Spring is right around the corner and that has me thinking about getting some herb "babies" started. Here are a few easy ones to start from seed.
Basil: Basil is an annual that comes in over 40 varieties, although you will normally only see a few at your local garden center. The most popular variety is Sweet Basil. Basil has a spicy flavor with licorice undertones and a touch of pepper. Used widely in Italian cooking, it is great with any dish, either cooked or sprinkled on top as a garnish. Sweet basil grows one to two feet tall, and prefers a good fertile soil with abundant moisture and full sun. Perfect for containers or in the garden bed. Basil can be started easily from seed indoors, although it is cold sensitive, so be sure not to put it out too early. Basil also benefits from pruning, so don't be afraid to harvest a lot of basil. The more often you harvest, the bushier your plants will become.
Parsley: Commonly seen as a garnish on restaurant dishes, parsley actually is a wonderful tasting herb. There are two types: Italian (or curly) and flat leaf. The flat leaf parsley has a bit of a stronger taste than the Italian. Parsley is an annual that will reseed itself freely, so be on the look out the following year after planting. You may never have to purchase another parsley plant again! Parsley is extremely easy to grow. Either from seed directly sown, or started indoors. Ordinary soil suits the parsley plant just fine. Some shade is good, so plant in a mostly sunny location, rather than direct sun all day.
Thyme: Thyme is also extremely easy to grow. There are dozens of varieties of thyme, and you will find a good selection at any nursery. Thyme will grow to a maximum of twelve inches, depending on the variety, but most are of a creeping variety. Thyme works well in rock gardens, or in containers. Some people have actually replaced their lawns with creeping thyme, as you only have to mow it several times over the course of the summer! Thyme is best started by either cuttings or purchasing a potted plant at the nursery. Starting thyme from seed is time consuming. Thyme also does not care much about the soil type you plant it in, but does prefer full sun.
Mint: Mint plants are perennials. Mint can be used in sweet or savory dishes, or as garnish. Mint is not particular about the soil it is planted in, and is a low growing perennial. However, mint spreads like wildfire, so either only plant it in patio containers or sink the entire contained plant into the ground. Once it escapes the container, it will be difficult to control. Mint can grow in partial shade to full sun. Keep your plants well watered and do not let them dry out.
Oregano: The Greek variety of oregano is easiest to grow; however all oregano requires six to eight hours of sunlight per day, so a well-lit window—particularly one with southwestern sun exposure—is best.
If you've never tried growing your own herbs why not try it this spring?!