This year, go from the ground up to grow great herbs. Try these essential soil tips and kitchen-prep pointers.
• Organic matter also serves as an excellent mulch for moderating soil temperatures, keeping weeds under control and the soil evenly moist.
• Fertilize and improve soil structure at the same time by incorporating organic matter, such as compost, fish meal or aged manure that also provides a wide range of nutrients.
• Most culinary herbs grow best in well-drained soil. Whether your soil is sandy, hard clay or somewhere in between, it can always be improved by the addition of organic matter, such as dried grass clippings, shredded leaves or compost.
• Raised beds help improve soil drainage and allow for ample additions of organic matter or quality commercial garden soil. Raised beds also reduce your workload by defining your planting areas so you only water, weed and fertilize your beds and not your paths.
• Simplify the process of slicing, dicing or chopping fresh herbs by using the right knife. The mezzaluna knife has a curved chopping blade that you rock back and forth over the herbs. The santoku knife features a hollow edge that helps keep food from adhering to the surface of the blade.
• To slice large-leaved herbs such as sage and basil, stack several leaves together and roll leaves lengthwise, then cut into thin strips with a santoku knife.
• For easy mincing of herbs, strip the leaves into a cup and use the pointed end of sharp scissors or shears to mince herbs in seconds. (Early in the season, you can mince both leaves and tender stems.)
• Process large quantities of herbs in a food processor equipped with a chopping blade.
Contributing Editor Kris Wetherbee tends her herbs in western Oregon.