The benefits of planting a family herb garden
Creating a mini herb garden is an exciting and rewarding parent-child activity that allows you to spend quality time together, learn lots of lessons and strengthen your family bonds.
Gardening is a wonderful way to connect with nature and teach children valuable lessons about the environment. One exciting home-based project that families can embark on together is planting a herb garden. Not only does it provide you with an opportunity to spend quality time as a family, but it also encourages kids to learn about different herbs and their diverse uses. This article will guide you through the process of creating a family herb garden, from choosing the right herbs, to nurturing and harvesting them – all while getting your little ones involved in a unique family activity!
CHOOSING THE RIGHT HERBS
There are a wide variety of versatile and popular options to consider when picking out herbs together for your herb garden – it really is down to the personal tastes of your household! It’s better to choose herbs that are well-suited to hot climates and can tolerate the UAE’s high temperatures, such as rosemary, thyme, oregano, mint and sage. These herbs have adaptations to conserve water and withstand heat stress. Let’s take a closer look at each herb and how your family could benefit from growing them.
Oregano is a resilient herb known for its robust flavour and versatility in culinary applications. Its small, aromatic leaves add a delightful punch to Mediterranean and Italian dishes. Oregano thrives in hot climates and requires well-drained soil. It can handle the intense heat of the UAE and is a great addition to your family herb garden.
Sage is a hardy herb with a distinct flavour profile and beautiful grey-green leaves. It is highly valued for its culinary uses and medicinal properties. Sage leaves are commonly used in savoury dishes, such as roasted meats, stuffing, and sauces. In addition, sage has a long history of being associated with wellness and is often used in natural remedies. Sage is well-adapted to arid climates and can withstand the heat of the UAE, making it an excellent choice for your family herb garden.
With its pine-like fragrance, rosemary adds a delightful flavour to roasted meats, potatoes and bread. It’s also associated with improved memory and concentration which is helpful for all the family! It is well-known for its resilience in hot and dry climates, making it a perfect choice for the UAE. It thrives in well-drained soil and requires ample sunlight, making it an ideal addition to your family herb garden in the UAE.
Known for its cooling and invigorating aroma, mint is perfect for making refreshing drinks in the hot weather, such as lemonade or iced tea. It’s also a great twist to add in when making delicious chocolate treats. The lush, green leaves of mint also work well in salads, fruit salads, and desserts It is known for its rapid growth and ability to tolerate hot conditions. Mint prefers rich soil and regular watering, making it a great choice for your family herb garden in the UAE.
Thyme is a versatile herb with small, aromatic leaves and a slightly earthy flavour. It is a resilient herb that can tolerate heat and dry conditions, making it well-suited to the UAE’s climate. It requires well-drained soil and appreciates full sun exposure. Including thyme in your family herb garden will add a delightful herbaceous note to your culinary creations. Commonly used in Mediterranean and French cuisine, it complements roasted vegetables, soups and stews and is a lovely way to introduce a new flavour to your kids, added into these familiar dishes.
PLANNING AND PREPARING THE GARDEN
Now that you have chosen your herbs, it’s time to plan and prepare your family herb garden. Gather any tools needed, such as a trowel, gardening gloves, watering can and small pots or containers for seedlings. While the UAE has a desert climate with hot temperatures and limited rainfall, it’s still possible to grow herbs successfully with some considerations. Let’s take a look.
Location, location, location!
The first thing to do is to determine whether you’ll have an outdoor or indoor herb garden. If outdoors suits your family better, select a sunny spot with well-drained soil. If indoors is your preference, find a bright location near a window. If you have limited outdoor space or prefer more control over growing conditions, you can opt for container gardening. In this case, make sure to use large containers with good drainage and place them in a suitable location outdoors. The size of your herb garden is completely up to you, the space you have available and the number of herbs you wish to grow. Remember, you can always start small and expand later.
Now you and your children can get hands on, preparing the soil by removing weeds and rocks. Mix in organic matter like compost or aged manure to enrich the soil and improve drainage. This will help the herbs establish strong roots and withstand the region’s challenging climate. Additionally, consider applying a layer of organic mulch (such as straw or wood chips) around the herbs, as this will help conserve moisture, stop unwanted weed growth and regulate the soil temperature.
In extreme heat, provide some shade or partial shade to protect the herbs from direct sunlight during the hottest parts of the day. You can use umbrellas, shade cloth, or position the herb garden near a wall that provides some shelter.
Herbs need regular watering to thrive in the UAE’s arid climate. Try to water your herbs deeply, allowing the soil to dry out slightly between waterings. Of course, be mindful of not overwatering, as it can lead to root rot – keep an eye on enthusiastic little ones with the watering can here!
GETTING KIDS INVOLVED
Involving children in the gardening process is an enjoyable and educational experience for the whole family. Here are some great ways to get them engaged and create fun memories together – all while learning about the natural world!
Encourage your children to sow the herb seeds in pots or containers, following the instructions on the seed packets. This is a good opportunity to talk to them about the importance of proper spacing and watering.
Caring for plants
Assign kids the responsibility of watering the herb garden regularly. Show them how to check for signs of dehydration or overwatering and regularly discuss the plant growth, celebrating any changes. Together, you and your little ones can learn about each of your herbs and what they need, looking at things like the ideal amount of sunlight and soil preferences. This keeps them feeling involved in the project on an on-going basis.
Weeding and pruning
Teach children how to identify weeds and remove them gently, taking care not to disturb the herbs. A herb garden is a wonderful and manageable introduction to the basics of pruning plants for little ones. This is a lovely way to learn about harvesting, snipping in the right places to encourage plants to grow well.
ENJOYING THE REWARDS
Children will rightly feel very proud when they manage to grow herbs with you, enough to actually use in the kitchen! This could also serve as a great introduction to cooking, as they will love to participate in the culinary process, using their harvested herbs in their favourite dishes. Together, you can make homemade pesto, herbal butter, infused oils, tasty drinks or anything else that takes their fancy!
Planting a family herb garden is an enriching experience that offers numerous benefits for both children and parents. It provides an opportunity for you to bond as a family, learn about nature, and explore the flavours and uses of different herbs. As you nurture your mini herb garden together, your little ones will witness the magic of growth and enjoy the rewards of your efforts. So grab your gardening tools and embark on this green-fingered family adventure!