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Garden Fresh Herbs

Whether backyard, patio, or window sill, homegrown herbs are an essential to any and all cooks.

Spring is in the air! Or will be as soon as the snow stops flying. After the wacky weather of late March this year, there is really no telling when true spring weather will arrive.  But when it does, you know the people of Marlborough will be loving every minute of it.

This time of year it’s easy to get caught up dreaming of the epicurean delights of fresh meals to come. With the price of food going up, the fact that dried herbs from the store are never quite fresh enough and the power that comes from being a self-provisioned embellisher, there are many good reasons to grow your own herbs, as well as other vegetables. Fresh basil on tomato, brie and baguette; lavender overwhelming the aromatics of herbs de provence, there is no end to the sensory satisfaction of garden fresh garnishes.

Everyone has different standards for their spice needs. Basil, thyme, rosemary, oregano and sage are excellent foundations in any kitchen. These provide a range of flavors to enhance a wide array of meals, from barbeque chicken to a thyme-butter spread, they are versatile, easy to use and widely known to cooks of all levels.

Herbs really are quite easy. Unlike the tomatoes this friendly neighborhood writer has tried to cultivate year after year, herbs seem to want to grow! And starting them from seed is not only feasible, but the most economical way to go about it.

First, decide upon your container. You can start them in peat pots, but you will lose them to frost come the first sign of autumn. In a large ceramic or plastic pot, they can be moved indoors or out.

If you decide to use a large pot, line the bottom with pebbles. This encourages good drainage. Cover this with potting soil, or backyard soil treated with something nutritious like digested compost. The “black gold” that comes out of a composter at the beginning of planting season is without equal for the health and well-being for plants.

Once the soil is fairly well packed in, poke holes in the surface with a finger or pencil. One seed per hole is plenty, otherwise they could both germinate and choke each other out. Cover and give plenty of water. Make sure they are in a sunny location indoors and receive adequate watering. You can tell by just patting the soil when it needs more. It should be kept fairly damp, so once a day to every other day is a good pace to keep when hydrating your seeds.

Once the plants have reached a few inches and begin to resemble what they will look like grown, begin moving them outside for the daytime, and indoors at night. This hardens them to the weather and improves their strength. In time, you can leave them out all summer as you enjoy the various uses of fresh herbs from your own patio. The mere thought is enough to chase away the cold!

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