Pulling into the driveway the other night amidst sleet and freezing rain, I took notice of the empty terra cotta pots and front porch rail box that held last year’s herbs.
It might still be cold, but it’s time to think about starting some kitchen herbs.
Past time, actually. The years I’ve grown herbs, I’ve always started them early in March, even late in February. If, like me, you’re a little late to the growing game, take heart: You haven’t missed your chance completely, according to the Weekend Gardener.
The following are seven common herbs that can be started from seed indoors on your kitchen windowsill, and will transplant well, either into a larger pot or your backyard garden, in late spring or early summer:
- Basil (4 to 6 weeks from seed to transplant). My personal favorite, basil, is prolific in the summer months. It doesn’t take long to grow from seeds, and once you place it in a sunny spot and keep watering, it will flourish. As in, get ready to harvest basil several times a week!
- Chives (6 to 8 weeks from seed to transplant). I grew chives in the aforementioned front porch rail box last summer and they did very well. In fact, it took a really long time for them to die once I harvested the last of what I wanted in the fall. They’re hardy, strong-flavored and available in several flavor varieties, including my favorite, garlic.
Dill (4 to 6 weeks from seed to transplant). Dill is another very hardy herb. It will withstand frost that would easily kill other plants. It grows quickly and can be paired with more than you think. I like dill with any dish containing fish, eggs or tomatoes, and I’m even going to try make my own fresh dill pickles this year. With this recipe for no-canning-necessary, refrigerated dill pickles, it’s not as hard as you might think. Instead of buying the pickling mix, make your own and use up all that dill you’re going to grow.
- Lavender (8 to 10 weeks from seed to transplant). OK, lavender takes a bit longer. But it’s worth it. Lavender smells so incredibly good. I mostly enjoy it as an essential oil in lotions and soaps, which you can of course make yourself, but really, I just like smelling it when I walk through the yard.
- Rosemary (8 to 10 weeks from seed to transplant). Another herb that takes a bit to get started, but you will definitely find culinary uses for rosemary. It makes sauces taste great, and my meat-eating friends say that rosemary chicken is incredible. The leaves grow on stalks that can get quite thick, so once the plant establishes itself, it can be another of your more hardy herbs.
- Sage (6 to 8 weeks from seed to transplant). Sage is great in sauces, too. If you’re into the occasional fancy meal, try a sage butter recipe like this one from Mario Batali and drizzle it over a nice fish fillet. Dried sage makes a nice tea. The leaves can get large and dry out easily if not watered often enough, and the large, drying-out leaves can shade the smaller, more supple and flavorful ones. Water often and don’t scorch your sage plant.
- Thyme (8 to 10 weeks from seed to transplant). If you like slow-cooked, flavorful sauces, thyme is another indispensable herb. As a long-time vegetarian, I think thyme tastes amazing with beans. And I wouldn’t dream of making homemade tomato sauce without it, fresh or dried (along with basil and oregano). Thyme has, however, been the hardest herb for me to grow from seed, so I’m going to give it another shot this year. The leaves are tiny, but so fragrant and worth the wait.
What’s your favorite herb from your indoor or outdoor garden?