5 Easy Herbs to Grow at Home
Herbs are a staple in most Ontario kitchens, but have you ever wondered how you can grow them at home? For centuries, cultures all over the world have been growing herbs and spices to add flavour to their dishes. Although you can buy your own herbs from the store, growing herbs in your own garden is good for the environment, saves you money, and we have to admit is quite fun too! We at Garden Gallery have compiled a list of a few herbs that you can try to grow at home. Indoor or outdoor, these tips will help you get started with growing your own herb garden.
Basil is an herb which originates from areas around central Africa, and Southeast Asia. Typically, one’s first thought when thinking of basil is Italy and surrounding countries, but did you know the herb was actually brought to that region in ancient times? Basil has a very distinct flavour, one which is typically hard to describe. There are different varieties of basil in an array of different flavours. Two of the more popular types are Thai basil and Sweet basil. Sweet basil has a peppery but sweet flavour, whereas Thai basil tastes more like licorice. Basil pairs well with many different foods, as its distinct flavour can taste wonderful with sweet or savoury dishes and drinks. Basil is usually paired with foods such as mozzarella cheese, eggplant, balsamic vinegar, and even strawberries.
This versatile herb is easy to grow at home, as long as you follow a few simple steps. Basil plants can be purchased from your local garden center in small pots already grown and ready to take home and use. This is generally the best option if you’re just starting out. Basil can also be planted from seeds, but this process will take longer and may be trickier for beginners.
Basil requires quite a bit of sunshine, 6-8 hours per day. If the plants are being grown indoors, sun lamps will help them get the sunshine they need. It’s important to note the temperature where they are being stored as well. If they are being planted near a window they should be placed in a miniature greenhouse, protected from the cold. Even being near a window can cause wilting if it is too cold. If you choose to grow basil with seeds, they can be started indoors and transplanted to an outside garden. To grow basil from seeds, simply place them in moist soil with about an inch of soil above them. They take about a week to start germinating (sprouting). As more sprouts become visible, the basil should be spread out or planted into different containers, depending on where you wish to grow the plants. Basil can be transplanted outside once there is no longer risk of frost. They will survive very well inside as long as they are able to get adequate sunshine. Basil is an annual herb, which means you will need to plant a new crop each year.
Chives have quite a historical background, being the oldest known herb in the onion family. They were originally found in a few different; Asia, Europe, and even North America. Now it can be found all over the world. Chives have an onion-like flavour, similar to a green onion. Generally chives are used as a garnish, but can be used in cooking as well. The entire plant is edible, including the flower which is typically used in salads. The stalks taste great as a garnish on baked potatoes, potato salad, and on devilled eggs. They can also be cooked into dishes like herb rolls and in latkes. If you want chives to stay as flavourful as possible, it’s best to add them in at the end of the cooking process, or consume them raw. If exposed to too much heat while cooking, they will lose their flavour and become quite bland.
Chives are an extremely hardy plant making them an excellent choice for a beginner herb garden. They are quite easy to grow and take care of, and require very little care once they are planted.
Chives do best when they have a consistent source of sunshine, so if you are growing these herbs inside it is important they have access to sun, or an artificial source of sunshine such as a sun lamp. Chives can be also grown in partial shade. Chives can handle drought fairly well, but it is best to not plant them in dry soil. The ideal soil is one that is well dug with compost mixed in. Once planted, they can be left alone, watered only when the soil becomes dry. Chives can be grown indoors and transplanted once it gets warmer outside. If you choose to start the plants inside, regular potting soil will do just fine until they can be planted outside. You can also purchase chive plants which are already grown if you want to skip the fuss of waiting for them to grow. They do very well on their own, and they will come back every year as they are a perennial. To prepare chives for winter, all they need is to be trimmed back, and they will do the rest. Chives can be kept indoors, in planters outside on a porch or balcony, or be planted directly into a garden.
Parsley is an excellent herb, filled with lots of nutrients including vitamin C. It tastes delicious in multiple dishes as a garnish, or even as part of a main course. Originating from the central Mediterranean region, this herb has been around for centuries and has crossed oceans through trade. Parsley is a unique herb, as whether you like it or not has to do with genetics. Most people either love or hate parsley, not many are indifferent towards it. It also is unique because it is said to bring out the flavour of whatever it is paired with. Those who like the herb say it has a peppery taste. Parsley pairs wonderfully with foods like lentils and steak. It also tastes great added to pesto, or in ravioli pasta. Both the leaves, and the stem of parsley are edible; in fact, the stem has a stronger flavour than the leaves.
In Canada, parsley typically grows better indoors than in a garden, but it can be planted in either setting. Parsley is a biennial herb, which means that it will flower and produce seeds the second year it is planted and then die off. In colder climates, however sometimes it will be classified as an annual. It is dependent on the climate as to whether or not it will grow a second year. A great characteristic about parsley is that it rarely will get disease making it easier to grow, although it can still be affected by insects such as aphids. Parsley is a lush plant, which can grow up to a foot high and makes for a beautiful addition to your garden. It is typically grown from seeds, but can also be purchased as a plant ready for use. It requires partial shade or full sunlight. The soil should stay moist. Mulch can help with growth, although it is important not to cover the crown of the plant as it can put the parsley at risk of rot. The ideal soil temperature for planting dill is 70°f, or 21°c.
Originating from Eurasia, dill is a popular herb with a mild and warm flavour. Dill is quite versatile, and goes well with a multitude of different foods. If you’re looking to incorporate dill in some of your meals, it tastes great in seafood, eggs, and smoked salmon. It is also a popular ingredient in potato salads as well as other potato dishes. Of course, dill is also used to make dill pickles, so if you’re a fan of those, perhaps it’s time to try growing your own dill at home!
Dill is an annual herb, lasting only one season after planting. Dill can be grown indoors and out, and can be purchased already grown in planters. It is easy to grow, and also attracts many beneficial bugs in your garden. An interesting fact about dill is that it is a self-seeding plant; this means that it will seed itself, with seeds being carried by birds.
To plant dill in your garden you should follow a few simple steps. Firstly, dill grows best when it stays where it is planted. It is best not to transplant. Dill should be planted ¼ of an inch deep and 18 inches apart. Plants should begin to grow about 2 weeks after they are initially planted, and can be harvested once the plant has 4 or 5 leaves. Depending on how many dill plants you have, you can harvest entire stalks of dill at once. If you chose not to harvest entire stalks, it should be pinched off leaves at a time. Dill should be exposed to sun for 6 to 8 hours a day. If you want to grow dill indoors, it can be planted in 6-8” pots with drainage holes in them. Dill requires lots of sunlight, so an artificial light source may be required for your dill plant to thrive. They require at least 6 hours of sunlight or up to 12 hours of artificial light. The ideal soil temperature for your dill plants is between 60 – 70°f, or 15 – 20°c.
Last, but certainly not least, thyme is the final herb on our list! Thyme is extremely popular and is fairly versatile in its uses, with a unique flavour often described as dry, piney, and even as minty. It pairs well with a multitude of dishes, some of the more popular options being roasts and tomato sauces. It also is a popular ingredient in turkey stuffing and potato dishes, and even in desserts as it pairs well with berries! The most common type of thyme we use in cooking is English thyme, or Thymus Vulgaris. Although English thyme is the most common, there are over 50 other types, some of which are edible and others which are typically used for garnish or decoration.
Thyme can be grown indoors and out, so no matter where you live, growing it is a possibility if you have access to the right growing conditions. Thyme is hard to grow from seeds, so it is best to grow from a starter plant, or from a clipping. It can be started indoors 6 – 10 weeks before the last frost to give them a head start. If you are planning on only growing it outside, you should wait until 2 – 3 weeks before the last spring frost to plant. Soil temperature should be around 70°f or 21°c before you begin planting. Thyme plants should be watered regularly, and trimmed when they get too leggy, or long. Although thyme needs to be watered regularly, it also needs to be well ventilated, and typically will grow better if grown in a container with stones placed at the bottom to allow drainage. Thyme thrives in warm, sunny conditions.