Laidback Gardener Tip of the Day

Keep your Vegetables Close… and your Herbs Closer!

I’ve done the following several times at the gardening lectures I give. I ask participants how many planted herbs that spring. Lots of hands go up. Then I ask how many actually used them. Most drop straight down. The sad truth is that few gardeners actually use the herbs they plant. And there’s a reason for that.

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A typical vegetable garden: not the best place to grow herbs.

Traditionally culinary herbs are planted in the vegetable garden, but since a vegetable garden is usually considered strictly utilitarian and without any real attraction, it is often located far from the kitchen, at the back of the yard. It may even be several blocks away in the case of a community garden.

However, it’s one thing to go looking for 5 or 6 carrots to prepare lunch or a cauliflower for the evening meal: it’s worth taking a few steps to get an ingredient that is essential to the success of the meal. It’s quite another when you all you need are a few basil leaves or sprigs of thyme. Are you really going to go all the way to the vegetable garden located deep in the back yard, especially under a blazing sun or when it’s raining? Especially with the dried equivalent of the fresh herb is so tantalizingly close, sitting right there in your kitchen’s spice rack?

That’s why, it you really want to use the herbs you grow, it’s best to keep them close at hand, as near as possible to the kitchen, even if it means not growing them with your vegetables.

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Cultivez les fines herbes le plus près possible de la cuisine.

The ideal location? You can’t beat a flower box full of herbs set just outside the kitchen window. So even if it rains, you just have to open the window, reach our your hand, snip off a sprig or a leaf or two, then close the window. Not only can you do this when it’s pouring rain, you will do it! Alternatives include pots of herbs or a small herb bed just outside the back door or on the balcony. Or somewhere equally easy to reach.

Keep your herbs close at hand: it’s always the way to go!

Larry Hodgson is one of Canada’s best-known garden communicators. He has notably been editor-in-chief of HousePlant Magazine, Fleurs, Plantes et Jardins, À Fleur de Pot and Houseplant Forum magazines and is currently the garden correspondent for Le Soleil and radio garden commentator for CKIA-FM Radio. He has written for many garden publications in both the United States and Canada, including Canadian Gardening, Harrowsmith, Horticulture, Fine Gardening and Organic Gardening. He also speaks frequently to horticultural groups throughout Canada and the U.S. His book credits include The Garden Lover’s Guide to Canada, Complete Guide to Houseplants, Making the Most of Shade, Perennials for Every Purpose, Annuals for Every Purpose, and Houseplants for Dummies, as well as nearly 60 other titles in English and French. He is a past president of the Garden Writers Association (now Garden Communicators International) and the winner of the prestigious 2006 Garden Media Promoter Award offered by the Perennial Plant Association. He resides in Quebec City, Quebec, Canada.

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