Container gardens Herbs

The Best Place to Grow Herbs

I’ve done the following several times when I give gardening lectures about herbs. I ask participants how many planted herbs the previous year. Plenty 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.

A typical vegetable garden: not the best place to grow herbs! Photo: http://www.countryliving.com

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, in the furthermost recess 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 far from the kitchen, especially under a blazing sun or when it’s pouring rain? Notably with the dried equivalent of the fresh herb is so tantalizingly close, sitting right there in your kitchen 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.

A flower box right in front of the kitchen window is probably the best place to grow culinary herbs. Photo: http://www.shop-vasteeldesign.de

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 out 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 vegetables close, but your herbs closer!

Larry Hodgson is one of Canada’s best-known garden communicators. After studies at the University of Toronto and Laval University where he obtained his B.A. in modern languages in 1978, he succeeded in combining his language skills with his passion for gardening in a novel career as a garden writer and lecturer. 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 is a regular contributor to and horticultural consultant for Fleurs, Plantes, Jardins garden magazine and has written for many other garden publications in both the United States and Canada, including Canadian Gardening, Harrowsmith, Horticulture, Fine Gardening, Rebecca’s Garden 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 50 other titles in English and French. He can be seen in Quebec on French-language television and was notably a regular collaborator for 7 years on the TV shows Fleurs et Jardins and Salut Bonjour Weekend. He is the President of the Garden Writers Association Foundation and the winner of the prestigious 2006 Garden Media Promoter Award offered by the Perennial Plant Association. An avid proponent of garden tourism, he has lead garden tours throughout Canada and to the gardens of over 30 countries over the last 30 years. He presently resides in Quebec City, Quebec.

1 comment on “The Best Place to Grow Herbs

  1. Window boxes are not so easy though. If they are sunny enough for herbs, they will likely get too warm too. Cascading herbs or extra flowery plants, such as nasturtiums, can shade the outside of the planter box to keep it cool. Old fashioned wooden boxes are well insulated.

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