Planning an herb garden can be fun and rewarding. Herbs have been in use for centuries for culinary, medicinal and aromatic reasons. For generations tribal leaders and healers passed down the herbal secrets. Many modern medicines have an herb base. Modern herbalist mix medicinal herb for their clients. Many herbalists also mix aromatic herbs for beauty purposes. But, of course, the culinary herb is still the most widely used. You can become a kitchen gardener by growing an herb garden right in your kitchen on a sunny windowsill.
For the discussion of herbal gardening today we will plant the herbs found in the Elizabethan Era and so often mentioned in William Shakespeare’s works. The plants selected will be culinary herbs, medicinal herbs and aromatic herbs, all to experience the aromas and flavors of that time.
Herbal gardening is wonderful since the herbs can be grown in a variety of ways. Plant a container garden for you deck or patio for great colors, different textures and super aromas. Planning an herb garden in the ground will allow you to cultivate a traditional kitchen herb garden outside. Or if you have limited space, become an inside kitchen gardener and plant your herbs on a windowsill or in a window box.
When planning your herb garden remember that the herbs need well drained soil, they hate wet feet. Test your soil for the herb garden and make sure it is alkaline. All Herbs need at least six hours of sunlight.
When Elizabethans planted aromatic herbs, culinary herbs and medicinal herbs they used either a symmetrical rectangular or square patterns. The Elizabethans were very formal and felt their herb gardens should be too. Their herbal gardens had walkways, as strolling through the garden was a popular pastime. They had no TV’S! If you are planting your herbal garden near a patio, think about adding a strolling path for yourself. The paths will add character to you herbal garden.
In planning an herb garden be sure to take in to consideration the growing habits of each herb. Plant the taller busier herbs in the back of the garden, the small, compact ones in the front. Most herbs are perennials meaning they will grow back each year. Any of the herbs that need to be planted annually should go in a spot in the herb garden that is easy to get to. Give each herb plenty of room to grow. The herbs need air circulation to prevent mold. This stage of planning an herb garden is essential since once the plants become mature they do not like to be moved.
When you plant an herb garden, you can either start from seeds or get small plants from your garden center. The garden center plants will give a better chance of achieving success in the herb garden. When using seeds, plan ahead because the seeds may need to grow for several months before they are ready to plant into the herb garden. Especially if you are a beginner, I would recommend using the small plants from the garden center.
Go to a reputable garden center to purchase you herbs. Inspect your herbs closely to make sure they are healthy. One infected plant can ruin your whole herbal garden. When using the small herbs from the garden center you will be able to harvest your herbs much sooner. When you take the herbs out to be planted in the herbal garden, gently remove the plant from the pot and loosen the soil around the roots. Place the herb in the spot you have chosen or the container that you have prepared. Cover all of the roots with soil and gently tamp down. Give your new herbs plenty of water checking the moisture each day. Never let the soil dry out but don’t make your herbs roots too wet. If you are planting a container garden remember that the dirt in a container will dry out more quickly then the ground. You might find that the herbs will droop for a couple of days. Don’t fret that is shock but they will recover.
Once you have learned the herbs growth patterns you can start pinching off to get a bushier herb. When you first start out, keep a journal for your herb garden to keep track of each herbs strengths and weaknesses. After you get to know your herb garden you will be able to tell when the plants need attention.
Over the centuries herbs have evolved into very hardy plants. Once you herbal garden is established it will need very little care. To hold moisture for the herb longer, mulch around the plants. This is a good garden tip whether you plant the herbs in container gardens or in the ground.
Herbs are natural insect repellents but if you have to treat for pests be sure you use a non toxic treatment since you will be eating your harvest. Marigolds are a natural repellent so you may want to plant of few of these flowers. Planting companion plants is how most Shakespearian gardens were done.
Harvest can begin as soon as you have several leaves on the herb. It is best to cut your herbs before they begin to flower for the best flavor. This is when the most oils are stored in the leaves. Wait until any morning dew has dissipated before cutting but harvest before the full sun is out. You can cut your herbs right before you wish to use them. If the stems are tender these too can be used in your recipes.
If you have an abundant harvest you can freeze or dry the herbs. Dry them by hanging them upside down, in a bunch tied together, in a warm and dark place. You can microwave them by placing them between two paper towels and microwaving for 2 minutes. Put them in an air tight container, they will last up to 1 year.
Freezing the bounty of your herb garden will let them last a little longer, a year to year and a half. Chop up the herbs and place on a sheet of wax paper. Freeze for at least 2 hours. Another method is to put the herbs in ice cube trays with water. Freeze until firm, pop them out and put them in to zip lock bags. When ever you need the herbs for soups, stews or sauces, just throw in an herb ice cube.
Now, here is the list of Shakespearian Herbs to plant in your Elizabethan herb garden including culinary herbs, aromatic herbs and medicinal herbs. It will truly make you a kitchen gardener.
Bay, box, Broom, Calendula, Chamomile, Chives, Heartsease, Hyssop, Lavender, Lemon Balm, Parsley, Peppermint, Rosemary, Rue, Salad Burnet, Summer Savory, Bachelors Buttons and Thyme. For more information on each herb, email me or search on the internet.
Copyright © Mary Hanna, All Rights Reserved.
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