I am not a farmer-type and do not get a huge thrill out of gardening. While I do try to keep alive the few received as gifts, I never seek out houseplants. So why am I an avid of fan of growing herbs in the summer? Because there is absolutely nothing to compare to a fresh sprinkling of herbs on a vegetable, in a salad, or grilled with meat! Plus, it is a shame to pay high prices at a store for a plastic container of rather dreary looking specimens when you can grow lovely and tasty herbs at home.
A friend who is a serious gardener joked that his homegrown vegetables better taste good considering what they cost to raise. He talks about $75 tomatoes and zucchini that cost almost that much. By contrast, my herbs cost only a few dollars to plant and water, providing bunches of fragrant leaves that would cost much more if I had to buy them. I’ve even found that some herbs – thyme and chives in my case – have come back year after year if I just leave them in the pot over the winter.
You will not gain tremendous horticultural knowledge from me. My herb-growing experience might charitably be described as "limited." I buy small plants for a few dollars, put them in decent-sized pots on my back deck with some nice looking dirt and occasionally water them.
I do almost nothing else, although I get fierce if there is evidence that insects or other animals are feasting on my precious plants. Maybe someday I'll get seeds instead of plants and fertilizer too, but it hasn't happened yet. For questions and hints I turn to friends who are real urban farmers and web research.
For a great site on growing your own, check out the Vegetable Gardener, which I found it through my friend Aviva, of Six O’clock Scramble fame. Aviva introduced me to Susan Belsinger’s articles on growing basil, and the site seems to have many other helpful articles on herb (and vegetable) growing.
Like any good parent, I provide my plants lots of praise and express tremendous appreciation when they flourish. I even play nice music or great radio talk shows when I sit on the deck reading the paper. But without hard evidence that my ministrations have a positive effect, I have to believe that if I can grow herbs, anyone can.
I have had herb-growing failures in my time, and a few seasons when the insects and the animals had a field day at my expense. But overall, I’ve gotten far more herbs, and had far more fun, than I had anticipated when I started growing herbs a few years ago.
If you have just a window box in an apartment that gets a few hours of decent sunlight, you may be able to grow herbs.
Of course, if you are lucky enough to have a sunny patch of dirt in a backyard, on a deck or in a community garden, that’s even better.
I’m not morally opposed to buying herbs, especially if you can’t grow them yourself. In my case, the Saturday farmer’s market near my house and even from my neighborhood produce departments are sources I turn to when I need more or different herbs than my deck provides. I just find particular joy from watching herbs grow and cutting them myself.
I’ll keep you updated on my back deck herbs in the coming weeks.
I’ll post recipes using these herbs and take you along as I start adding them, sometimes helter-skelter, to whatever I’m cooking while they are in bloom. I hope you’ll let me know about your herb-growing adventures, too.