Every year I try to add something different to my herb garden. Some things have worked, some I just didn’t like, and still others outgrew their space. There are a number of herbs that are great for beginning herb gardeners, and it’s best to start out with a few of these.
This year I added Chammomile back again. I have had it before, but lost it one winter. Two extra sage plants since I am going to offer a CSA for my vegetable garden, and herbs will be a great addition. My thyme was taking over my garden, so it has now been placed in a an old mop bucket. My pineapple mint is in a container now, and I added mint julep just because I like the name!
Chives, are very easy to grow, and are a perennial in my garden. After a couple of years of allowing them to grow, they can be easily divided by placing a shovel in the middle, and cutting in half. Replant about 12 inches apart. Grow in full sun, and do not overwater. I like to buy mine as a nursery plant, because I like instant gratification. But, you can sow the seeds in the spring or fall about 1/2″ deep in rows that are about 12″ apart. Thin to 6″ apart when plants emerge.
They have pretty pink or lavender flowers in the spring, or garlic chives may have white flowers in late summer. They look pretty and add flavor to a salad. The chive leaves have a mild onion flavor. Just cut them off, chop, and add to your salad, or egg and cheese dishes. They are great in mashed potatoes, and to make a cream cheese spread.
Mint is best grown in containers because it will spread….QUICKLY! There are so many great varieties. I have lemon balm, catnip, pineapple mint, (smells heavenly), and now mint julep. On a hot summer day, just gather a few leaves, bruise them, and place as many as possible in a bottle of cold water. Let sit for a few minutes, and drink. So refreshing. A friend of mine who used to own and herb farm, called this swamp water. Kids will love it. You can also make mint jellies, use to brew tea, or to garnish your drinks. Plant mint about 2: deep and 12: inches apart. Again, a container is best. But, if you choose to plant in the garten, you can set bricks, or decorative rocks about a foot deep all around the plant to keep it from spreading. Another idea is to plant them in a pot sunken into the garden.
My rosemary is about 4 years old and planted at the end of my vegetable garden. It is a tender perennial, and even though I garden in zone 7 I have lost a rosemary plant before. I have the upright variety, but you can also buy the “prostrate” variety which will hang over the pot. The upright variety does grow quite tall, so be your you plant it where it will have plenty of room. Do not plant rosemary in a water logged area, it does not like wet feet. It is said that smelling rosemary helps improve your memory, and it makes a great addition to potatoes, eggs, tomaoes, cheese, squash soup and salad dressings.
I have a couple of different varieties of sage this year, and planted 4 plants, so that I could add some to my CSA box. Both common garden sage and tricolor sage.
Sage is considered a perennial in my area. It is the traditional ingredient in for poultry stuffing but can be used with lamb, pork, sausage, and omelets.
I also have pineapple sage which is a large bush, and should be planted where you have plenty of room. It has bright red flowers in the fall and are a favorite of hummingbirds. Pineapple sage can be either an annual or perennial in my area, depending on how cold our winter was.
Oregano and sweet marjoram can be just as invasive as mint, and can also be planted in containers. I have oregano in my garden, but have it planted directly in the garden. When it starts to grow out of it’s area, I just pull up and discard, or dry to be used later. Both are perennials and are great fresh or dried for seasoning food.
Basil is an annual that finds it way into most home herb gardens. I usually wait until the end of April to plant it in mine, because it is very tender, and it’s not uncommon to have a light frost in late spring. Most herbs thrive in full sun, but basil is one of those that needs to be protected from extremely hot sun. I plant mine in a portion of my herb garden that has a spot protected by the deck and adds a little afternoon shade. There are many different varieties. Sweet basil, purple, Thai, and others are great for use in cooking and is the herb used in making pesto.
Thyme is another great herb for beginners. There are so many varieties. English, French, and lemon are just a few. You can rub the fresh or dried leaves into beef, lamb, veal, or pork before roasting. It is great for sprinkling over eggs, or cheese dishes, as well as vegetables, fish or poultry. You can plant the seeds mid spring, and when the seedlings are up and established, they can be thinned to 6″ apart. I use single nursery plants because I only have two or three. I have lemon and orange thyme, both in containers.
There are lots of other herbs to consider such as lemon verbena, lovage, lavender, tarragon, parsley, fennel, dill, coriander, and scented geraniums. Try something different every year until you find what you like, and what works in your garden.
Happy Herb Gardening!