Herb

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.

Dill

DillAttractive and flavorful, dill is an aromatic herb with feathery green leaves and a pleasant, sweet taste.

Sunlight: Full sun
Maturity: 40-65 days from seed
Height: 3 to 4 feet
Spacing: 12 to 18 inches apart, 2 to 4 feet between rows

Home herb gardeners are growing dill (Anethum graveolens) for its flat, light-brown seeds and feathery foliage commonly used to flavor fish. Its large fragrant heads add a sweet, citrusy flavor to pickles and are perfect for spicing up many summer salads. Foliage is abundant and long-lasting and can be used in soups, dips and egg dishes. The graceful plant makes a unique filler in cut flower arrangements.

Native to the Mediterranean, culinary dill is a member of the apiaceae family which makes it closely related to carrots, parsley, caraway, anise and coriander. Self-seeding annual grows 3-4 feet tall. (more…)

Cilantro

CilantroNothing brightens up a Mexican dish like the fresh green leaves of cilantro grown right outside your kitchen door.

Sunlight: Full sun to partial shade
Maturity: 60-75 days (leaves), 100+ days (seed)
Height: 1 to 3 feet
Spacing: 8 to 18 inches apart, 12 to 18 inches between rows

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. (more…)

Chives

ChivesEasy to grow, chives are perfect in pots and make an attractive border around gardens.

Sunlight: Full sun to partial shade
Maturity: 60-75 days
Height: 6 to 18 inches
Spacing: 4 to 6 inches apart, 6 to 12 inches between rows

Home gardeners are growing chives for their bright green leaves and attractive purple flowers. The cool-season, compact plants produce grass-like, hollow leaves that add a mild onion-flavor to potatoes, salads, soups and egg dishes. In spring, showy flowers are popular in salads or as an edible garnish. Grows well in containers both indoors and out. (more…)

Borage

BorageAn easy to grow annual, borage leaves and flowers have a mild cucuber-like flavor.

Sunlight: Full sun to partial shade
Maturity: 55-75 days
Height: 18 to 36 inches
Spacing: 12 to 24 inches apart, 2 to 4 feet between rows

Star-shaped borage (Borago officinalis) flowers hang in clusters and are a beautiful blue color. Bees love the bright blooms and rely on the herb as a nectar source, literally covering the plants some days. Leaves and stems are covered with fine, silver or white hairs and appear to be almost woolly.

Borage flowers can be used to decorate cool, summer-time party drinks and add color to salads and desserts. Both the flowers and leaves are edible and provide a light cucumber flavor. Grows well in containers and may be used as a companion plant with tomatoes and squash. Plants are 2-3 feet tall and self-sow readily. Hardy annual. (more…)

Basil

BasilA how-to guide for growing this classic culinary herb.

Sunlight: Full sun to partial shade
Maturity: 60-90 days from seed
Height: 18 to 24 inches
Spacing: 6 to 12 inches apart, 1 to 2 feet between rows

A member of the mint family, home gardeners are growing basil (Ocimum basilicum) for its luscious flavor and wonderful aroma. This extremely popular herb is available in many beautiful varieties, all of which make uniquely flavorful and aromatic additions to gardens and borders.

Colorful, compact plants grow well in containers — both inside and out — and add interest to herb and ornamental flower beds. Excellent fresh or dried, the classic large-leaved variety is a favorite in Asian and Italian cuisine and is best known for pesto. Fragrant plants grow 18-24 inches tall and are very productive. Tender annual. (more…)

Rosemary In Winter

Rosemary GardenIt’s been over a year since I moved from Montana to the sunny and somewhat warmer (or considerably, depending on the day) climes of Northern New Mexico. Despite the passing of those 13 months, I still mourn the loss of my rosemary. After all, we’d grown close considering all the time I’d spent moving them around, indoors and out, to avoid the coldest weather but to guarantee they had enough sun. They provided many a sprig or just a flat leaf or three (rosemary, as all cooks know, is strongly flavored) to slide in under the skin of chicken or to flavor a pork roast stew.

I carefully packed my two deeply-potted plants when we left and tucked them into the back of the hatchback with the dog for the long trip. They survived it just fine (the dog, too). I had the perfect new home for them, a sun porch with southwest exposure. They seemed happy enough for a while but then started to wilt. I figured the sun was drying them out and gave them more water. Big mistake. (more…)

Drying Herbs

Drying HerbsIn many parts of the country, the beginning of August is the time to harvest and dry herbs. Many leafy herbs have budded and are ready to flower… the perfect time to harvest for drying. Herbs at this stage — just ahead of flowering — have the most flavorful, aromatic oils. Some herbs — basil, rosemary, lemon balm, parsley and rosemary — can be harvested multiple times over the course of the summer. It’s best to harvest in the morning after the dew has dried. Inspect your pickings carefully for dead or diseased leaves or signs of mold. Most herbalists recommend rinsing herbs and gently shaking them dry. We’ve always felt that rinsing removes valuable oils and try to keep it at a minimum, especially after a previous day’s rain.

Herbs with a lower moisture content — oregano, thyme, rosemary, marjoram, savory, dill, sage — do well with hanging and air drying. They may be simply inverted, the stems bound together by string, and hung from a rafter or any overhang that allows circulation around the entire bunch. Keep your herbs from exposure to sunlight. Check frequently for signs of mold or mildew. (more…)

Oh, Oregano

OreganoWhen the abundant moisture of spring has given way to drier summer conditions, it’s time to plant oregano. Both culinary and decorative — it’s delicate blossoms will attract pollinators to your garden as well as make for attractive additions to salads — oregano is one of the most rewarding herbs to grow. It can be started from seed, but buying plants is the easiest way to get them started (they can also be propagated from cuttings or from root divisions). Oregano is hardy to zone 5 and can be overwintered in zone 4 with a thick covering of straw or mulch. It’s a perennial and will provide tasty leaves and flowers for years before it becomes too woody and sharply flavored. To encourage longevity, cut plants back almost to the ground at the end of the growing season. Often grown in containers, oregano also grows well in terraces and rock gardens. A Mediterranean plant, it likes full sun but will tolerate some shade, as I found out growing it in an old tub under a pear tree in the Pacific Northwest. Oregano isn’t fussy about soil conditions but does require good drainage. It needs little water and is perfect for moisture-sensitive xeriscapes. (more…)

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