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Herbs and Spices

Home Tips: Herb Gardens

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To begin planning your herb garden, the first thing to think about is a location. Full sun is the best for herbs. However, most herbs will grow in partial shade. They may not grow as fast in partial shade, but they will do just fine. The place you must avoid is full shade; herbs will not grow here. Herbs require very little attention during the growing season. Herbs develop best in moderately damp, well-drained soils. They need an area with good drainage and regular watering. If you live in an area where weekly rainfall is less than an inch, regular watering is a must. To help regulate ground moisture use about 3 inches of some mulch.

Once you have decided on a spot for your herb garden, you need to start thinking about what herbs you would like to grow. Think about the herbs that you use regularly. Do you reach for certain herbs over and over again when cooking? Do you want to use mint in your desserts? Chives on your sour cream and baked potato? Whatever reason you decide you are growing herbs for will help you determine which herbs to grow. Grow ones that you know you use and try some new ones to spice up your food.

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Now it is time to make a planting plan. First, make a list of all the herbs you will be growing and give a little information about them, such as spacing requirements, the height of plants, foliage color, etc. Next, decide what shape of bed you'd like and what size. An island bed is one that can be accessed from all sides, should be no wider than 5 ft, and a border bed is one that can only be accessed from the front and should not be wider than 2 1/2 ft. As herbs are functional plants that require easy access, herb gardens should always be planned for easy harvest.

Sketch out your bed and begin to place your herbs according to height and which herbs compliment each other. Mint, a notorious creeper needs to be kept in check by creating some natural barrier. These are some of the things to think about when placing where to plant your herbs. Remember, to write down how far apart the plants should be spaced. Use a sketch as your planting guide. Also, during the year make notes on how your plants are doing so you can make adjustments for the next planting season.

Fresh herbs from your garden will liven up meals and are far more flavorful than the dried variety found in grocery stores.

Some of the more common herbs include the following:

  • Basil: An annual that likes full sun and well-drained soil. It is an essential element of Italian cuisine or anywhere that tomatoes are used. The richly fragrant leaves are excellent with a tomato and mozzarella salad. 12 in high by 12 in wide.

  • Chives: A hardy perennial that easily re-seeds itself. The leaves have a mild onion flavor. The plant has lovely purple flowers in summer — 12 in high by 6 inches wide.

  • Cilantro: This annual, yields leaves and seeds — 18 in high by 8 in wide.

  • Dill: A tall growing annual. The flowers have a mild flavor with strongly flavored seeds. 5 ft high by 4 ft wide.

  • Lavender: A semi-hardy perennial. This low growing plant likes lots of sun with a mild alkali soil. The flowers and seeds make great potpourris — 9 in high by 9 in wide.

  • Mint: A perennial that can take over slower growing plants.

  • Oregano: A semi-hardy perennial essential for Italian cuisine. It likes a well-drained alkali soil with full sun — 15 in high by 12 in wide.

  • Rosemary: A perennial that goes well with oregano and thyme. It requires full sun and a well-drained sandy soil. 3 ft high by 2 ft wide.

  • Sage: A perennial that grows well in partial shade. The leaves need to be harvested before the plant flowers. 2 ft high by 3 ft wide.

  • Tarragon: A semi-hardy perennial that needs well-drained full sun soil. Excellent with chicken. 3 ft high by 1 ft wide.

  • Thyme: A low growing perennial best harvested shortly after flowering. Thyme likes well-drained full sun soil — 6 in high by 18 in wide.

Herb Gardens provide a lot of enjoyment and an opportunity for you to add a dash of flavor and fragrance to your cooking. Watching how the herbs mingle together and enjoying their aroma is another excellent benefit of planting an herb garden. Whatever reason you choose for growing herbs, this is a form of gardening that pays back in beauty, aroma, and, of course, “good taste.” Remember to have fun! Gardening is an ongoing process.

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