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The Blue & Gray Press | February 25, 2018

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Spice up your summer cooking with homegrown herbs

sara kelly

By SARA KELLY

For me, flowers are housing for the heart. It’s the truth. I find that the time I put into allowing my plants to grow gives me the sense of a kind of permanence in change.

I will be graduating in three weeks, and I feel as though I am a glass of water being emptied slowly. My African daisies, however, will know nothing of a post-college summer. They will open and close with the sun.

If you don’t have the greenest of thumbs, you can always start small by planting a kitchen garden. Imagine being able to pop out the door to cut some fresh mint for your iced tea, or thyme for a salad.

Before you pick up your trowel and get started, here are a few tips to ensure your herb garden will be happy and healthy for months to come.

1.    Go ahead, judge your soil. If it’s loamy, you’re golden. Clay beds work well for deep-rooted herbs, but also tend to bake hard in summer, so mulching here is key. If it’s sandy, you’ll have more drainage and will need to water often, and add plant food. This type of soil is not the most fertile, but I’ve grown some of the best strawberries in sand, so there you are.

2.    Water wisely. Herbs are tolerant plants, but you still have to water them once in a while. Think of it like texting; just enough to let them know you care, but you don’t want to scare them away. Or in this case drown. During the Spring, I like to water once a day in the morning. This allows the plant time to absorb the water before it evaporates in the stronger sun later in the day. Be sure to focus on the root area where the plant soaks in most of the moisture.

3.    Learn to speak herb. Basil for good wishes, thyme for courage and lavender for luck. I don’t know why we assigned meaning to plants like this. but I like knowing that they really did mean something at one time.

4.     Explore the new and the old. At the garden center this weekend, I came across garden sage, the kind that I always called “rabbit ears” as a child, as well as some varieties that were entirely new to me. Who knew there was such a thing as pineapple mint?

5.    Think outside the ground. If you don’t have a yard, that doesn’t mean you can’t garden. You just have to be creative about it. Why not try growing each kind of herb in a little terracotta pot, for instance? Simply paint the outside in black chalkboard paint and let dry. Then, label the pots “a craie,” and line them up in your kitchen windowsill. How quaint, and how convenient to cook with!