Growing your own could be remedy to shopping for herbs


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Many people are growing their own herbs at home.

Elaine Moody

The risk of catching the coronavirus in public, and the hassle of wearing masks and keeping social distance to avoid it, has prompted some gourmet grocery shoppers to stay home — and grow their own flavors.

Master gardeners with the Brevard County Agricultural Extension Office say more people are expressing interest in growing their own herbs at home for the most convenience and freshest flavors possible.

Cindy Yancy, a volunteer studying to be a master gardener, said she’s growing rosemary, fennel and basil at home in her garden.

“A lot of people like pots,” she said, while she prefers to go straight into the soil.

Rather than just plant seeds in the ground, however, Yancy gives them a head start by germinating them on wet paper towels. That starts the roots growing before the seeds are planted.

The summer is typically too hot to start herbs outside, she said. Yancy prefers fall, winter and spring.

But starting in August isn’t impossible, said Victoria Woods, a horticulturist with Rockledge Gardens. She just wouldn’t do it with seeds.

“This late in the season, you’ll probably want a plant in a 4-inch pot to get you going,” she said.

Those who prefer pots to a garden can find young herbs in 4-inch or 6-inch diameter pots, she said. They can be kept outside or indoors, if provided access to sunlight. 

If that’s not possible, a grower can plug in a “grow light,” she said, which provides the ultraviolet rays that normally would come from the sun.

Young plants already can be snipped for leaves to enliven a meal, Woods said. But for a new plant, a grower might wish to hold off on the snipping for a week to a week and a half for the plant to establish itself at home.

“And then you don’t want to cut any more than a third of the plant at any one time,” she said. 

And then there’s water. Woods said to avoid overwatering by waiting until the top inch of soil is dry before adding more water. Outside plants will need more frequent watering because of the sun’s evaporation.

Woods grows Mexican tarragon, thyme, rosemary, mint and basil at home. 

And for basil, she plays a trick on Mother Nature. Basil is an annual plant, which dies after flowering and producing seeds. So Woods cuts  off the flower head before it can mature.

“This way it will keep growing,” she said.

Prospective herb growers can learn about specific herb’s needs from the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. Go to gardeningsolutions.ifas.ufl.edu/plants/edibles/vegetables/herbs