Few pursuits are as rewarding as growing your own organic garden. Not only do you get to enjoy the fruits of your own labor, but you have the satisfaction of knowing that the produce you are eating was grown free of chemicals, pesticides and herbicides. Growing organically produces healthy, more diverse ecosystems which are better able to resist significant pest damage… naturally!
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…)
Herb gardeners growing marjoram (Origanum majoricum) enjoy its fragrant and flavorful leaves, which are highly esteemed for seasoning. The aroma and flavor is similar to mild oregano, but noticeably sweeter. Plants grow 1-2 feet tall and have square stems, gray-green leaves and small white flowers borne in clusters. Perennial, often grown as an annual.
May be grown in pots, containers or herb gardens. Plants prefer full sun and will grow in any type of soil and with very little water, however it will thrive in fast draining, sandy soil.
Tip: Sweet marjoram attracts beneficial insects and butterflies to the garden.
How to Plant:
Start indoors 6-8 weeks before the last frost. Sow seeds just beneath the surface of the soil. Seeds will germinate in 10 days. Plant out after the danger of frost has past. Space plants 8 inches apart in all directions. Begin harvesting 5-6 weeks after transplanting outdoors, or when plants are growing vigorously. No fertilizer is necessary for this hardy plant. (more…)
Native to southern Europe, growing lovage (Levisticum officinale) was very popular during the Middle Ages when it could be found in almost every kitchen garden. The leaves, stems and seeds of the plant all taste like celery. The most popular usage today is in soups and salads. Very hardy and much easier to grow than celery. Perennial with shiny, dark green leaves.
Lovage prefers full sun to light shade and a rich, moist, well-drained soil. Before you plant, consider how much space can be devoted to growing this herb. Mature plants will reach 4-6 feet high, which makes it the perfect backdrop for any garden. Grows well in large containers, too!
Tip: Lovage attracts a large number of beneficial insects. (more…)
Native to Europe, Hyssop (Hyssopus officinalis) was used as early as the seventh century as a purifying tea and for medicine. The herb is said to cure all manner of ailments from head lice to shortness of breath. Today home gardeners are growing hyssop for its leaves, which are used to flavor green salads, soups, liqueurs and stews. Attractive plants have woody stems, small pointed leaves, and spikes of small pink, red and blue-purple flowers. There also are forms with pink or white flowers. Hardy perennial grows 2-3 feet tall.
Hyssop prefers full sun to partial shade and dry, well-drained soil. Prior to planting work in plenty of organic matter, such as compost, or aged animal manure. It is also helpful to add a light application of organic fertilizer to the planting hole. Hyssop grows equally well in containers.
Note: This perennial is often used as a border plant in herb gardens and is extremely attractive to bees, butterflies and hummingbirds. (more…)