Like the Victory Gardens of yore, growing edibles – fruits, vegetables and herbs – has been steadily gaining momentum the past few years, with more than a quarter of households gardening. In addition to providing healthy and fresh produce, gardening can be a stress reducer that helps foster a positive outlook.
While gardening may have you thinking of carrots and tomatoes, growing herbs is often easier. Many herbs can be grown year-round with enough bounty to share with friends and family and also have several health benefits. You can use them to flavor your food, which can save you money, and encourage you to experiment with new flavors by trying new combinations and recipes.
The list of tasty herbs you can grow is long and varied, including basil, chives, parsley, dill, lavender, oregano, peppermint, rosemary, thyme and sage.
If you’re aiming to plant an herb garden outside, select a sunny, well-drained location with enough space for the particular herbs you have in mind. Some herbs like rosemary even make great yard shrubs that serve a dual purpose. Many flowering herbs like lavender add beauty to any garden.
To determine what will grow well in your region, consult the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map, and look for zone identification on the plants or seeds you purchase.
The great thing about herbs is that many grow well in containers, meaning you can grow them wherever you live. Smaller containers can easily be moved indoors during inclement weather. Containers also help contain herbs like mint that can get out of hand if allowed to grow in all directions in the ground.
Choose herbs you enjoy and will use in your food (see the Food Network’s “Guide to Fresh Herbs”).
One of the biggest drawbacks to gardening can be the crouching or bending required of tending to plants in the ground. Container gardening can relieve much of that by allowing you to work with the plants on a table or by a window. If you’re medically cleared to participate in activities like gardening and do need to bend down, try putting one knee on the ground (and switch periodically) rather than just bending over at the waist. When lifting, remember to keep your back straight and bend at the knees. Wearing protective clothing and having the right equipment also goes a long way in keeping things safe and comfortable. Read “Dig Into Gardening for a Mind-Body Workout” from AARP.org for more great tips.
If you’re new to gardening or want to expand your knowledge, success, and meet like-minded people locally, look up your local Cooperative Extension System office. This non-credit, nationwide educational network is based out of land-grant universities and staffed by experts. Each offers a bounty of information on what to grow and how to grow it locally, as well as classes and learning opportunities. Click here to find the Cooperative Extension office near you.
Wherever you live and whatever you choose to grow, gardening is an excellent way to get fresh air, relax and enjoy the beauty of nature. When growing edibles, you’ll be saving money and ensuring freshness.