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Monday, April 28, 2008

Organizing Your Herb Garden

Yesterday was a beautiful day here in Ohio – a good day to get my herb garden started. Because I want to give some of my friends and family my dried herbs for Christmas (don’t tell!), I decided to plant a lot.

I divided my herbs into perennials and annuals. I’m eventually going to plant the perennials in the ground so they can come back next year. The annuals will go into pots and long planters.

I started by mapping out the garden areas I want to use for perennials. In one plot, I’m going to put a row of thyme in the front because it’s the shortest. It has purple flowers. Behind the thyme I’ll put rosemary which is a little taller. And finally, I’ll have a row of lavender, which grows up to four feet tall and has purple flowers. Did you know that if you put lavender leaves in your bath, it will help you sleep?

In another plot, I’m going to put sage with a row of parsley behind it. Parsley is not a perennial, but a biennial. My parsley grew through the Ohio winter this year with several snows. But I think a cold winter helps it grow a second year, if I understand my research correctly. So if you live in a different part of the country, this may not happen for you. But you might try it – it can’t hurt. As you can tell, I’m learning as I go on this.

At the end of last summer, I cut the parsley but didn’t pull it up. Some grew back, and there were times when I brushed the snow off my parsley this winter and picked some for dinner. I’m still going to plant some more parsley, though, as only some of it grew back.

A couple of other perennials I already have growing are chives and mint. Both of these will take over everything around it, so you have to trim them back or pull out the excess. I grow a couple of types of mint, spearmint and peppermint.

One of the most refreshing summer drinks I’ve ever had is mint tea (without the tea!). To make a half gallon of mint tea, I pick a very generous handful of mint leaves (both kinds). If I have several hours, I’ll put them in a half gallon of water with about ½ cup or less of sugar. If I need it quickly, I pour a little boiling water over the mint leaves, let it steep for a bit and then add the sugar and cold water

But I digress!

The annuals I chose to grow this year include dill, marjoram, oregano, cilantro, and basil.

I’ve started both the perennials and annuals from seeds, planting them in planters. I’ll thin them according to package instructions. When it’s time to separate them and transplant them, I’ll put the perennials in the ground and the annuals in pots and planters. The cilantro doesn’t last very long, so I’ll start some now and some in a couple of weeks and some a couple of weeks later.

If you don’t want to go to the trouble of starting from seeds, you can always buy herb plants from a nursery or similar store. It’s easier but more expensive.