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Herb Gardens

A small herb garden is an essential part of any country kitchen. But fresh, organic herbs are not just for amateur chefs and California housewives. Any city-dweller can have a fragrant window box kitchen herb garden with just a little maintenance and care.

Technically speaking, herbs are just plants without permanent woody stems. This definition covers thousands of plants, most of which we would never use. When we think of herbs we think of fragrant and flavorful little plants that may be used for cooking, medicine or crafts.

Herbs may be grown on their own or within your garden. Some herbs are beneficial to other plants in your garden. Basil, when grown with tomatoes or peppers, can enhance the flavor of the fruits. It is not surprising that these plants are often found together in dishes as well as in the garden. Nature works in not-so-mysterious ways sometimes.

Traditional Kitchen Herb Garden
Try a kitchen herb garden with the following favorites: sweet basil, oregano, thyme, rosemary and chives. These herbs are reasonably easy to grow and just a pinch in a stew or salsa makes a world of difference.

Anyone who has lived in the country will tell you that there is nothing like walking out your front door and picking five mint leaves for tea, a sprig of rosemary to flavor a broth, a twig of thyme for spaghetti sauce or a few basil leaves to put in a sandwich. An organic herb garden can make or break your culinary experience. Because only very small amounts of herbs are needed, an herb garden itself can be small but with huge rewards.

Enjoy the visual beauty of herbs
Herbs come in many different forms. Some appear as flowers, others as vines, and others, like rosemary are more like hedges. Herbs can be used to control erosion or may already be growing wild on your property. Though herbs like mint disappear every winter, they come back with a vengeance every spring and need only be planted once. In any form, herbs are a lovely addition to your home or property.

Herbs are generally easy to please and require only well drained, nutrient rich soil for their success. By adding organic matter in the form of mulched leaves and manure each fall, your herbs will grow with vigour and be protected from winter cold. Water new transplants heavily, but mature plants sparingly. With the added organic matter and increased micronutrient content, your herbs will be healthier and more immune to disease and insect infestation. Also, their flavour rings true. With the addition of just leaves and some manure, the plants will still be a little deprived of some nutrients and therefore, have a slightly more pungent flavour.

Some herbs, like lavender and oregano, grow beautiful flowers and can be worked into your flower garden ornamentally (though, let it be known that both lavendar and oregano are edible and make lovely teas). Some, like thyme, creep along the ground and can be planted along paths and between stepping-stones or cascading out of a window box. Some herbs, like rosemary, can grow into huge flowering hedges which are excellent for attracting bees.

Herbs are not just for eating
Furthermore, young blue spruce needles can be used as a substitute to rosemary. As you know, herbs are both flavorful and fragrant. A potted kitchen herb garden can add convenience, beauty and a pleasant smell to your home. Use lavender, peppermint or chamomile in potpourri or burned like incense. These ancient odor eliminators are cheaper and more pleasant than anything found in an aerosol can.

Herbs are also often used in arts and crafts. Dried lavender can be woven into wreaths or used in decorative flower arrangements. Some herbs can be boiled and their vibrant color used for fabric dye.

Beyond their many obvious uses, herbs have a little known utility in your garden as well. Chives, a member of the onion family, is a natural pesticide! Its scent scares bugs away from your roses and flowers…plant it in your flower garden for beauty and utility.

Herbs are beneficial plants for your garden
Some herbs like dill, fennel and parsley attract some of the more beneficial insects to your garden. Their low-lying flowers make good homes for the insects that will help your garden to thrive.

Many herbs are attractive to butterflies and bees, and are worth planting in your garden to encourage the fertilization that comes along with these helpful insects. Bees and butterflies especially love clover, hyssop, thyme and sage. Plant these in your flower garden!

Clover is an excellant addition to any garden as it is a legume like peas and beans add assists in the fixation of nitrogen which is added to the soil, it also attracts beneficial insects to the garden. Though, be careful where you plant it as it can overpower some low growing plants.

Planting requirements for herbs
In addition to well-drained soil, herbs tend to thrive in a soil that is more alkaline. Soil with a pH close to 7 is ideal for your herb garden. You may increase the alkalinity of your soil by adding calcified seaweed, which contains lime.

Herbs also enjoy a lot of sunlight and little wind. Your herb garden should be in an open place that is still sheltered to the wind and is, of course, close to your kitchen.

Herbs are well worth growing and may be a good starter garden for the overwhelmed. Herbs compliment any garden or kitchen with their incredible beauty and endless utility.

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