The important thing to remember about growing herbs is that they are relatively easy to cultivate and will do well as long as they have good drainage and ample sun. Culinary herbs add great beauty to the landscape and provide variety and flavor to any recipe in which they are used.
Native to the Mediterranean and popular in Mexican and Asian cuisine, kitchen gardeners across the country are growing cilantro (Coriandrum sativum) for it’s fresh, bright green and aromatic leaves. The annual’s pungent seeds — known as coriander — are dried and used, whole or ground, as a spice. Temperamental plants grow 1-3 feet tall and self-sow readily.
Fact: The Chinese believed coriander provided immortality and it is thought that the crushed seeds, when added to warm wine, have aphrodisiac qualities.
Cilantro may be grown in containers or home herb gardens. It requires regular water throughout the growing season and does best in full sun and loose soil amended with organic compost. The plant will bolt (flower and go to seed) quickly in warm temperatures. (more…)
Herbs have long been revered for both their medicinal and culinary value. They may cure colds, help you sleep and add flavor and zest to dinner. Fortunately for home gardeners, growing herbs is relatively easy. They thrive in just about any type of soil, do not require much fertilizer, and are not often bothered by insect or disease pests.
Defined as a plant without a woody stem that dies back at the end of each growing season, herbs were once considered a gift of the gods. Elaborate ceremonies and rituals celebrated their growth, harvest and use. Today, herbs are popular in many home gardens, where their leaves are utilized for flavoring and an entire plant may be used for medicinal purposes. (more…)
Native to the western Mediterranean, herb gardeners are growing thyme (Thymus) as a landscape plant as well as for culinary purposes. With many varieties available on the market, it is one of the most versatile herbs and can be used to season any meat or vegetable. In earlier days, it was also believed that a concoction of beer and thyme could cure shyness. Hardy plants grow up to 18 inches tall. Perennial.
Thyme prefers full sun to light shade and a well-drained, dry soil amended with plenty of organic compost. Keep it sheltered from cold winds. The plant may not survive severe winters unless covered or heavily mulched. It does very well in containers.
Tip: Use thyme in the rock garden to cascade over walls. It also attracts beneficial insects. (more…)
A member of the daisy family, Tarragon (Artemisia dracunculus) is the classic herb to accompany fish and poultry dishes. The long, narrow leaves, borne on upright stalks, are a shiny, dark green. Greenish or gray flowers may bloom in the fall. Aromatic plants grow 2-3 feet tall and tend to sprawl out later in the season. Perennial.
Note: Tarragon reportedly aids in digestion and when made as a tonic is said to soothe rheumatism, arthritis, and toothaches.
Growing tarragon requires full sun to partial shade and rich, sandy, well drained soil. The plant often fails due to soil that is too wet or acidic. It can be grown outside in gardens or in containers with good drainage in the greenhouse or on a windowsill. (more…)
Nature’s sweet secret. Used widely in South America and the orient, herb gardeners began growing stevia (Stevia rebaudiana) when the safety of artificial sweeteners came into question. Native to Paraguay, Stevia extracts are 200-300 times sweeter than sugar. Extremely low in calories and all natural. The FDA has approved its use as a dietary supplement. Plants grow 3-4 feet tall. Perennial, sometimes grown as an annual.
Stevia grows best in well drained rich soil and afternoon shade, especially in hot climates. Select a site that is protected from cool winds and harsh weather. This is a sub-tropical plant that should be protected, especially when nighttime temperatures fall below 50˚F. Prior to planting, dig in a balanced organic fertilizer or well-composted animal manure. Does well in containers and can be grown year round if given proper care. (more…)
A member of the mint family, sage (Salvia officinalis) is an ancient herb used in medicines to cure anything from broken bones and wounds to stomach disorders, including flatulence, as well as loss of memory. It is a traditional poultry seasoning, delicious baked in a low oven for forty-five minutes with onions, brown sugar and balsamic vinegar. Attractive plants grow 2-3 feet tall and are equally at home in herb gardens and in ornamental gardens. Hardy perennial.
Tip: Try layering a bed of sage on the grill and flavoring meat with its smoke.
Growing sage requires full sun (tolerates partial shade) and well drained, rich soil. Dig in plenty of compost or aged animal manure prior to planting.
How to Plant:
Sage seeds store and germinate poorly. When started from seed, it takes about 2 years to grow to mature size. Most gardeners start sage from cuttings or divisions, using the outer or newer growth. If growing from seed, sow indoors 6-8 weeks before the last expected frost. (more…)
Native to the Mediterranean and favored by many herb gardeners, growing rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) is popular for its medicinal and culinary qualities. As a decorative shrub, its rich aroma and blue-green, needle-like foliage makes it a favorite addition to any border. As a culinary herb, its leaves may be used fresh or dried to complement meat dishes, stews and vegetables. In ancient times, rosemary was associated with fidelity and memory. Tender perennial shrub grows 1-4 feet tall.
Like most Mediterranean herbs, rosemary can tolerate a wide variety of soil conditions, but does best in light, well drained conditions. It requires plenty of light and protection from frost. Rosemary does very well in containers and can be grown in a sunny window, year-round. (more…)
A member of the carrot family, this cool-season, biennial herb is planted as an annual. When growing parsley (Petroselinum crispum) home gardeners often select between two common varieties; flat leaf and curled. Which type you choose depends on your taste. Flat leaf is used for cooking soups and stews, curled is used fresh as a garnish or in salads. Plants grow 10-20 inches tall and make a very nice border for the herb garden.
Note: An excellent source of vitamins and minerals (A, C, calcium and iron), this popular culinary herb is also known as a breath freshener.
Parsley requires ample water, well drained rich soil and afternoon shade, especially in hot climates. Prepare beds or rows with plenty of compost or aged manure, worked in to a depth of 6 inches.
Tip: Growing parsley will attract butterflies and beneficial insects to the garden. (more…)
Available in several varieties and cultivars, with each offering its own unique flavor and aroma, growing oregano (Origanum) is popular with many home gardeners. The culinary herb is often used in soups, salads, meat dishes and pizza, especially in Italian and Mexican cuisine. Hardy perennial plants grow 18-30 inches tall.
Like most Mediterranean herbs, oregano is very easy to grow and requires little water. Sandy soil is best, but the plant will grow in almost any garden conditions. It thrives in full sun (leaves may lose flavor when grown in shade) and a location sheltered from high winds. Most species can tolerate a moderate freeze. Mulch over the plant with compost, leaves or straw if winters are severe. (more…)
Stand back! Mint (Mentha) produces quickly and can be invasive in ideal conditions. As a result growing mint is perfect for the beginning gardener. One of the most popular herbs, it is known by its square stems and aromatic leaves. Plants are hardy perennials often attaining 3 feet in height.
Mint grows from underground runners and thrives on abundant water. It’s not fussy about soil or light, but ample water is mandatory for success. To prepare soil, dig in plenty of compost. Avoid using animal manures with weed seeds since weeding becomes difficult in an established mint patch.
How to Plant:
Although they may be grown from seed, it is a good idea to buy small plants of your choice to be sure of getting the variety you want. Space plants 1-2 feet apart in all directions and mulch to retain moisture and keep leaves clean. Mint is easy to propagate from cuttings. Older mint plantings can be divided up every 4-5 years. (more…)