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Growing herbs is easy, low maintenance gardening and adds fresh flavor to your dishes

POSTED: May 11, 2012 1:56 p.m.

If you’ve never had much of a green thumb but are interested in edible gardening, you’d probably want to start with herbs.

"They’re easy to grow," said Diane Korzeniewski, a Hall County Master Gardener during a recent Growing at Gardens on Green workshop.

"They don’t particularly care if the (soil) is fertile or not so fertile."

Herbs grow best in soil that has a neutral acidity. They also prefer well-drained areas, which is why Korzeniewski suggests planting them in pots.

"They like good drainage," Korzeniewski said. "When you put them in pots, they’re sitting up higher and can get their roots away from anything damp or mucky.

"Overall, herbs do much better in pots."

Putting them in individual planters instead of the ground can also help keep invasive herbs, like mint, contained.

With the large variety of perennial plants, herb gardening overall can be pretty low maintenance.

According to the Better Homes and Gardens Plant Encyclopedia, thyme, tarragon, oregano and chives are all perennials.

However, there are some plants that are annuals and require replacements every year. Cilantro, dill, basil and parsley all would fall under that category

If you choose to plant perennials, Korzeniewski recommends adding new seeds to your pot every few weeks to ensure that you have a steady supply of fresh herbs.

If you’re looking for something new to plant, consider adding cutting celery to your garden.

"Cutting celery is basically like the vegetable, except it only gets leaves. It kind of looks like parsley," Korzeniewski said.

"It’s nice to use because it stays green all year, so you can go out in the middle of winter and cut it and you’ve got a nice celery flavor to add to your dishes."

If you prefer sticking with tried and true herbs, you can’t go wrong with rosemary.

"There are tons of different kinds of rosemary," Korzeniewski said.

"They’re all good flavorwise, so you really can’t go wrong unless you buy pine rosemary. It smells neat, but you know you certainly don’t want to eat that.

"The different varieties have different degrees of hardiness, but some that are pretty hardy at our level would be Madeline Hill, Sawyer’s Select and Salem rosemary."

Basil also has a number of varieties and flavors, including: lemon basil, lettuce leaf basil, Greek mini basil and Genovese basil.

When you’re ready to harvest your herbs, Korzeniewski warns against clipping them first thing in the morning when they’re still wet with dew.

If you’re not ready to use them just yet, keep the leaves and stems intact.

"I would leave them on the stem until it’s time to use them," Korzeniewski said.

"If you aren’t using them immediately, I would maybe stick them upside down in a paper bag in a cool, dark place and let them dry out that way."

You can also freeze the clippings as they are or make them into a pesto sauce and then freeze that.

If they’re going straight into a dish, be mindful that you’ll need to be a bit heavy handed.

"You’re going to need three times as much fresh herbs as compared to dried," Korzeniewski said. "Fresh herbs have more moisture, so the flavor isn’t as concentrated as it is in dried herbs."

 


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