Gardening with Herbs
Gardening with Herbs
Herbs are becoming more and more popular in gardens. Many are useful in cooking and some have medicinal uses. The essential oils in some herbs are used for their fragrance. Many herbs have attractive flowers and some attract beneficial insects and nourish butterfly larvae.
The ornamental value of herbs means they can be used in flower beds, borders and rock gardens. Some herbs are annuals that must be replanted every year and some are perennials that come back year after year.
Many of the herbs we grow here in Central Texas are native to the Mediterranean region, so our hot, dry summers are perfect for them. They need good drainage and most need 6 hours of direct sun each day. A few exceptions, such as mint, need a moist location and shade or partial shade.
Basil is one of the easiest herbs to grow. Grow from seed or transplant. It’s a tender annual, so don’t plant until the frost danger has passed. Sweet basil is a good companion plant in your tomato bed. There are many other varieties of basil, such as purple leaf and lemon basil. Make pesto!
Marjoram and Oregano are similar and both are easy to grow. They fade in the heat of summer but thrive in fall and winter. Great for spaghetti sauce and pizza!
Rosemary is a hardy evergreen that comes in many varieties from low and trailing to larger bush types. It’s a strong, fragrant herb often used in cooking. It goes really well with chicken.
Dill is easy to grow from seed. Since it reseeds itself, you’ll likely soon have lots of it. That’s good, for swallowtail butterflies lay their eggs on dill. If you want butterflies, leave the green caterpillars alone. Plant lots of dill and share with the butterflies.
Fennel is another herb that attracts butterflies. It comes in green and bronze varieties and both are useful in cooking. Fennel is a very attractive plant in the garden.
Parsley comes in two forms, the flat leaf Italian variety and Curly leaf parsley. Italian parsley is better for cooking, while the curly variety makes a nice border plant (but you can also cook with it). It’s a biennial, so it usually lives for two years and can handle our mild winters.
You can grow most herbs in pots. Pots of herbs arranged near your back door or on the patio look great and are convenient for snipping and cooking. In fact, snipping herbs makes them grow better and produces fuller plants. Don’t remove more than a third of the plant at a time.
Spring is a great time to plant herbs. Local nurseries and garden centers have a good supply of herbs in 4 inch pots for a quick start on your herb garden.
Whether you use herbs for cooking, as companion plants, or just enjoy their wonderful fragrance on a warm, sunny day, they make a great addition to your garden.