I'm sure you have noticed the high price of herbs at the grocery store; a small bottle can sometimes run $4 or $5 or more. Why not save some money and grow your own? It's simple, provided you have a sunny area 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 do this, 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.
An herb plant at the local nursery will cost you between 99 cents and $5 depending on the size of the herb. I usually purchase the smallest size to save money because I usually 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 and will be growing bigger each year which will allow 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.
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.
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. When removing the leaves, it helps to do it 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.
About The Author: Monica Resinger is the creator of 'Homemaker's Journal E-Publications' where you will find many fun and informative home and garden related e-books, tip sheets and how to sign up for her FREE home and garden newsletter! Click here to visit: http://homemakersjournal.com/
I have found in our grocery stores that we have a small rack in the produce section containing bags of spices and herbs (dries) as well as the shaker bottles to store them in. They are no more than $2 a baggie, some as low as 0.99! 0.69 for the bottles. You get LOTS more in each baggie than a bottle from the spice aisle. Also check your ethnic sections for herbs and spices. Usually they run cheaper and just as good of quality (if not better) than McCormick and other brands! (02/26/2005)
We grow our own herbs, but we have a long, long winter. I love the taste of fresh basil so much more than dried, so I harvest my basil in early fall, before frost gets to it, basil being quite sensitive to frost. Then I wash and dry the leaves, chop them in a food processor, and add some olive oil to keep them from drying out before I freeze them. It's like pesto without the garlic and Parmesan. I usually use small size ice cube trays to make single use cubes, then just pop a cube (or two) into whatever dish I'm preparing. The taste isn't as good as fresh, but it's much better than dried. (03/04/2005)
By Kathy H.
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