by Monica Resinger
I'm sure you have noticed the high price of herbs at the grocery store; a small bottle can sometimes run four or five dollars or more. Why not save some money and grow your own? It's simple, provided you have a sunny area in which to grow them.
How to Grow Them
To grow herbs, all you need is a sunny area, fertile soil and a little of your time. If your soil is clay or sandy, you will need to add organic material such as compost or manure to get the best results. Once your herbs are planted, make sure they get at least an inch of water each week and keep the area weeded. If you have added plenty of organic material to the soil prior to planting, you probably won't have to worry about feeding the plants for a while.
All I do is work in a layer of compost around the plants each season and my herbs grow fine.
If you don't have a whole area to devote to herbs, that's okay - you can squeeze them into your flower beds or vegetable garden. Herbs make a pretty combination to flowering plants and some will actually benefit nearby plants by repelling insects. Just be sure the area gets plenty of sun and the soil is fertile and weeded.
You can also grow them in containers, provided they get enough sun. If you take this option, you will have to water on a daily and sometimes twice daily basis. Be sure to check the soil often to see if it is drying out. You will also have to fertilize the plants often because as you water, the nutrients get leached out of the soil.
What it Will Cost You
An herb plant at the local nursery will cost you between $0.99 and $5, depending on the size of the herb. I usually purchase the smallest size to save money because I don't need a huge amount right away. If this herb is a perennial, it's going to be there year after year, supplying you with fresh leaves for cooking. It will also grow bigger each year, allowing you to propagate plants by division, cuttings or seed, which means more herb! If the herb you purchased is an annual, that's okay because it will supply you with enough herb to still make it worth the purchase. You can also propagate annual herbs by collecting the seeds or by taking cuttings. If you'd like to save more money yet, you can start the herbs from seed or get a division or cutting from a friend, neighbor or relative.
How to Use Herbs
Through the growing season, you can use the herb fresh. If your recipe calls for one teaspoon of dried herb, substitute one tablespoon of freshly chopped herb.
Drying and Storing
You can dry your herbs for winter use or convenience. To dry them, cut them early on a dry day after the dew is gone. Bundle 8-10 stems of the herb with a rubber band at the cut end and hang them upside down in a well-circulated area out of direct sunlight. I have a piece of lattice hanging on one of my kitchen walls for this purpose and I also use a pegged, wooden coffee cup holder which is made to hang on a wall. They both make pretty decorations with all the herbs and flowers hanging from them drying. In about a week or so (or less if weather is hot and dry), check the leaves to see if they are crispy to the touch and no moisture remains. If so, remove the leaves from the stem, crush and put into a lidded container, label and store out of direct sunlight. It helps to remove the leaves over a piece of paper so you can catch any fallen leaves.
Growing my own herbs has saved me a bundle of money and has provided an enjoyable hobby, fresh taste and something to offer my friends and family. You can even make your own herb seasoning mixes to bottle in pretty jars to give as gifts as an additional way to save money. I'm sure you'll find it worth the small effort too.
Monica Resinger is a loving wife and doting mother of two who enjoys gardening, painting, dancing and homemaking.
You can check out some of her other articles at http://ezinearticles.com/?expert=Monica_Resinger
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