|By Karen Wytmans, Better Homes & Gardens|
Spring begins for me when I start planning, preparing, and planting my garden. I live in a duplex and only have space for a narrow raised bed and a few containers, so I have to be deliberate in my plant selection. I’m also not known for my gardening skills; my family looks with pity upon most of the plants I bring home, knowing they probably won’t last long. That said, I have found several herbs that even I can keep alive. And the benefits of growing an herb garden make these aromatic plants well worth growing: they don’t need much room to thrive, you can easily use them in your cooking, and herbs taste so much better when they are fresh-picked. But you may not have considered that an herb garden can also save you money.
Of course, cost savings isn’t the only reason to plant an herb garden, but it may be the best reason to motivate you this year. Not only do herbs take a smaller area to grow than many other edible plants; they also can be relatively costly if you buy them at the grocery store rather than growing them yourself.
Let’s break it down. If you want to make a delicious herb chicken for dinner tonight, you may need to purchase two to three different herbs. Fresh herbs usually run in the range of $2-$5 per bundle, so if you spring for all the herbs the recipe calls for, the cost can quickly add up. Additionally, you probably won’t need the whole bunch for most recipes, just one or two sprigs, so the rest ends up going to waste. And the cycle repeats itself every time you find a new recipe. By contrast, growing an herb garden requires only purchasing the initial seeds or seedlings and preparing the space to cultivate them. Once established, you have all the herbs you need for your favorite recipe any night of the week.
After minimal setup costs, there is little additional financial outlay involved in maintaining your herb garden other than elbow grease. You can clip off and use just a leaf or two or whatever amount you need for the particular recipe you want to whip up. Additionally, the herbs will be fresher and more flavorful than if you had bought them in the store. That’s a win-win!
If you have only a limited area to plant your garden, start by thinking about the herbs you use most for your cooking. Which ones are your go-to herbs? If you grow herbs that you already know how to use in recipes, you’re more likely to make good use of them. Of course, it’s also fun to experiment; maybe there are some herbs you can’t find at your local market, and the only way to bring them into your cooking is by growing them yourself. I recommend adding one or two herbs that you are curious to sample in your cuisine.
Next, think about the space and location for growing your herbs. Will they be indoors or out in your garden? In the ground or pots? Will they have full sun or mostly shade? For herbs that are perennials, check out the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map to see if the plants you want to grow will be able to thrive where you are. Selecting herbs that fit the environment and physical space you have available for them will also help maximize your harvests while using your resources efficiently. Here are my top picks that maximize space-saving, cost-cutting, and cooking possibilities.
TJ’S TIP: Stop by either location and see what aromatic and colorful herbs we have in stock, here’s a few to mention: Basil, Parsley, Rosemary, Dill, a variety of Mint, Catmint and more!