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Easy Herb Gardening

Just about everyone can grow and enjoy fresh herbs right at home.

Try a small container garden first before advancing to a backyard garden.

In fact, container gardening is great for herbs because you can keep containers close to or in the kitchen so you will use them more, They contain the herbs so you don't end up with a garden full of weeds, and they provide a lovely decoration for your back porch, sun room, or kitchen window.

Choosing Containers: Choices abound in container options for your herb garden. You can plant each herb in a separate terra cotta pot or plant a collection in a long window box. Your only limitation when it comes to choosing pots for herbs is that you need to use containers that are food safe. Some glossy or brightly colored pots are made with lead or other materials you don't want in your food. Plastic pots are usually safe, and most plain terra cotta is safe. Raised gardens made from cedar are also and excellent choice. Containers that are not safe for food will usually have a warning label, so it should be easy to find something decorative that will not be harmful to your family.

Seeds or plants? Most people like the instant gratification of plants in the garden, particularly when it comes to herbs. You can start using the herbs almost immediately if you start with plants, while you will have to wait a month or more to use herbs grown from seed. But some plants grow quickly and easily from seed, so it makes sense to have a combination of plants and seeds as the foundation of your herb garden.

What should I grow? It makes sense to grow herbs that you would like to use frequently. Start with the basics: rosemary, thyme, basil, and oregano. Parsley is also very easy to grow. If you like Mexican food, add cilantro and epazote. Chives are another great, quick-growing herb you can use on potatoes, in salads or with pasta. These herbs all like a lot of sun and well-watered soil. If you notice that the herbs start wilting, move the plants out of direct sunlight for at least part of the day.

Getting Started. When potting, be sure to plant them at the correct depth. The top of the transplant root ball should be level or slightly below the potting mix surface in the new pot. Start with a moist, but not saturated, potting soil. Continue adding potting media and transplants until the pot is filled to within an inch of the top edge of the pot but do not pack down the potting media as you fill the pot. Water the pot thoroughly, until water drips through the drainage holes. You are on your way!

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