In general, herbs love lots of sun and alkaline soil that is very well drained. They don’t do well in very humid climates, and fair even worse in acid soil. Before you plant your herb garden, be sure to have your soil tested. Most USDA extension offices offer soil testing for free or for low cost. Once you’ve amended your soil to the proper pH, you will be ready to start your garden.
For growing herbs, it is recommended to plant them in raised beds for good drainage. You can put small rock or large gravel in the bottom of the bed before filling it with loose soil and compost. Don’t let your herbs crowd one another, allowing for plenty of air to circulate around each plant.
First-time herb growers should start with herbs that they know they’ll use. Some favorite herbs to grow are lavender, rosemary, parsley, basil, thyme, chives, cilantro, sage, and dill. Make a list of the herbs that you’d like to grow, and then research each herb to make sure it will grow well in your garden before getting started.
Most varieties of lavender, rosemary, thyme, and sage are hardy perennials in the central area of North Carolina. Do check the hardiness zone before planting any of these plants, anyway. Some lavenders and sages, especially, are tender in this area.
Basil, cilantro and dill are annuals. Parsley is biennial, and chives are perennial.
Parsley, cilantro, basil, and dill can be grown pretty easily from seed. Care should be taken to not over-water seedlings, though. Basil is particularly susceptible to mold and damping off when it’s young.
Plant cilantro, dill, and parsley outdoors very early in the spring or in the fall. Both cilantro and dill will flower and go to seed as soon as the nights get warm. They are not friends of the summer months. Parsley handles heat well, but grows fuller and thicker during cooler months.
Chives start pretty easily from seed, but the germination rate is low. Best results will come from root division.
Lavender, thyme, rosemary, and several varieties of sage propagate easily from stem cuttings taken from new growth.
If you have plenty of light and fresh air, lots of herbs grow well inside. Just think how great it would be to have fresh herbs all winter to cook with! Some favorite plants to try indoors are basil, cilantro, parsley, arugula, and lettuces.
Since lavender, thyme, and rosemary like the most sun and very well-drained conditions, they do very nicely in large terracotta pots out on an uncovered porch or deck. Other herbs that grow well in containers outside include mints, oregano, nasturtiums, sage, parsley, catnip, cilantro, arugula, lettuces.
Try companion planting with herbs. Tomatoes love basil. Cabbage loves chives. Planting lots of dill and parsley in the garden helps bring predators like lady beetles to the garden. A simple rule to remember when planning what to plant together is this: if the herbs taste good together, they’ll grow well together.
Scented geraniums and tansy help deter mosquitoes. So does lemon grass. And, catnip can help keep pesky deer from nibbling on your plants. Pennyroyal helps keep the tick, flea and ant population down, and rabbits know it. Plant a patch around your deck, and you can watch the bunnies play all summer while you enjoy your morning coffee.
Lavender, sweet Annie, scented geraniums, southernwood, rosemary, eucalyptus, lemon balm, and a myriad of other aromatic herbs can perfume your entire garden as well as your home.
Chamomile, mints, bee balm, pineapple sage, catnip, and lots of other herbs can be brewed to make pleasing and healing teas.
The information in this short article has hopefully answered a few of your herb gardening questions and given you some ideas for your own herb garden. To learn more and find quality, sustainably-grown* herbs, contact Mary Mizio Bevier, at Toad Song Farm. Address: 14765-D Buffalo Road, Clayton, NC 27527. Telephone: (919) 553-2992 or (919) 815-6090. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Website: www.toadsongfarm.com.
*Sustainably-grown means that no harmful pesticides or chemicals are used in the production of plants. And, although commercial mineral fertilizers are used, they are used sparingly with the environment in mind.