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The BBC recently reported that gardening could be the hobby that increases our longevity well into our later years. Dan Buettner, author of the The Blue Zones and Happiness, found an interesting commonality between the five zones that are known for citizens living well and long into their ninth or tenth decade and beyond – all of them are gardening well into their advanced years.
Not only were gardeners found by a Dutch study to have a 36% reduced chance of dementia, but farmers in Sweden and France were found to be healthier than non-farmers. (read the full article here)
Granted, as the article pointed out, it all depends on the type of gardening you engage in and those components that contribute to one’s longevity and good health are “going outside, engaging in light physical activity and eating a healthy plant-based diet” which leads me to not only being inspired to continually improve my gardening skills, but if you are new to gardening or have little space, start and always have an herb garden.
The first garden I had when I had my first home with space for a garden was an herb garden (see below the sage – it was VERY happy). I have gradually branched out and tried growing vegetables and fruits – some with decent success, others with little or no success – but I always have my herbs.
And while my mom is my go-to teacher for all things gardening as she has an expansive yard, many flower beds, two green houses, a large garden and has a tremendous amount of experience, my thumb is a light, quite light, chartreuse shall we say, shade of green compared to her deep, rich green thumb after years of applying what I learn. However, I delight in gardening and each spring, find great pleasure in planning my little garden, deciding when I will visit the nurseries, and what I want to have at the ready in my very own yard.
~Note on following my mom on Instagram: I have tried to encourage her to share her experience as she truly has an abundance of knowledge and is an encyclopedia of plants. She has to plant very hardy plants as she lives in Wallowa County which is Zone 4 requiring is its own special expertise as well. She began her account this past new year, so every once in a while she will share glimpses and ideas and inspiration from her garden. And while she has many prized flowers and plants, her peonies are the crown jewel in my opinion. Below a short video I captured a few years ago in June of my mother’s peonies.
Now, let’s talk about having a(n) herb garden. Yep, no matter where you live, you too can have an herb garden that provides fresh scents and flavors for your meals beginning with a sprinkle of chopped chives on your French omelette to savory sage in your sauce and cranberry stuffing.
For very little expense, having fresh herbs is a simple luxury indeed that amplifies the flavor of your seasonal meals and welcomes a touch of Mother Nature into your everyday life.
As I shared in episode #4 of my cooking show, The Simply Luxurious Kitchen, one of the six simplest ways to add flavor to your meals is to use fresh herbs. So what I’d like to do today is share with you how to grow your own herb garden.
1.Determine where you will plant or grow your herbs.
Will you be planting them inside or out? Whether they are inside or outside, you will need a location that receives an abundance of sunshine. South facing is ideal, and look for as few trees as possible that might cut the exposure to sunshine.
2. Determine the container or plot of ground you will plant the herbs
If you are planting in pots, make sure to prepare the pot with proper drainage (adding rocks to the bottom of your pot works well), nutrient-rich potting soil, and if inside, make sure to place the pots in their own “saucer” of sorts, so that the drainage doesn’t leak onto your wooden window sill and make a mess.
If you are planting in pots, but placing the pots outside, choose either a grouping of different size small and medium pots – perhaps a different type of herb in each one or fine/tender herbs (parsley, tarragon, chervil, and chives, basil) in one pot and robust (rosemary, sage, thyme, etc.), or one large pot near your kitchen that is full of all the herbs you enjoy cooking with often.
If you are planting the herbs in a garden (in the ground directly), refer to point #1 to ensure they will receive ample sunshine, make sure the soil is fairly alkaline neutral and if you need to infuse with nutrient top soil every couple of years, the herbs will not complain.
The good news about herbs is that they really only need above freezing temperatures, an abundance of sunshine and regular watering as they are fairly easy to care for.
3. Refrain from planting until the last frost has passed
Especially for the fine herbs and basil in particular (every year I seem to need a reminder of this fact living in Bend as the last frost was just last week), either bring them inside each night the temps dip into the 30s, cover them, or do not put them outside at all until the frost season is complete.
4. Enjoy the perennial herb
As shown in the image above with my sage, living in a more moderate climate, although in the winter it would drop below zero Fahrenheit from time to time, this sage lived for four or five years before I had to cut it back due to it not returning the next year. Depending upon where you live, and the hardiness of your sage, rosemary and even chives, thyme and oregano, and other hardy herbs, you may not have to replant them each year.
5. Decide which herbs to plant
As I shared in this post, there are a long list of herbs you can choose to plant in your garden. (1) Choose what you love to enjoy, (2) choose what piques your curiosity and (3) plant more than one of the herbs you are confident you will use. In fact, I usually plant 3-5 plants of basil as I go through it quite quickly. Below is the list again that was shared in 2013. I have added a few new herbs that I have since grown and love having in the garden or am currently growing and looking forward to trying this summer.
- sweet basil
- Italian (Genovese) basil
- Thai basil
- dark opal basil (purple)
- lemon thyme
- Italian flat leaf parsley and/or curly leaf
- lemon verbena
Below are a few images from past (first and last image) and current gardens I have and am growing.
Below you will see the left side of my herb garden, and many plants are doing well, but the frost had its way with my basil last week (I look forward to planting more soon). I am also trying to grow some garlic and Walla Walla sweet onions in the top and top middle and ever-bearing strawberries on the right top side (however, the animals in the yard – chipmunks, skunks and birds – seem to grab them before I can pick them).
The right side of my garden, which is just outside of the picture, I have a sage plant and tarragon.
Planting and enjoying an herb garden is a joy, and every year I harvest different results. I am still adjusting to the climate here in Bend (zone 4 primarily), and with the luxury of having so many great farmers markets, I am enjoying keeping my garden small and filled with what I love to eat. It may not be perfect to the aesthetic eye for pictures, but the dogs and myself have fun in the dirt each spring and summer, and clearly the neighborhood wildlife does as well.
If you too love gardening, I am excited to share I have added a new Category in TSLL’s Archives (see below on the blog’s Archives page). Simply click on the “Garden” box and you will see all of the posts sharing tips, inspiration and ideas for stepping into the garden. Until next time, enjoy playing in the dirt and savoring the fruits of your labor!