Thursday, June 13, 2013

Ten Herbs for your Garden (and how to grow them)

If you grow nothing else in your garden, consider growing herbs.  Whether you have a sprawling garden or a series of growing pots, herbs are a must have.  Not only do they take up a small amount of space and are easy to grow, but just a few small sprigs in the grocery store often cost more than a small plant from the nursery.  Here are some growing tips for 10 must have herbs.



Basil

Basil is an absolutely fabulous herb.  It is perfect fresh or cooked into a variety of dished and is a staple of many salads and sauces.  Having fresh basil in your own yard or deck is truly one of the best reasons to get into gardening (and the plants are beautiful).

Growing Tips: Start basil from seeds either inside or plant directly after all danger of frost is past (we lost several basil plants to a late frost this year).  Basil loves rich, well drained soil and grows well in the ground or in pots.  This plant loves the heat, so try to give it at least 8 hours of sun a day.  Harvest a few leaves at a time early before the plant flowers.

Chives

If it is one thing we have an abundance of at our home is it chive plants.  These lovely plants add a bit of green to the garden early in the spring followed by beautiful ball-shaped purple flowers and are fun to just eat right off the plants.  Chives are often used at the end of a dish to add some flavor and garnish.

Growing Tips: Chives are really bulb plants and can be grown by seeds or seedlings.  Grow them in rich, well drained soil as part of a garden border or in containers.  Although they are relatively hardy, don't over water them.


Rosemary

Rosemary has a unique flavor that makes it a welcome addition to the herb garden, and is a key flavoring in many dishes.

Growing Tips: Rosemary has always been a growing challenge for us and we seem to lose our plants each year whether I bring them inside or leave them out to brave the cold.  On the other hand I know several people who live just slightly farther south who have large, gorgeous plants year round.  Rosemary loves sun and will grow best in warmer climates (zone 7 and up) although it will do well during the summer season in cooler climates.  Rosemary does best with light water, good ventilation, and well drained soil.  It is a great choice for container planting although care should be taken when transplanting.

Thyme

Thyme can be used in a wide array of dishes from sauces to soups to fish and salad dressings.  Thyme can be used fresh from the garden or dried for use throughout the year.

Growing Tips: Thyme is a beautiful, low growing herb that grows well in full sun and well drained soil.  While is can be grown in zones 4-9, it should be protected during the winter months.  Thyme can be started from seed or divided from mature plants.

Dill

Dill can be used fresh, dried or frozen throughout the year to flavor.  Dill is a key ingredient when making pickles or in many fish dishes.

Growing Tips: Dill is an easy plant to grow and only needs occasional watering.  Since the main roots are very deep, dill grows best in deep containers or directly in the garden in full sun.  Grow dill from seed by sowing a few weeks before the final frost.


Oregano

Oregano is a commonly used herb in the kitchen and is used in many Mediterranean dishes.  Many of my favorite dishes use Oregano as a key ingredient both in the fresh and dried versions.

 Oregano is moderately hardy and can grown as a perennial anywhere over about zone 5 (although we've had success several years in zone 5). It does well in well drained soil and can tolerate dry conditions.  Harvest Oregano when the plant is about 8 inches tall.

Parsley

Parsley is a versatile herb used as a mild flavoring or as an edible garnish.  Both the flat leaf and curly leaf variety are beautiful.

Growing Tips: Parsley is a biennial plant that will grow for one or two years depending on your climate.  You can start parsley by seed (just be patient) and grow in a moist spot in full sun to partial shade.


Cilantro

If there is one herb I can never have too much of, it would have to be cilantro.  This fresh tasting herb is packed with flavor and is used in many dishes.  In addition, the seeds that form after the flowers are used are the spice coriander so you get double the herbs when you grow this plant.

Growing Tips: Cilantro is grown easily from seed by planting them in the fall or starting them inside during the spring.  Cilantro also readily self seeds and even though the plants die back each year, you will continue to have cilantro each season.  Cilantro goes to seed easily, so plant the seeds periodically through the growing season for a continuous harvest (you can also cut back flowers to extend the harvest of each plant).

Lavender

While Lavender can be used as a flavoring in the kitchen, it is most commonly used in potpourri, crafts and for medicinal purposes. Lavender is also a beautiful perennial that adds a shot of purple to your garden or deck.

Growing Tips: Lavender grows well in poor soil and survives drought which makes is ideal for container gardening.  Start by purchasing small plants and keep your lavender plant in well drained, slightly alkaline soil for best results.  For those living in zones 5-8 you can grow this as a perennial, although in zone 5 we often lose some of our lavender in harsh winters.

Mint

Mint is a perfect herb for the summer - think lemonade, mojitos, and fresh soup.  It is very aromatic and is a wonderful plant to simply walk past in your garden.

Growing Tips: The major problem with growing mint is its tendency to take over an area.  Unlike many other herbs, mint likes a slightly more moist environment.  It is best grown from plants and does not do well started from seed.  To keep mint under control, plant in a container or in barrel in the ground.

What herbs are your favorite?

Stop over and share your herb related posts on the Homestead Resource Guide: Growing Herbs


4 comments:

  1. I love herbs! I was really surprised this year when our lemon balm, oregano, thyme, rosemary, and sage came back after our cold Missouri winter. One of the things I love best about herbs is how low maintenance they are. And like you said, it's so economical because just a tiny amount of herbs at the grocery store is so expensive!

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  2. I'd like to grow an assortment and make up my own Italian herbs and Herbs de Provence mixtures!

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  3. Right now we have thyme, some infant dill, lots of basil, a struggling rosemary plant, some stevia that looks ok, oregano that is just sitting there, and some lavender that could go one way or the other. I do love my herbs though. We just need to get the hang of things in our new place. I loved this post Gretchen. Thank you for linking it up to our HomeAcre Hop. We'd love to have you back again tomorrow:
    http://blackfoxhomestead.com/the-homeacre-hop/

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