There’s nothing quite as rewarding as stepping into your garden to snip a few fresh herbs or harvest homegrown vegetables to add to that evening’s dinner.
That connection to your food – and commitment to sustainability – is a feeling Patricia Larenas enjoys as she tends to her own edible garden at her suburban home in the heart of Silicon Valley, Calif. The former techie is now an aspiring edible landscaping consultant and sustainable gardening writer/blogger with Urban Artichoke and Eat Drink Better.
Earth911 sat down with Larenas to find out how anyone – the experienced green thumb or novice gardener – can get started growing their own food.
1. Start an herb garden
One easy way to get your feet wet with edible gardening is to grow your own herbs.
Consider growing perennials herbs that will go dormant in the winter, but grow back each spring. Popular perennials include oregano, sweet marjoram, thyme and winter savory, but Larenas also recommends lovage – an easy-to-grow herb that can season your soups and broths – and French tarragon, which can be expensive to buy at the store.
Many perennials require little water, so they do well in milder and drier climates. If you’re growing them in a region with a harsh winter, you’ll need to mulch them or bring them indoors, if they’re in containers, to protect them from the cold.
You can also grow popular annual herbs like basil, cilantro or parsley, but you will need to replant them each year – from seed or a starter you bought at your local nursery.
Herbs make an excellent choice for the home gardener who is worried about the aesthetics of adding edibles to his or her existing landscaping: Many herbs like thyme will produce lovely flowers if allowed to bloom, Larenas says. And flowering herbs offer another benefit: attracting pollinators to your garden and supporting local bee populations.
But can you eat herbs that you have let flower? Some herb experts will tell you it changes the flavors or textures of the leaves, Larenas says, but personally, she doesn’t mind the taste of flowering herbs. If you do, she suggests growing a portion of herbs that you let flower for the bees and some herbs that you cut back for cooking.
Where should you grow herbs in your garden? Herbs are perfect plants to grow in containers, or herbs like thyme can make an attractive border to your lawn or existing landscape, Larena suggests.
Homepage image: Patricia Larenas, Urban Artichoke