Herb gardening has practical value and with herb gardening you can actually use your plants for something other than making your yard look pretty. When most people think of herb gardening they automatically think of cooking, but herbs are also grown for their pleasant aroma and their beauty. Several of the most popular herbs such as basil, chives, mint, thyme, Sage, and lavender will be discussed in the paragraphs that follow.
One of the most common herbs gown in herb gardening is basil. Basil should be grown in a position that receives a good amount of sunlight. It’s best to remove any flowers that appear since this will help preserve the plant’s flavor and inspire the plant to grow more leaves. Remember to not to pick all the leaves off one plant; instead just pick a few leaves from several plants and always pick the top layer of leaves first. Basil can be used in fresh or dried form. To dry Basil, cut the stems at soil level and dry them in a dehydrator or hang bunches of stems up to air dry in a warm room. This drying process usually takes about a week. Once the leaves are dried, remove them from the stems and store them in a dry, airtight container for up to 12 months.
Chives are pretty sturdy and don’t need much care. If the soil is fertile, a light mulching in the spring will provide sufficient nutrients. Remove blossoms as soon as they’ve passed their peak. Divide plants every 3 or 4 years in the spring to keep them healthy. Chives can start being harvested about 6 weeks after the seeds are planted, or as soon as established plants resume growth in the spring. Cut the outer leaves down to the base. Chives can be Used fresh or frozen. They don’t retain their flavor well when they’re dried.
Mint is pretty simple to grow. It thrives in sun or partial shade and will grow well in average soils. Mint plants are pretty sturdy and will tough it out during droughts and heat. Mint grows well with little water and fertilizer really isn’t needed in most cases. Mint plants can be feisty and will crowd out other plants if given the chance. It may be best to plant them with a little distance from other plants. Leaves can be harvested at any time and can be used fresh, dried, or frozen. It’s to your benefit to pick them in the morning because this is when the oils are strongest. Spread leaves out to dry in a cool and ventilated area. Once dried, be sure to store in an airtight container away from other herbs.
Thyme thrives in containers. Thyme plants can pretty much grow themselves. The less fuss the better the plant grows. Thyme is most fragrant and flavorful when it’s grown in somewhat dry soil. Too much moisture will rot the plants. It’s best to put one plant in each 6-inch pot, or groups of plants in larger containers. Use a sandy soil mix and don’t water excessively. It’s extremely important for thyme plants to have good drainage. Once fully grown (usually several months), thyme plants can be harvested at any time by snipping the stems.
Sage is another great plant for herb gardens. Sage grows best in a warm, sunny location, but try to avoid extreme heat. Pretty much the only soil necessity is that it be well-drained. The plants should be pruned after they flower and they should be fertilized in early spring. It’s best to let the plant grow for a year untouched. After the first year, the leaves can be harvested at anytime. Keep in mind that the leaves are considered to be at their best before or just after blooming. Harvest individual leaves as needed. To dry sage, hang the stalks in a shady,well-ventilated area until the leaves crumble easily, then store in tightly lidded jars. Sage is known to keep its flavor better when it’s stored in the freezer. Freeze leaves or stalks on a tray, then move the leaves into a zippered bag or container.
Lavender is probably the best smelling herb you can grow. Lavender doesn’t like wet soil and prefers lots of sunlight. It’s best to prune lavender plants every spring. When trimming, be sure to cut back all the overgrown stems and flowers to expose the original plant. Once the flowers get bright and vivid, it’s time to start cutting. It’s best to cut the plants when it’s cool, because it uses its oil to cool itself and if it is cut in the heat there will be less of the fragrant aroma to enjoy. To dry the lavender, put it in small groups by tying with a twist tie and hanging in a dark dry place or individually by spreading them on a screen. Be sure to dry them out of the sun. Once dry, the buds can also be stripped and used as bulk for potpourri, sachets, or even cooking.
These are just a few of the herbs you can grow in your herb garden. Overall, herbs are relatively easy to grow and they aren’t that picky. Growing your own herbs will give you much fresher herbs with allot more flavor and best of all it will save you allot of money.
Denise Villani smells the roses and also writes for GardeningStuff.info