How to grow your own herb garden
TRACY HODGEWhile most of us think of herbs in relationship to cooking, there are a variety of reasons to grow these hardy plants.
Published: April 25, 2012
Published: April 25, 2012
Herbs can be used for their fragrance, in health preparations and as an ornamental plant. Growing a successful herb garden is easy to do, if you keep a few basic things in mind.
Just like other garden plants, herbs can be divided into groups such as annual, biennial or perennial. Herbs in the annual group produce foliage and seed during the active growing season and then die. Some herbs are biennial, meaning they grow foliage during the first active growing season, then produce seeds the next year before dying.
Most herbs used for cooking are perennial, which means they live longer than two active growing seasons. These plants will die in the winter and come back in the spring.
Herbs can be grown in an outdoor garden. Perhaps the best way to decide where to plant them is by considering their use.
If you will be growing herbs for cooking, you could plant a little garden just off your back door. Aromatic herbs could be planted around a patio or deck.
One of the best things about herbs is they grow very well in containers. While we do not typically have harsh winters here in Central Florida, we do have periods of cold weather that can damage herbs. Placing them in containers lets you bring them inside at the end of the fall, where they will thrive with natural or fluorescent growing lights.
Growing herbs in containers works well, as long as the pots have adequate drainage holes. When grown in this manner, herbs will require more moisture than those grown outdoors.
Container-grown herbs can be grouped together in large pots, according to use. Aromatic herbs typically used to brew tea such as lavender and chamomile grow well together.
Once you decide how you want to grow your herbs, you can then decide which varieties to plant. Basil is a popular annual used in a variety of recipes. This herb does well in our because it grows best in warm soil and summer temperatures. It requires a great deal of light to thrive, so be sure to plant it in an area that receives at least 10 to 12 hours of direct light each day.
Basil likes warm soil, so place mulch around the base of plants to hold in moisture. When growing basil in containers, check the soil frequently and water when necessary.
Another annual that grows well here is dill, which produces lovely, feathering leaves. Frequently used in cooking, dill can be grown in containers but does best when sown from seed in your garden or flower bed.
If you want herbs that are attractive, chives are a good choice. These perennials must have full sun to grow and thrive.
Chives produce a light purple or pink flower that is edible. Chamomile also produces white flowers similar to daisies. Herbs in the mint family include spearmint and peppermint, which can be used for recipes. Herbs in the mint family can become invasive, so it is best to grow them in containers. Mint plants have higher moisture requirements than other herbs and will wilt or scorch when placed in the hot sun.
You can dry herbs for later use in cooking recipes by placing them in a dehydrator or hanging them in bunches in a cool, dark place. Herbs also freeze quite well, especially chives.
Before freezing, snip off chive stems in ½-inch pieces. Place them in the freezer on a baking sheet. Once dry, store them in freezer bags.