THESE FLAVORFUL SUPERSTARS ARE A GREAT ADDITION TO YOUR GARDEN AND TONIGHT’S DINNER
Writer: SHARON ST. JOHN | IN Magazine
Typically, the first thing that comes to mind when you think of herbs is using them to create savory meals, make teas or help cure ailments, such as lowering blood pressure.
Herbs play many supporting roles in the garden and you will enjoy using them in the kitchen.
You can plant herbs in a designated portion of the garden or mingle them in landscaping. These garden gems have as many uses in the landscape as they do in the kitchen.
Herbs exposed to full sun and in well-draining soil are easy to grow. Most herbs grow best if they receive six or more hours of sunlight a day. Herbs thrive in container gardening and in garden beds. When growing herbs to use in cooking or for medicinal purposes, it is best to plant them in moderately rich organic soil.
Use an organic fertilizer and refrain from using chemical fertilizers, pesticides or herbicides. If you have heavy clay soil, add a lot of organic matter or prepare a raised bed.
Most herbs are not affected by insects because the oils that give the plants their aroma and flavor deter insects. If you notice garden pests, use an insecticidal soap on the plants and follow the manufacturer’s directions.
Diseases are very rare with herbs. If plants appear to be stressed, the cause usually is traced to their growing conditions. Check to see if the plants are getting adequate sunlight and the proper amount of water. If they are too crowded, thin them out. If their roots are sitting in water, the roots will rot.
Herbs create wonderful low-allergen gardens. Many herbs are labiates, meaning they are pollinated by insects rather than by the wind. Wind-borne pollen is one of the main triggers of allergies.
If you want to raise herbs to flavor food, start with the ones you will probably use the most: rosemary, basil, cilantro, Italian parsley, chives, lemon grass, oregano, mint planted in a separate container, and a variety of thyme. If you use chives frequently, plant a large amount of them.
Whether enhancing the border of a perennial bed, cascading over the rim of a container or lining the edge of a path, herbs enhance a landscape with texture, lovely blossoms and delightful fragrances. From use in a formal European styled garden to a natural style garden of native Texas plants, the possibilities of gardening with herbs are endless.
The colors of herbs range from green to gray to yellow. Some herbs have multiple colors. The contrast of colors they provide is only limited by the gardener’s creativity and imagination. You will have fun weaving them into your landscape.
If you prefer a garden with a lot of white, the gray foliage of sage is a good choice to create continuity. Multi-foliage colored sage with tinges of gray, white and purple accent the front border of purple or white bearded iris or other plants with white or purple blossoms. Sage is a stunning companion to create a lush backdrop to silver thyme or lamb’s ear.
Oregano used as ground cover works in front of many taller plants. Fennel provides an airy fern-like texture topped with a delicate flower and makes a great addition to perennial beds.
Lemon grass, along with being a good substitute for ornament grasses, is delicious as flavoring on chicken, Asian dishes and tea. Stevia plants, which often can be found at local nurseries, are a natural sweetener.
Many plants provide fragrance only when blooming but herbs provide fragrance all the time. Basil provides a sweet aroma and is lovely when planted near a front door or sitting area. Upright rosemary is another fragrant herb.
You can grow herbs from seeds by sowing them first indoors or you can purchase starter plants from local nurseries and transplant them outdoors after the last frost of the year. Many herbs will re-seed and provide you the bonus of having new plants throughout the growing season.