Eat Well and Save With Your Spring Herb Garden

Even if you don't have a green thumb, growing herbs is a great starting point for the novice gardener. Not only will you enjoy the process of nurturing your little plants, but you'll also have a selection of delicious, nutritious seasonings to add to your meals. Sound enticing? Whether you have a large outdoor plot or a few small containers on your windowsill, get started in the garden with these six beginner-friendly herbs.

Basil

A Mediterranean-food mainstay, basil does well in pots indoors or out. To keep your plant healthy, snip the largest leaves each day and water every other day. Basil is an anti-inflammatory that helps the liver detoxify the body, and it's also an excellent source of fiber. Basil classically combines with tomatoes and mozzarella cheese for Caprese salad, but you can use its fragrant greenery in salads, wraps, sauces and cocktails.

Lemon Balm

The lemon balm plant, a cousin of mint, gets immediate points for its unbelievable citrus aroma. In fact, studies show that the scent reduces stress, boosts memory and soothes anxiety. This plant loves the shade, so it does well indoors, and should stay relatively dry. You can also plant lemon balm outdoors in the spring. As for eating, you can use the leaves as a substitute for lemon zest or lemon peel in just about any recipe. Try adding it to with seafood, salad dressings and even sweets or make lemon balm tea to combat GI symptoms such as indigestion and nausea.

Parsley

Traditionally used as a garnish, parsley has distinctive pointed leaves and grows best in moist soil in a cool but sunny spot. Parsley also has a much-deserved reputation as a nutritional powerhouse with an impressive supply of antioxidants, minerals and vitamins that support heart health, build healthy bones and reduce the risk for some cancers.

To harvest, trim stalks when they reach about 5 inches in height. You can mince parsley and add to mashed potatoes, fish, grilled chicken and anything else you fancy.


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Rosemary

This hardy plant thrives with lots of sunlight and plenty of water, so it's a good choice for a bright spot inside or out. I love snipping the leaves to add to roasted potatoes, chicken, stews and other savory faves. Rosemary contains a compound called carnosic acid that wards off cancer. You'll also benefit from the aromatherapeutic effects of rosemary, with a scent that's said to sharpen memory and concentration. Plant your rosemary in the fall or spring. Some gardeners say you can take up to half the plant for a single use without affecting its health.

Sage

From stuffing to soups, sage adds an earthy flavor to dishes from cuisines from all over the world. Fresh sage leaves contain about 10% of your recommended daily vitamin K intake in a single teaspoon, and they're packed with antioxidants that ward off cancer, heart disease and inflammation. This evergreen plant thrives with relatively dry soil and lots of sun. The more sage leaves you harvest, the more your plant will grow! However, you should only take a leaf or two with each cutting. Start your sage plants about two weeks before you expect the final frost in your area.

Thyme

This leafy herb grows best in a hot, dry environment, where you can basically leave it alone. Dry soil, a sunny plot and a bit of fertilizer is all you need for a healthy thyme plant. Thyme is an immune-booster thanks to its rich vitamin C and vitamin A content. Harvest the driest leaves from your plant and steep in hot water to make a tea, or add a sprig to any savory dish simmering on your stove to enjoy a hint of woody flavor. The delicate flowers and small size also make thyme an attractive houseplant.

These six staples will have you growing and cooking with fresh herbs before you can say gourmet chef.

Start Your Kitchen Garden With These 5 Hardy Herbs

Kitchen Garden

If you love to cook and want to start growing the food you eat, herbs are a natural fit even for the novice gardener. These plants offer easy care and do equally well indoors or out. Grab some containers and a bag of potting soil, then start your kitchen garden with these five hardy herbs.

Parsley

Parsley

Fresh parsley is much more than just a fancy garnish. It adds a savory flavor to soups, stews and roasted veggies while providing a healthy dose of vitamin A and vitamin C. To plant parsley, place seeds 1 inch apart and 1/4 inch deep in rich soil, either in a pot or directly in the ground after the final frost of the season. You'll have plenty of this leafy green herb throughout the summer, or even all year long if you live in a warm climate. For an even simpler solution, start parsley from a small plant rather than from seed.

Thyme
2 Minute Ritual

Thyme

A staple of French fare, thyme is one of the easiest herbs to grow and lasts all year long in most climates. Enjoy the earthy taste of this herb by pulling the tiny leaves right off the stem and adding them to just about any dish. Thyme pairs especially well with citrus and offers a good source of vitamin C. For best results with this herb, start with a cutting or young plant rather than growing directly from seed. Place it in a sunny area and water the soil only when completely dry. Even if your thyme dies off during the winter months, you'll see this perennial pop back up in the early spring. You can plant thyme directly in the ground or in a pot—ideally near rosemary, which requires similar care.

Basil

Basil

This leafy herb is a kitchen garden classic for a reason. Basil grows well indoors and can be ground for pesto, added to cooking or eaten in salads. In fact, it's the staple ingredient of a traditional Caprese salad along with tomatoes and fresh mozzarella cheese. To succeed with basil, obtain a small plant or place seeds in organic soil, either in a pot or in the ground. Either way, you'll need plenty of light. Trim the leaves regularly to keep your basil plant going all summer long. Some stalks may even reach 2 feet in height with proper conditions.

Rosemary

Rosemary

This spiky, fragrant herb packs a major punch in your kitchen garden. Add it to just about any roasted or grilled entree for distinctive flavor and antioxidant benefits that reduce the risk for chronic disease. You can also infuse olive oil with rosemary and use this herb in baking. Like thyme, rosemary thrives in a sunny spot and needs little water to reach heights of up to 3 feet.

Mint

Mint

If you decide to plant mint in your kitchen garden, keep it in a container. Left unchecked, this herb will spread through your garden and make it difficult for other plants to survive. Add mint leaves to lemonade or iced tea for a refreshing summer treat. Chewing mint leaves can also settle an upset stomach. Keep mint plants moist but well-drained. Most varieties do well in moderate sun and can tolerate some shade. Mint grows quickly, so prune it regularly to keep the plant from taking over your kitchen.

Even if you aren't known for your green thumb, growing herbs for your kitchen is affordable, sustainable and quite forgiving. With a bit of trial and error, you'll find that you have a thriving variety of herbs on your windowsill or right outside your back door to add unexpected flavors to all your culinary endeavors.

7 Garden Tools To Simplify Your Life

garden

Everyone loves a garden, even if it's just a tiny patch of green grass on an otherwise barren property. There's something so welcoming about plants, reminding you that you're alive. No matter how small or large your garden may be, having the right tools can help you keep it looking its best.

1. Dandelion Puller

Have you ever tried to pull up a dandelion and only broken off the stem where it meets the ground? These ubiquitous wildflowers have stubborn taproots that may be longer than the flowers themselves. Invest a few dollars in a dandelion pulling tool, and get rid of them for good.

Dandelion

2. Self-Watering Pot

If you have any type of container garden, you know how quickly they can dry out when the weather is hot. On the other hand, a week's worth of afternoon thunderstorms may mean you don't need to water them at all. To stay on top of your watering schedule without losing your mind, pick up a few self-watering pots that keep water in a chamber and release it into the soil as needed.

Hanging Plant

3. Pole Saw

When you need extensive tree-trimming work, you hire a professional. However, when there's a small branch that you need to cut down, and it's just out of reach, a pole saw is the tool for the job.

4. Hedge Trimmer

This small power tool looks a bit like a tiny chain saw, but its results are magical. Use it to give hedges and shrubs a quick trim and keep them tidy.

2 Minute Ritual

5. Lawn Edger

You care about how your front yard looks, so you keep it mowed and don't let the weeds take it over. However, if you'd like a simple way to add to your home's curb appeal, try edging the lawn. This push-along tool gives mowed grass crisp, clean edges, and subtly upgrades the look of your yard.

6. Blower-Vac Combination

Everyone knows what a leaf blower is, but what about a leaf vacuum? That would come in handy, right? With a blower-vac, you can skip the raking and, if you choose to bag your leaves, you'll love that this tool can mulch them down to a fortieth of their original size. That's like reducing forty bags of leaves to one.

Fallen Leaves

7. Rototiller or Cultivator

If you decide to grow a garden, you'll need to prepare the soil first. Depending on what you grow and which zone you live in, you may also want to turn the garden under at the end of the season. A tiller will simplify and speed up this job. Choose an electric model for small projects, or rent a gas-powered version for more extensive gardens.
No matter what type of garden or yard you have, think about which tools could make the biggest difference for you in ease of upkeep. If there's something you think might help, but aren't sure whether it's worth the expense, see if you can rent or borrow one to try it out before you buy.