Spritz up your drinks with sprigs from the herb garden.
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Most of us do the bulk of our gardening in the summer when it's hot outside. So why not reward an afternoon of sweat with something cold and fizzy, grounded in anise, perfumed with chamomile, touched with lemon and decorated with rose petals?
Here's why not: You don't have a beverage garden.
It's about time, don't you think?
Gardens aren't just about salads and corn-on-the-cob, borders of aromatic color, rows of dense greenery and rocky hillocks laced with purple and white blossoms. A garden can revolve, too, around that thing most of us do constantly — gulping liquids like these:
You get the picture.
For the most part, a beverage garden hinges on herbs. You may already have all of the herbs you need to turn seltzer water or iced tea into ambrosia. If you're starting from scratch, though, why not dedicate one chunk of land, or even just one array of containers, to beverages?
A handful of herbs seem crucial, but otherwise have fun experimenting with different flavors. Marjoram in a bloody mary? Go for it. Bee balm seltzer? Sure. Tarragon orange spritz? Why not?
And don't forget the possibilities fruits offer, especially berries. Raspberries will improve upon nearly any drink, but blueberries, strawberries and blackberries will rock your beverage too.
Dig What Herbs Need
Not all herbs favor the same soil and sun conditions, but most do. And many herbs will do well in most regions of the country, but there still are plenty of exceptions. Lemon verbena will thrive where it's hot and humid. Wyoming? Sorry. Make sure you understand how individual herbs pair with your climate and soil profile before you start plunging plants in the ground.
Fortunately, soil is one element that can be controlled, through top soil and compost. Herbs make it easier anyway, because they're not especially picky. In fact, soil that might seem inferior for many garden vegetables will often perform superlatively for herbs. On the other hand, extremely rich soil that might, for example, cause your tomatoes to thrive, could turn your herbs insipid. The idea with herbs is to concentrate as much flavor — through oils in the leaves — as possible. Anise hyssop leaves rendered beautifully broad and fat might look pretty, but there's a good chance their flavor will pale, because the essential oils are spread out over a larger leaf.
One thing about herbs, though: For the most part, they demand excellent drainage. If all you've got is heavy, wet soil you'll want to build a raised bed and use top soil for your beverage garden. And herbs need sun. So if shade defines your property, you may need to rethink your beverage garden. Assuming it's just partially shady — and not full shade — you can always plant mint, a broad and useful category of herb that embraces a healthy dosage of shade.
—Doug Brown, a writer in Boulder, Colorado, spends his free time tending his garden. And drinking his herb garden.
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