I freaking LOVE Spring. The time change can be a bit of a beast with young kids in the house but seeing life in the trees and sunshine in the sky makes it totally worth it.
And with the weather warming up, it can only mean one thing – it’s time to start growing things!
Step 21 – Grow some herbs
April is a great time to start sowing seeds and young plants as the risk of frosts have (hopefully) passed. Herbs are the best thing to start with if you’re new to gardening as you get great results very quickly and they don’t need much time or attention. You don’t need a large garden either, just a sunny spot inside or out and containers of various sizes. Old buckets and trash cans are excellent options for growing potatoes and egg boxes make perfect seed planters.
I started growing herbs when I was on a pretty restricted diet for my health. I was so bored of chicken, broccoli and potatoes! But that meal took on a new life with each fresh herb I added, and I was hooked. My kids love fresh herbs too and totally feel involved in the cooking process when they are asked to go and chop some rosemary or mint.
Herbs don’t just taste fab, they are great for supporting your health too, and were extremely important in the times before clinics or hospitals. People used plant parts for treating different ailments, and dried the most useful herbs to store and use during the winter months.
Other benefits of growing your own herbs vs store bought dried ones:
- Increased vitamin value and antioxidant properties of your meals
- No contaminants, extended transport or prolonged exposure to light and high temps – all of which impact the potency and flavour of herbs
- Freshness – they come from the ground to the table in minutes
- Educational value (ever the teacher!) Children can learn about life cycles, measurement, and weather patterns when growing anything- the learning possibilities are endless
- Gardening is stress relieving and heaps of fun!
Here are some great options to get you going this spring:
This woody, perennial herb has fragrant needles and grows well full sun or partial shade. It can be grown in pots or in herb gardens. They may be slow growing at first but gain speed in the second year. Cut stems at any time for fresh rosemary. For dried rosemary, use a rack or hang it upside down in bunches to dry out. Once stems are dry, strip the leaves from them. You can also freeze rosemary sprigs in water or oil, for a quick addition to meals or drinks. Uses: Marinades, soups and stews all love fresh rosemary.
The perfect partner to tomatoes, fresh basil is a great herb to add to your collection. It loves the sun and needs 6-8 hours of light a day, so bright windowsills or south facing spots are ideal. Always wait until the last frosts have passed before putting any plants or pots outside. When watering basil, be sure to water from the bottom if in a pot and avoid the leaves if in the ground. Uses: Mix with tomatoes, olive oil, garlic, cheese, vinegar and nuts. Add to warm water and lemon for a delicious alternative to tea.
Cilantro / Coriander
The leaves of this fragrant plant are called cilantro with the seeds known as coriander and you can eat the entire plant! It grows well in both spring and autumn in sunny places but doesn’t tolerate extreme heat well. Once seedlings are grown they don’t need much water, but keep the soil moist.
As with all fresh herbs, use it immediately or add to oil/water and freeze, or hang in a bunch to dry. Uses: Boost the flavour of salsas, marinades, dips, stews, soups and salads with Cilantro/Coriander
When it comes to low maintenance and hardy herbs, chives come top of the list. They can be planted in pots or in the ground and works in most conditions. As a perennial plant, they will come back each year and as a bonus, they have beautiful, edible flowers which can be used along with the stalks. Grow from seed or buy young plants from a garden center. Be sure to cut down in the late summer so it will grow again in the spring. Uses: Add the leaves and flowers to salads. Chop the stalks over any meat, potato or veg dishes.
Cocktail anyone? Mint is extremely versatile and tastes great in savory or sweet dishes.I drink it with a green tea and lemon in the morning. It can be grown and harvested all year and grows extremely well. In fact – too well! Be sure to keep mint in a pot (12 inch is a good size) as it’s extremely invasive and will go crazy if planted in the ground. Choose a sunny spot outside or on a windowsill and water well. Uses: add to water and drinks for a jazzed up spring flavor. Mix with berries for a tasty snack or dessert. Cook with peas for an amazing soup or side dish. And of course…summer cocktails 🙂
TIP: MOST GARDEN CENTERS HAVE YOUNG PLANTS READY TO GO IF YOU’RE NOT FEELING BRAVE ENOUGH TO START FROM SEED. LOOK FOR HEALTHY PLANTS WITH UNOPENED BUDS.
Ready, Steady, Plant!
Have fun getting your hands dirty 🙂