Gardening with Herbs

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If you have ever wanted to venture into edible gardening, herbs are an excellent place to start.  Whether a formal herb garden or just a pot on the windowsill, herbs are among the easiest garden plants to grow. Mostly heat loving and drought tolerant, our hot summers just intensify their flavors. Fresh herbs can elevate scrambled eggs into a new level of goodness, garnish a salad or add a wild fresh flavor to teas and cocktails.

Every basic herb garden should contain at least rosemary, chives, oregano, basil and thyme. Parsley, cilantro and mint are good additions and if you have room, a bay tree is both useful and beautiful. Everyone of course wants lavender in their garden but it can be tricky to grow here. It needs alkaline soil and excellent drainage. Add some lime to the soil when you plant it and give it some room for good air circulation.

Be flexible when thinking about where to plant your herbs. They do not need to be relegated to a single place in the garden. Rosemary makes a great hedge or screen to mask your electrical box. It is traditionally planted near entryways to keep out evil spirits. Parsley makes a beautiful evergreen border to a flower bed or walkway. Oregano and thyme go nicely in pots or window boxes in combination with other herbs or flowers. When choosing thyme, be aware that some are for seasoning and some are just for show. Lemon thyme is especially tasty with its hint of citrus. Wooly thyme is a great little groundcover but doesn’t taste like much of anything.

Mint is a different matter. Whether you are growing Kentucky Colonel for your mint juleps or chocolate mint just for the Peppermint Patty experience, do not turn it loose in your garden. It is a thug. It will swallow a flower bed like kudzu. Mint does well confined to a pot and unlike many herbs can tolerate some shade. If you have an unused bit of yard where it is difficult to grow other things, consider mint as a care free groundcover. It is not evergreen but the roots do an amazing job of holding the soil.