3 Small-Effort, Big-Payoff Gardens for Cooks
Anne-Marie Gardner and her pups. Photo credit: David Harriman
Now is the time to start thinking about that garden you promised yourself you would plant this spring.
Like, right now.
We turned to Modern Farmer CEO and Editor-in-Chief Ann Marie Gardner, whose last name is quite appropriate, given that she lives in rural upstate New York and her enthusiasm for gardening is hard for her to contain. “I tend to over-plant, even when I think I’m NOT over-planting!” she confesses.
Below, three gardens she says require little effort but give you great results—if you just try a little tenderness.
THE HERB GARDEN
Good for: Home cooks. “I love going out when I’m cooking and just chopping herbs straight out of the garden,” says Gardner.
Caveat: Start small. If you go with a manageable size (and thus, a manageable amount of time you must devote), your herb garden will yield great rewards.
Required: Healthy soil, plenty of (hopefully south-facing) sunlight, and water. For in-ground gardening, spread your plants about 1⁄2-1 foot apart. Note that mint and thyme crawl, so they need more space—or even their own spots in the garden. “Mint really does take over everything!” says Gardner. “If you have a container, say a clay pot that’s at least 12” across and 8” deep, you should be able to fit a few starters in there and that will produce delicious herbs.” Then, plan on watering your herbs every couple of days. In hotter months, water them each morning before the sun is shining in full force.
Try: Rosemary, oregano, sage, thyme, marjoram and lavender work well together, and you don’t need to water them constantly. Basil, cilantro, tarragon and parsley work well together because they like full sun, but they require more watering (in other words, more work). “It really just depends on what you cook, and of course where you live,” says Gardner. “Rosemary, in California grows like a shrub! And my sage plant (that I planted 5 or 6 years ago) is a giant bush on its way to becoming a tree!”
Next Level: “Germination can be a cost-effective way to start an herb garden,” says Gardner. Seedlings need a little love before they are ready for planting, so start this as a kitchen project. All you need is a sunny window and an egg carton.