Thursday, April 8, 2010

I never promised you an herb garden...

This week with the summer-like temperatures I've been rather focused on the great outdoors, and I haven't yet shared with you our herb garden.

We created our first herb garden three years ago at the same time we constructed the slate wall in our front yard. We had lots of leftover stones in the pallet we bought. So we sold some to an interested neighbor and used the rest in our backyard, and part of the remnants went toward constructing a little retaining wall for our herb garden.

When we started out we had no idea how big herbs can grow. For what it's worth, we also did not know how well anything would grow in our backyard. Now that we've done this a few times we know that herbs can flourish in our backyard, but vegetables can be dicey and not particularly cost effective.

We base our herbs around the recipes we use most often. We have a thing for fresh herbs, and growing them ourselves leads to optimum freshness. Also, being able to maintain a yearly herb garden does not show we are master gardeners; instead, it shows we know how to water plants. It's a routine, but it's one I enjoy because of its zen-like qualities.

This year's all-herbs, no-veggies garden contains the following:

6 basil plants because we loooooove basil (once we start cooking with our basil I will share our fave basil recipes)

2 mint plants, well-suited for some summertime mojitos!

1 rosemary plant

2 Italian flat-leaf parsley plants

1 lemon thyme plant

And one chive plant that faithfully returns year after year

Here are a few more herb-garden details and lessons learned:
  • How much did it cost to plant this? This year we spent $40 on herb plants (12 plants total bought this year; chive plant from three years ago)
  • What other supplies do you need? Top soil, mulch, gardening gloves and a trowel, all leftover from previous years.
  • How long does it take to plant a garden of this size? Very little time...I spent no more than 30 minutes planting this year's crop.
  • Why not start your herbs from seeds? I've tried it before, and I have not been successful. Interestingly, though, some scallion seeds (or spring onion, call it what you will) I planted last year appear to finally be coming to life right now, so stay tuned.
  • What plants are the easiest to getting growing and keep growing? Mint! It will take over if you're not careful. Basil is also pretty tolerant. 
  • What plants are the most difficult to keep alive? Cilantro. We are big fans of our homemade salsa and guacamole recipes that call for lots of cilantro, but this plant does not like our backyard (I assume because it gets too much water).
  • What plant should you avoid? Oregano. I planted two of these plants three years ago, and last summer when they came back they took over the herb garden. This spring I decided I had enough and tried to dig up the roots. I hope I got them all. We just didn't use oregano very often and it was becoming wasteful, but more importantly it was preventing some other plants from spreading.

Next up...a new experiment with growing scallions.


  1. I could never get cilantro to grow either. Or dill. And our parsley never really takes off. Mint is pretty much a weed, though. We have a peppermint plant that Craig uses to make mint ice cream. Yum. Colorado doesn't pass last frost date until mid-May, though, so we are stuck with our indoor herb garden for now!

  2. do you water your herbs every day or only when they appear to be dry? Peter and I just started a mini herb garden, but I have never been good about keeping plants alive!