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Are herbs easy to grow?

I use many herbs for cooking. In the grocery, they’re so expensive, and then I end up using some and throwing away the rest because they don’t stay fresh long. Everyone tells me they’re easy to grow. So, I’ve decided to buy some herb plants (like oregano, parsley and basil) and I wonder if you can give some pointers to this beginner. Sincerely, M.R., Somerset, Penn.

Answer: Growing herbs is easy, inexpensive, and SO rewarding! Buying fresh or dried herbs in the supermarket costs a small fortune, and people usually use a small amount and then throw the rest away when they spoil or lose their flavor. When you grow your own, you can snip what you want and leave the rest to continue flourishing throughout the season. Many herbs are perennials (such as parsley, oregano, chives and mint) and will provide several years’ worth of good seasoning. Some herbs like dill will self-seed and come back multiple seasons. Annuals like basil, anise and coriander/cilantro only provide one season of growth. Herbs can have culinary, fragrance or medicinal uses. For cooking, the leaves are snipped and added either fresh or dried to foods. For fragrance, the leaves can be used whole, or oils can be distilled from the plants. There are wonderful books available describing how to make herbal remedies for countless ailments or for soothing aromatherapy. And every cookbook recommends using fresh herbs when possible. (There’s nothing fresher than snipping directly from your patio pots or garden!) Many edible herbs also are a great source of vitamins and minerals. Most herbs require full sunlight, and will grow like weeds…literally! Herbs require very little maintenance, and they’ll grow in nearly any well-drained soil. Herbs make handsome ornamental plants, with beautiful varied leaves and flowers. The novice grower should choose a variety of herb plants for eye appeal, such as mixing small clumping habits to tall towering growth, shiny green to downy white to variegated tri-color leaves, and unusually scented varieties like pineapple sage or chocolate mint, for fun experimenting in the kitchen. Herbs will fill up the space they’re allotted. If you plant herbs in a window box or strawberry pot, they’ll grow together nicely…however, be warned that they’ll stay small and they’ll take on each other’s flavors. They do best with plenty of space in the garden. Plant the taller herbs in the back of the garden and shorter, bushier varieties at the edge. For invasive plants like mint, you can plant the starter plant in a pot with drainage holes at the bottom and then bury that pot in the ground to contain the roots and growth. Herbs can be grown indoors in windowsills, but they require lots of sun exposure and they’ll generally stay small. Once you see how easy it is to grow herbs, you’ll have fun experimenting with exotic flavors for new recipes or to add excitement to old favorites. Leaves can be dried at the end of the season and stored in glass jars or tied in bundles and used for decorating gifts or in wreaths. Herbs are versatile and nothing smells more wonderful!

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