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Herbs Thrive in a Summer Greenhouse

Originally titled 'Dig Up Your Herbs'
Reprinted with permission from Garden & Greenhouse Magazine

Herbs were used medicinally thousands of years ago in the Mediterranean. Today they are used primarily for cooking but are beautiful in mixed containers, flower beds and landscaping. Herbs are generally easy to grow, but a kitchen plot could easily occupy 80 to 100 square feet of garden space! In their natural habitat herbs thrive in hot and dry conditions so they grow amazingly well in a summer greenhouse. Many summer greenhouses sit empty once summer is underway. Utilize that empty space by growing herbs. With a greenhouse you can enjoy your fresh thriving herbs throughout the year.

To get started, plant herbs using well-drained soil and make sure the container has room for growth. Herbs flourish when allowed to dry out between watering and given an occasional light fertilizing. Additionally, pinch back plants regularly to encourage bushy growth. If herbs get too large, hang herb cuttings in the greenhouse where they dry quickly preserving much of their flavor. If you plan to move the pots out of the greenhouse, you may want to purchase light-weight pots or planter inserts that reduce the amount of soil resulting in lighter weight and easier transplanting.

Even though herbs love heat, a greenhouse may occasionally get too hot. Far more plants die in a greenhouse from overheating than from cold. A pleasant summer day outside can be scorching in a greenhouse, but with a little preparation you can protect your plants from the sun. Shade and ventilation may be all you need if your greenhouse covering provides diffused light. Plants love indirect light, so reducing the direct burning rays reduces excess heat and stress. Attaching a shade cloth to the top of your greenhouse is an easy way to shelter plants from the sun's burning rays. Opposed to traditional black shade cloth, Aluminet shade cloth reflects light and does not absorb the heat like black clothes. Proper ventilation will also help cool your summer greenhouse. Adding base vents, solar openers or even a screen door will increase air circulation bringing in cooler air and keeping plants healthy. If you live in a hot climate, you may consider investing in a thermostatically controlled fan. A simple min/max thermometer will help you track the high and low temperatures to determine if you need more sophisticated cooling. Once your greenhouse temperature is adequate (not more than 100? F) it's time to start growing!

When you grow your herb garden in your greenhouse, not only will you enjoy the extra garden space and the freshness of your herbs year-round, you will enjoy harvesting them even more. It’s convenient to scoot the pots around for easy reach and no more bending when they’re placed on benches. Rainstorms, hail and wind won’t bother you when you are plucking a few sweet leaves for a recipe, and you won’t have to trudge through the mud to pick them.

There are hundreds of herbs to try. Many of the most popular are well suited for greenhouse use. Lavender, rosemary, sage, oregano, thyme, marjoram, mint, basil, tarragon, parsley, and chives are just a few staples. Here are some great recipes to try this summer from your greenhouse and garden bounty. Enjoy your harvest.

Insalata Caprese
Fresh Mozzarella
High Quality Olive Oil
Balsamic Vinegar
Salt & Pepper

One of the best invented garden delights. Pluck the tomatoes fresh from your garden. Core and slice thinly. Lay a leaf of fresh basil on each slice followed by a slice of fresh mozzarella. Drizzle olive oil over the top and a few drops of balsamic vinegar. Add salt & pepper to taste. Enjoy!

Rosemary Orange Syrup:
3 (4- by 1-inch) strips fresh orange zest
2/3 cup fresh orange juice
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
6 small clusters fresh rosemary leaves

Boil all ingredients together in a 1-quart heavy saucepan until reduced to about 3/4 cup, about 15 minutes. Cool to warm or room temperature. Excellent on French toast.

Sage Butter:
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
2 teaspoons chopped fresh sage

Mash ingredients together. Add salt and pepper to taste. Sage butter is the perfect compliment to mashed sweet potatoes. Mix some of the butter in the potatoes then top serving with a dab for garnish.

Written by Michelle Moore

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