Spring has sprung and gardens are beginning to bloom. If you’ve ever thought about growing your own ingredients, or hopping on the urban farming bandwagon, this is the perfect time of year to start!
A trend among sustainability-minded establishments seems to be growing their own herbs and produce. This urban agriculture trend has taken big cities by storm, encouraging the ideal of growing local products in heavily populated areas instead of purchasing ingredients from national suppliers.
What are the pros of growing your own ingredients?
Consumers love knowing where their ingredients come from – not to mention supporting their local community. In fact, “hyperlocal” foods (foods grown by the restaurant themselves) has been a major trend for the last few years now.
These foods are often viewed as healthier and fresher, and there is a financial incentive to growing your own. One of the largest expenses restaurants face is the cost of goods. This could easily make or break newer businesses. Growing many of your own products cuts this cost down significantly, and it adds to the appreciation of where your food comes from.
Where to start…
If you’re new to urban farming or growing your own ingredients, we suggest starting small and working your way up. Raised beds are a great idea for beginners, especially if space is an issue. Raised garden beds are usually three to four feet wide and constructed of a solid wood frame, and almost any crop can be grown in them. For more benefits and instructions on constructing raised garden beds, check out this great resource.
You can also garden certain products, like herbs and spices, indoors. The most popular herbs for indoor kitchen gardens include:
- Thyme – spicy and clove-like; good with meats or vegetables because it lightens the profile of the dish, increasing the balance.
- Chives – thin, hollow leaves with mild onion flavor; great for a garnish.
- Mint – sweet, cool and refreshing; great for savory dishes.
- Sage – rich flavor with notes of citrus; combines well with other spices such as thyme.
- Basil – aromatic with scents of pepper, anise and mint; adds richness and depth to sauces and dressings.
One of the benefits of trying your hand at herb gardening is that many, like lavender and rosemary, thrive under less than ideal conditions.
Tips on Growing
If you’re growing your own herbs, here are a few things to keep in mind:
Soil and Light Requirements
The soil doesn’t need to be rich for herbs, but must be able to drain well. Also, make sure they receive at least five hours of direct sunlight a day.
Most herbs require about 1-inch of water a week.
Most herbs don’t require fertilizer unless you have remarkably poor soil.
Cutting leaves and stems will allow your plants to become thicker, fuller and more productive. It is recommended that you harvest early in the morning when essential oils are strongest before the sun warms the leaves and releases them.
Certain herbs require deadheading the blooms as to maintain plant productivity. Basil and mint, for instance, both benefit from having the flowers pinched back before they mature.
After the first killing frost in the fall, pull up the annual herbs like basil. In the spring, cut back dead stems on perennial herbs like mint, and prune overgrown ones by removing about one-third of the plant before new growth begins.
Urban farming and herb gardening are both fun and rewarding, providing a great opportunity to save money while growing fresher products. For more tips, check out our GIY – Grow It Yourself – board on Pinterest!