Maintaining an Herb Garden

Herb gardens are easy to manage and can accomplish a few goals. Fresh ingredients for your cooking, an eye-catching addition to your landscape, natural remedies for your medicine cabinet, or a component of a crafty project.

For the home cook, the difference between fresh herbs and dried (or none at all) is monumental. Grabbing a few leaves of basil from your backyard can even take a store-bought jar of spaghetti sauce to the next level. Sprinkle some cilantro in your guac to give your Taco Tuesday a twist. A sprig of thyme transforms scrambled eggs into a restaurant-quality brunch dish.

The best part is, using the herbs as they grow is what helps maintain the plants. Like with most plants, pruning your herbs will help foster new growth. If you want to make basil pesto, go for it! Just trim the plant carefully and you’ll have new basil replacing what you cut in no time. If any of the plants get to the flowering stage, just pinch off the flower to prevent bolting. The flowers don’t need to go to waste, either. You can dry them for potpourri or even add them to your food. If you cut too much, or they’re growing faster than you can use them, don’t be afraid to dry your herbs as a way to preserve them.

You can dry herbs in an oven on very low heat, in a countertop dehydrator, or simply tie them in bundles and let them air dry. Store dried herbs in air-tight containers, and you will have them for months.

As long as you start with a healthy plant, and it is in the proper environment for its type, you could have herbs in your garden until the cold weather hits. Many herbs are annuals, and do not grow back, but if you bring a plant indoors, you could enjoy them through the winter months if cared for properly.

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