Yes, on Thursday, March 20 Spring arrived. Our days are getting longer, birds are starting to return and we start longing to plant our gardens! Tomorrow marks the first day the greenhouse at Forest Lake Floral will open its doors for the season. Now, that doesn’t mean we are stocked with our garden annuals and perennials, just yet (this morning we woke to a blustery 12 degrees) but we will have our green indoor plants, easter lilies, indoor hydrangea and yes, maybe even start to see some pansy bowls, pillar geraniums and ranunculus! It truly is one of the greatest feelings to be standing inside the greenhouse when it’s still literally freezing out and be surrounded by garden flowers. The sun coming in through the greenhouse roof and to feel the warmth of nearly 70 degrees on your skin is amazing! Let’s face it Minnesota, it’s been a long brutal winter!
As I began writing this post, I thought I would talk about the difference between annuals and perennials but decided to highlight one of my favorite things in the greenhouse, HERBS! Now, if any of you just *sighed* and really wanted a lesson on the other varieties, I will tell you this;
The difference between annuals and perennials is given away in the name of each. An annual plant lives for one year and then dies. It has to be started again each year in spring. Perennials live year after year. Once the plant is in the ground, it will live for several years and possibly indefinitely.
Herbs are fantastic to use at home when cooking fresh meals, and can be right at your fingertips when you need them. Herbs are such a healthy alternative to flavoring your food and they allow you to be creative in the kitchen!
When starting to plan a herb garden or container garden of herbs, there a few simple rules to follow. By following these simple rules you will end up with an abundance of wonderfully fragrant and delicious herbs that you grew and cared for yourself!
Practical Herb Gardening 101 (for beginners)
Rule 1: Don’t Start from seed! Leave the initial steps to a master grower. You can readily find seedlings/small herb plants at your local greenhouse.
Rule 2: Start with simple varieties! Such as basil. It’s a great trainer herb. Basil is good at telling you what it needs, especially when it needs water!!
Rule 3: Don’t water your herbs like house plants! Water your herbs with a generous amount of water everyday, unlike house plants who typically thrive on a good watering once a week!
Rule 4: Not cutting early and often enough! Again, basil is a great herb to practice pruning. As with all herbs, you want to cut the herb just above a set of growing leaves. If you don’t trim basil aggressively, it will continue to grow straight up, and become too tall and top-heavy. Making your first trim approximately 3-4” above the soil produces a nice sturdy plant. Of course you want to be sure you are always leaving a few good sturdy leaves on the plant. As it continues to grow, continue to prune it approximately every 3-4″ for a nice solid plant
Rule 5: Don’t take the leaves from the wrong place! When you are just starting out it seems to make so much sense to pick off a few big leaves around the bottom of the plant, and let those tender little guys at the top keep growing. Wrong. Leave those large tough old guys at the bottom alone. They are the solar panels that power your herb’s growth. Take from the top, the tender little leaves are the most tasty!
Rule 6: Prune, Prune, Prune! Don’t let you herbs get out of control, cut them back regularly! Make sure you cut back your herbs before they begin to flower!
Rule 7: Use nutrient rich soil! Give those herbs what they need and want to grow strong and healthy! Don’t use tired old soil that’s been in your garden for years!!
Rule 8: Try new herbs! When you get comfortable with a few of the easier herbs, branch out and learn how to grow others. You will quickly learn there are many varieties of each kind of herb as well!
Rule 9: Read labels and don’t forget to ask for help! Again, there are so many different varieties of herbs and each may require a little different care. Don’t ever hesitate to as you local greenhouse for help and direction on planting your new herb garden. For example, we usually don’t suggest planting mint in the same container with other herbs because it is a voracious grower and has roots that like to take over!
Well, there you go! It might seem like a lot to take in but really it’s just that simple. Have fun with gardening and enjoy reaping the benefits of your labor and love!