PRAC­TI­CAL TIPS ON HOW TO GROW CULI­NARY HERBS

Agriculture - - For Flavoring - BY LANIE ESPIR­ITU

IS GROW­ING CULI­NARY HERBS rel­a­tively easy? Is it easy? For me it is not easy, but since I love cook­ing, I chose to grow culi­nary herbs in my gar­den. A culi­nary herb is a plant with­out a woody stem that dies back at the end of each grow­ing sea­son. Herbs were once con­sid­ered a gift of the gods. To­day, herbs are pop­u­lar in many home gar­dens where the leaves are used for fla­vor­ing or the en­tire part. GET­TING STARTED An herb gar­den can be grown out­side or in­side, de­pend­ing on your needs, cli­mate, and space. An in­door gar­den is very ac­ces­si­ble and no weed­ing is re­quired. Also, grow­ing sea­son is year-round. On the other hand, grow­ing herbs out­side has its own ad­van­tages. One can pro­duce higher yields be­cause there is more space. Usu­ally, herbs grown out­doors are more fla­vor­ful.

Herbs need plenty of sun­light whether you choose to grow in­side or out­side. They need mod­er­ate tem­per­a­tures and a soil or pot­ting mix that drains well. Most herbs are na­tive to the Mediter­ranean re­gion so you need to pro­vide them with con­di­tions sim­i­lar to that to make them flourish. You can grow herbs in con­tain­ers in both in­door and out­door gar­den. Lo­ca­tion is most im­por­tant if you choose to set up an in­door herb gar­den. The herbs need at least 4-6 hours of di­rect sun­light ev­ery day.

GROW­ING MEDIUM Use an or­ganic grow­ing medium that is loose and drains well.

Soil Mix – Use equal parts of com­post, ster­ile top soil and or­ganic fer­til­izer like ver­mi­cast, rab­bit ma­nure, or over-the-counter or­ganic fer­til­izer.

Soil­less Mix – This in­cludes a com­bi­na­tion of 2 parts peat moss, 1 part ver­mi­culite/per­lite, and coarse sand.

CULI­NARY HERBS GROWN IN KITCHEN Basil, co­rian­der, dill, rosemary, and oregano can be started in­doors and can be grown year-round. They can be placed in a sunny kitchen win­dow so they can be read­ily avail­able when needed. Peren­nial herbs like chives, pars­ley, sage, and thyme can be started from seeds.

PLANT­ING AND PROP­A­GA­TION Many herbs can be started from seed, but there are a few va­ri­eties (rosemary, oregano, mint, and basil) that are bet­ter prop­a­gated by means of cut­tings or trans­plant­ing. Select healthy shoots that are not too thick or too thin. By us­ing a sharp knife or prun­ing shears, cut a 2-10 inch sec­tion of a stem at least 1 inch be­low the leaf node and in­clude 2 or 3 pairs of leaves. Make a di­ag­o­nal cut; the larger the cut, the more sur­face area will be avail­able for roots to de­velop. • Re­move the lower set of leaves. Scrape a lit­tle bark from the end of the cut­ting into wa­ter and then into root­ing hor­mone, mak­ing sure to cover the wounds left by the re­moval of the leaves. Use or­ganic soil­less mix for root­ing cut­tings.

START PLANT­ING SEEDS If you know what you are do­ing, start­ing seeds in­doors can be pretty easy.

• Select the con­tain­ers. You can use seed trays, egg trays with rolled news­pa­per in­side the tray hole, fresh milk con­tainer, or pet bot­tles.

• Choose a high-qual­ity pot­ting soil.

• Fill the con­tain­ers with pot­ting soil and wa­ter but don’t get soppy, just evenly moist. • Place the seeds on top and cover with tiny bit of soil. Very small seeds can lie di­rectly on the sur­face with­out be­ing cov­ered. Check the seed packet for spe­cific plant­ing guide­lines.

• Place pots in partly shaded area where there is bright light but low sun­light.

TRANS­PLANT­ING & FER­TIL­IZA­TION

Af­ter 4-8 weeks, your seedlings will be ready to move out­side. To har­den plants, leave them out­side in the shade for pro­gres­sively longer amount of time each day. Trans­fer to a 3-5 inches size of pots. Herbs grown in con­tain­ers will re­quire a bit ex­tra care. Even if your grow­ing me­dia is per­fect from the start, con­tainer-grown plants con­tin­u­ally use up nu­tri­ents as they ma­ture. The nu­tri­ents are also leached out from the pot­ting mix ev­ery time you wa­ter; you should wa­ter more of­ten be­cause pot­ted plants dry out faster than their back­yard coun­ter­parts grow­ing in the open soil.

Re­mem­ber not to over-fer­til­ize herbs. Too much of a good thing will pro­duce big­ger plants, but the es­sen­tial oils that give them their fla­vor and aroma will be di­luted.

HAR­VEST­ING

• If it’s the leaves that you want (mint, basil, ste­via, tar­ragon, etc.), har­vest them be­fore the plant bears flow­ers. Har­vest flow­er­ing herbs (chamomile, laven­der, etc.) be­fore the leaves are fully open.

• Many herbs (basil, mint, chives, oregano, and pars­ley) grow bet­ter with con­sis­tent prun­ing and har­vest­ing.

• Peren­ni­als can be cut back to half their height with­out prob­lems.

(Editor’s note: The au­thor is a grower and seller of herbs. She has a gar­den and store in Taguig City.)

The au­thor and her rosemary.

The au­thor in her herb gar­den.

Herb seedlings.

Holy basil

Co­rian­der

Pars­ley

Basil

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