Starting an herb garden

My herb garden, on our patio

When we moved into our home, I wanted to start a garden but I didn't yet have space in our backyard and I was intimidated by the Ugandan seasons and my lack of knowledge on how to work with them.  Not having much experience with my own garden (an embarrassing thing to admit for a Midwestern farm girl), I decided to start with just a few herbs - basil, rosemary, and cilantro.

Although I've made my fair share of mistakes, I have found herbs easy enough to grow and way more rewarding than I had predicted.  I kept adding more plants whenever I could find the starters, and now my herb garden is one of my favorite parts of my home.  I really love being able to use fresh herbs in my own cooking while also learning how other cultures use spices and herbs.  Herbs are a fun subject to ask and learn about when traveling that can connect you to the culture in a new way; there is a special joy I find in wandering through the spice and herb section of a market in a new country, wondering about all the culinary possibilities that exist, and walking away with an idea or two.  Growing herbs also makes me feel connected to the long tradition of herbalists who have shared knowledge with one another for thousands of years about the culinary and medicinal properties of different plants.  And as one last bonus, having an herb garden makes me feel as if I'm fulfilling some sort of destiny since I've taken the married name Kreutter, which, as it turns out, means "herbalist" in German!

Although I'm still learning the best ways to grow and prune my herbs, I love that they are fairly low-maintenance and provide so much gratification.  So far, I'm growing:
lemon balm
generic mint
green onion

Herb table

I quickly found that many of those cute herb gardens you see all over Pinterest are unrealistic, since like any other plant, herbs need a sizable container and good drainage, so tiny tea tins or mason jars won't give you much of a harvest if you want to use your herbs for more than decoration.  To learn more about the common mistakes beginners make in growing herbs, read this useful article.

Here are a few of my favorite recipes I use with the fresh herbs from my garden:

Chicken Kiev
Tomato basil soup
Pumpkin soup with sage and bacon
Ginger berry basil summer drink
Lemon rosemary tilapia
Parmesan cilantro corn
Caprese chicken

If you live in Uganda, here are a few dependable places to find herbs:

Embassy supermarket on Ggaba road
Grassroots Uganda at the Saturday Prunes farmers' market
Checkers supermarket in Kisementi
The nurseries along Mukwano road

If you're at all interested in growing your own food, I encourage you to start with herbs!  They are relatively easy and you can grow them indoors all year round.  I have killed many o' plant in my day and even I can do it.  Besides, herbs have many uses beyond cooking, which I will feature on this blog as I continue to experiment.

And don't worry - even if mason jars and tea tins aren't the most practical pots for herbs, you can still have a very attractive herb garden.  Here are some inspiration photos to get you started.