summer centerpiece for casual entertaining. It smells as good as it tastes.
So grab a pot and plant some herbs for well-rounded meals at home.