A Kitchen Herb Garden

A window full of potted herbs–doesn’t’ that sound wholesome, all green tea and granola?  What about a stroll to the backyard herb garden, straw basket and shears in hand?

A collection of herbs

A collection of herbs

This year, I am doing a proper herb garden and just put a number of plants in containers to complement the perennials in my garden–all following an herbal inspiration event!  I have a couple more plants to buy, but I couldn’t wait to share!

Last month, the Garden Room, in Shorewood, WI,  hosted an evening class on growing and cooking with herbs.  It was taught by Nino Ridgway who can otherwise be found selling herbs and dispensing wisdom at Barthel’s Fruit Farm.  Some of her tips (and a few of my own) are covered below.

The Garden Room, our herb class host

The Garden Room, our herb class host

Did you know that most common culinary herbs owe their popularity to Mediterranean cooking?   With this type of warm, fair-weather heritage, it is not surprising that they like lots of sun along with drier, rocky soils.  For gardeners in damp climates with clay soils, it may be necessary to amend the soil with sand or gravel  or to plant herbs in raised beds or rock gardens .

Growing herbs in containers is another popular and practical option; containers are similar to raised beds with their tendency to dry out more rapidly. For windowsill gardens, Nino recommended keeping herbs in separate pots so that they can be rotated to each get their fair share of sun.  But if you really want to plant herbs together, just cut back the more aggressive plants  as they start to take over.  Repot “when they start to look bad” which may be as long as every two to three years.   Some potted perennial herbs may survive over the winter in a garage where they don’t freeze and thaw a lot or in a pot buried in the ground and heavily mulched–or of course inside in a sunny window.

Nino Ridgeway teaching class

Nino Ridgeway teaching class

Herbs have relatively few pest problems.  If a potted herb does suffer an infestation, transferring it outdoors, where beneficial insects are abundant, may be all that it takes to deal with pests.  If summer is too far off to wait for a move outside, a safe soap, mixed with distilled or non-salt-softened soft water (because the calcium in hard water binds the soap), can be used.

Did you know that flowering can negatively affect the flavor of many herbs?  This means that any flowering tendencies should be “nipped in the bud” 😉 .  When the buds first appear, remove a piece of the herb down to the next closest node to encourage more leaf growth and keep the flavor at its peak.  Herbs should be harvested frequently and dried or frozen if not needed fresh.

Coming up…Popular Herbs: Growing and Cooking Tips!

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15 thoughts on “A Kitchen Herb Garden

  1. Lisa @ Lisa Living Well

    Craig always said that we had to get rid of any flowers that blossomed on our cilantro plant, but I didn’t realize it applied to all herbs! Great tip to share! I am not the green thumb in our family. 🙂 Sounds like it was an interesting class.

    1. Inger

      It was fun Lisa. Karis was supposed to go too before she “got extra busy”, but I guess potted herbs probably only transport so well!

  2. Louise

    Would you believe I didn’t plant any herbs this year, Inger. My gardening schedule is all discombobulated since my trip to Idaho. Next year. In the mean time, I’ll just take my notes from you:)

    Thanks for sharing…

    P.S. I hope you will be “bringing” something herbal to the Picnic Game!

  3. Camille

    I just love having herbs on the windowsill right outside my kitchen. Having a windowbox garden can be limiting, but at least I can still grow lots of herbs! Good luck with your garden – it is such a treat to be able to lean out the window and snip what you need for your meal.

  4. Pingback: Popular Herbs for Growing and Cooking | Art of Natural Living

  5. Needful Things

    I’ve often wanted to have a little herb garden outside my kitchen window but where I live, extreme temperatures make it quite hard to maintain herbs year-round. I envy you! I hope you’;ll be doing lots of interesting things with all these herbs!

    1. Inger

      We just got deluged with rain, so I’m not sure how happy the rosemary is right now, but I’ll see how the summer progresses!

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