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Steps to a successful herb garden

Kaylyn Izzo

If you’re not big on gardening, but still want to add a fresh taste to every dish, an herb garden may be something to consider.

This week on “Take Care,” gardening expert, Amy Jeanroy tells us how to make this simple, yet useful, garden a success. Jeanroy covers herb gardening for the how-to website About.com, and has operated a family greenhouse business for the past 15 years. She is also the author of ”Canning and Preserving for Dummies,” which is now in its second edition.

To get a start on your herb garden, Jeanroy says it is easiest to buy pre-planted herbs from your local grocery store. These will most likely be basil, thyme, mint, and rosemary, as they are the most common and simplest to grow, according to Jeanroy.

However, if you decide to buy your herb garden in the winter, Jeanroy says you have to be careful not to shock the plants with the cold air.

“Get it home as quickly as you can and get it in bright sunlight, and make sure that it’s watered,” Jeanroy said.

And water is the key. Jeanroy says growing herbs in a container requires much more water than growing them outside.

“That’s something that often goes wrong with a little herb garden,” Jeanroy said.

As long as the container the herbs are in has proper drainage, you don’t have to worry about over-watering, Jeanroy says.

In addition to plenty of water, Jeanroy advises keeping your herb garden away from cold areas, such as windowsills, and protecting the plants from any strong wind.

“I think people don’t realize how fragile little gardens like that actually are,” Jeanroy said.

Once your herb garden has made it through the cold season, it’s time to move it outside. But similar to shocking the plants with cold air, they can also be shocked with the more direct sunlight they receive outside.You have to ease the plants into it, just as you would ease yourself into a cold swimming pool for the first swim of the summer. For this, Jeanroy advises placing the herbs in a spot with indirect sunlight for a few days, and then moving them into a spot with natural, direct sunlight for the best results.

As far as fertilizer goes, Jeanroy says to add as little as possible because herbs tend to be more flavorful when put under a little stress. She recommends using an organic fertilizer mid-way through the season, and again toward the end of the season. Jeanroy also advises that if you leave your herbs in the original soil they came in; don’t harvest them for at least two weeks, as there could be harmful chemicals from the fertilizer that was used before purchase.