Fresh herbs can be an integral part of a healthy lifestyle, whether used in cooking or in natural remedies. Growing herbs from seed is an easy activity that can be undertaken almost anywhere, from apartment windowsill to suburban gardens, and requires just a few basic ingredients. Many people who lack the means to have a full garden enjoy planting herbs, thanks to their modest planting requirments.
One should first decide which herbs they would like to grow, based on their culinary or medicinal needs. Some herbs can be classified as both medicinal and culinary, such as mint. A trip to the garden center is suggested, so that one can review the particular needs of the herbs they have selected.
After the seeds have been selected, it’s time to think about planting. Will the seeds be sown in pots or containers, or straight into the ground? For apartment dwellers or those with small gardens, container plantings are a wonderful alternative to a full garden. Select a container that will provide ample room for the herbs and their roots. When it comes to soil, choose the best potting soil that is available.
If one is sowing directly into the ground, choose an area with well-drained soil and ample sunlight. A low fence can keep animals from sampling the herbs as they grow, and provides a decorative accent to an herb garden. Plant the seeds according to the directions on the package, and water gently. During the late winter and early spring, many types of herbs can be planted in seed starter kits. Such kits typically contain small starter pots and a clear plastic lid to hold in heat and moisture. Label each set of plantings with the name of the herb and the date it was planted. Keep the seed packet for information on thinning and days to maturity.
Most herb seeds will germinate within 10- 15 days. For the novice gardener, those first shoots of green are a welcome sight. After the seeds have sprouted and grown their second set of leaves, it may be necessary to thin the seedlings. The need for thinning varies based on the herb and method of planting. Follow specific directions on the seed packet.
Continue to give the seedlings ample water and sunlight, protecting them from harsh weather as much as possible. Rolls of plastic sheeting offer shelter from late frosts and brisk winds, and can be removed on warmer and sunnier days. As the spring gives way to summer, the herbs should be well established and ready for their first harvest. Use the herbs often, as it encourages new growth.
Fresh herbs can also be cut and hung to dry. Drying herbs is an easy process, and one that fills a home with fragrance. Cut the herbs, ideally in the morning, and bind them together in small bunches. Use kitchen twine to tie them together. Leave enough twine to form a loop, and hang upside down to dry. Well ventilated rooms, such as laundry or utility rooms, are often ideal for drying herbs. The herbs should be arranged in such a way as to allow ample room for air circulation.
After seven to ten days, the herbs should be dry. Leaves can be left intact or crumbled for storage. Use food-safe containers that are airtight, and store in a cool, dark location. Whether used fresh or dried, herbs can be an asset to many facets of life, and growing them from seed adds an extra measure of enjoyment.