Herb Gardening

 

herbs

  • Where- Herbs can be grown just about anywhere you have 4-5 or more hours of full sun and well drained  soil. Containers are ideal. No compact heavy clay. If it’s shady try parsley, mint, tarragon, chives, even basil.
  • When- It’s useless to plant too soon. Most, like tomatoes, prefer warm soil temps. So in beds probably not before May 1st. In containers or raised beds sooner because soil it’s warmer. Some herbs prefer cool temperatures and can be planted early- chives, parsley, cilantro (coriander) and fennel.
  • Fertilizer- Herbs need very little. Their flavor can actually deteriorate if over fed. A small amount of organic fertilizer is best. Espoma’s Garden-tone, fish emulsion or bone meal are good choices.
  • Culinary Herbs – It’s important to harvest leaves before they set seed (especially basil) because flowers set at the expense of foliage and flavor deteriorates.
  • Ornamental herbs – Some herbs are grown for their attractive flowers that butterflies and bees visit. Lavender, nasturtium, Kent’s Beauty oregano and hyssop are just a few.
  • Insect Repellents – Some herbs like the scented geraniums, including the citronella geranium, lemon balm and lemon grass ward off mosquitoes. Rue and pennyroyal are insect repellants.

Popular Herbs to Try:

  • Basil – Needs really warm weather. Leaves are small so plant plenty. Genovese or Italian basil is the one for pesto. We also have lemon basil, lettuce leaf basil, red lettuce leaf and sweet Thai basil.
  • Bloodflower – Ornamental- The #1 monarch butterfly attractor.  3-4 ft.
  • Chives – For best flavor cut a portion of the plant’s outer leaves all the way down instead of shearing across the top. Beautiful purple flowers and purported to repel insects when planted around roses.
  • Cilantro – A cool season plant. Bolts in hot weather. Cilantro is the leaf and coriander the seed.
  • Dill – Leaves and seed are great in food. If making pickles, plant lots because leaves don’t regrow after being cut.
  • Fennel, Bronze – Striking purple, green & bronze ferny foliage. Host plant for the black swallowtail butterfly! Gets big so needs lots of room 4-5 ft. Will grow anywhere, even in terrible soil.
  • Lavender – Lavender requires sharp drainage. Grow in coarse well drained soil, no clay. So may be best in a pot. Winter time wetness is instant death to lavender. The most perennial lavenders- winter hardy- are Munstead, Hidcote and Provence- but only if drainage is excellent.  Grosso is extremely fragrant with gorgeous dark purple flowers.  Fernleaf lavender with long flower wands is a hummingbird magnet.
  • Marjoram, Sweet –  Flavor supposedly sweeter than oregano.
  • Mint – Aggressive growth can be controlled. Plant in deep sturdy nursery pots with bottoms removed. Also cutting all the way down occasionally controls growth. Think about mint as a ground cover in moist shady areas where nothing else will grow.
  • Oregano – Greek oregano is the standard for pasta and pizza. Bees love the pretty purple flowers if allowed to bloom. The ornamental Kent’s Beauty oregano is lovely in pots.
  • Parsley, Italian or Flat Leaf –  the one most cooks ask for. To harvest, cut a portion of the plant’s leaves all the way down (like chives) instead of shearing across the top. Curly parsley, the garnish, is a pretty plant-dark green and bushy.
  • Rosemary –  Makes a great indoor plant. Fragrance is lovely and has dainty lavender flowers. Barbecue rosemary has sturdy stems that can be used for flavorful skewers on the grill!
  • Rue –  Attractive finely cut silvery foliage, 2 ft., with button yellow flowers. Host plant for the swallowtail butterflies and is reported to repel insects.
  • Sage – Berggarten garden sage has large round leaves that are great for cooking and drying. It makes a handsome small hedge if trimmed occasionally to keep bushy. Has attractive grayish green foliage, is easy to grow and can tolerate drought.
  • Mexican Bush Sage – Has spectacular bi-color violet blooms that hummingbirds can’t resist.
  • Sorrel, Red Veined – Dark green leaves with bright red veins. Yummy, nutritious and adds color to any fresh green salad.
  • Stevia – the sugar substitute herb. Three times sweeter than sugar w/o any calories.
  • Scented Geraniums- prized for their unusual foliage and unique fragrance. Pretty tucked in pots of flowers and enjoyed as houseplants. 
  • Tarragon, French – distinct anise flavor. Easy to grow in warm sunny sites, drought tolerant.
  • Thyme – requires excellent drainage like lavender and is beautiful in a pot with lavender. Lemon thyme is great with seafood.

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