Herbs are essential ingredients in many recipes. With summer just around the corner, herb gardens are a fun and low maintenance way to keep a fresh supply of rosemary and thyme just outside the kitchen window. This type of horticulture doesn’t require the greenest of thumbs, either—a sunny patch of the yard and a few minutes of snipping each day are enough to keep these plants happy. Heather Carlson of Mostardi Nursery in Newtown Square and Nancy Baldwin of Gardner’s Landscape Nursery in Chester Springs, share their expertise and some tips.
MLT: What are the best herbs for beginners?
HC: I would start with the ones that we use a lot. Everybody loves basil. People mostly start an herb garden for culinary purposes. Basil’s not as easy to grow as other things, but thyme and oregano are very easy to grow. Rosemary is another easy herb to grow.
NB: I think the old song said it best: parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme.
They’re the best-known herbs out there, and they’re sturdy in our area. Those are the four I couldn’t cook without.
MLT: How do you choose a location for growing?
NB: I love to see them by the back door, right by the kitchen. So if you’re cooking and you go, ‘Oh, I could use some chives in this’ or ‘Oh, the recipe calls for a teaspoon of chopped thyme,’ you can leave what you’re doing and just run out the backdoor and get what you need.
HC: They love the outdoors. That’s where they really thrive. They can be planted in containers, which is nice for someone who just has a patio or a deck and not a lot of room to plant. They can also be planted in a little plot, or even among your regular plants. That’s another big trend in gardening; incorporate edibles right in your garden.
MLT: Is there a benefit to planting herbs among other plants in your garden?
HC: Herbs tend to be deer resistant. What we’re always looking for in landscaping these days is something that deer don’t eat, and they don’t tend to like things with a distinct flavor or fragrance. Herbs are a great plant to provide that you don’t have to worry so much about deer.
MLT: When can you start snipping?
HC: You don’t want to let them go to seed. You don’t want to really let them flower. You want to trim that. In terms of flavor, it’s better if they don’t go to seed.
NB: The more you use herbs, the better they grow. All that snipping and pinching makes for a sturdy plant. If your plant is four inches or taller, you can start snipping. Use what you need.
MLT: What is the best way to store extra herbs that you won’t use right away?
NB: You can snip them and then dry them in a paper towel, in a really low convection oven, or just on a cookie sheet in your convection oven. And then you can use those dried herbs later in the winter. Just make sure that they’re very dry when you store them.
MLT: Do you have a favorite herb?
NB: Lemon verbena. It’s a lovely herb to add a lemon flavor to iced tea, water, gin and tonics or rice. You can make lemon sorbet out of it, too. It’s a fun and delightful herb. It’s a whole lot of fun all summer long.
Mostardi Nursery. 4033 West Chester Pike, Newtown Square. (610) 356-8035.
Gardner’s Landscape Nursery. 535 E. Uwchlan Ave, Chester Springs. (610) 363-5455.