The Joys of Herb Gardening

By Kay DiVerde

Growing your own fresh herbs can bring great joy to you and wonderful flavor to your cooking! We all know there is nothing better than using fresh herbs in our recipes. By growing your own herbs, it is very convenient to just pick off what you need when you need it. And we haven't even mentioned the wonderful aroma many herb plants give off! Like all good things in life, nothing is perfect. Herb gardens require careful planning and attention.

Before starting your herb garden plan, you need to be realistic about herb growing and consider why you are growing herbs. Do you intend to grow the plants in bulk, or do you want to grow just enough to snip off bits here and there to use in your cooking? Do you want to grow your herbs in your vegetable garden, or would it be more convenient to have them closer to the house to take snips to use in the kitchen? Will you be satisfied to have fresh herbs just during the nice weather and then use dried or frozen herbs at other times, or do you want fresh herbs year 'round? That's a lot to think about!

In addition to thinking about how you will use your herbs, you should consider how different herbs grow. Some herbs are annuals (dill, basil, chervil, coriander, etc.), some are perennials (tarragon, sage, chives, mint, oregano, thyme, etc.) and even others are biennials (plants such as parsley take two seasons to complete their growth cycle). Also some are hardy, and others are not.

There is no right or wrong place to plant your herbs. If you opt to plant your herbs in your vegetable garden, make note of where the perennials are planted, so they don't get tilled under with the rest of the plants at the end of the season. Also, keep in mind that perennial plants, even our beautiful herbs, can spread and take over more space than you may like. Unless you enjoy this type of "weeding" frustration, you may want to consider planting perennial herbs in containers.

Here's one important point to remember when growing herbs. Using herbs is the best way to keep them a manageable size: the more you take clippings, the more bushy, compact and flavorful they will become.

In addition to the wonderful flavor herbs provide, most herb plants have at least one ornamental feature and can be a beautiful addition to a flower or rock garden, or even in containers on a patio or lining a walkway. Dill, for example, is tall and has lacy yellow flowers. With mint, you'll enjoy purple flowers. Borage and Sage display beautiful blue flowers. Herb foliage is often decorative, too. Many herbs have unique colors in their leaves. Low-growing herbs, such as thyme, work well as edging plants. When adding herbs to your flower gardens, keep in mind that perennials may spread and take over the garden!

Even considering all of the beautiful possibilities of growing herbs outside, there are many benefits of growing them inside, too. Nothing can beat their natural scent! And think how convenient it will be to take snippings for your cooking. For a successful indoor herb garden, you need a sunny window that gets at least 5-6 hours of sun each day, or a growing light. It is also possible to keep your herb containers outdoors during the warm weather, and bring them indoors when it turns cool-the best of both worlds!

As you have read, the possibilities for enjoying herbs by their taste, looks and scent are practically endless! Take the time to consider how you will use your herbs and plan for spreading perennials. Remember, the best thing you can do for your herb plants is to use and enjoy them!

Kay DiVerde is a freelance writer, horticultural researcher and consultant for Orchard's Edge. DiVerde also writes for a variety of newsletters and publications in the Midwest.

Back to Articles about Herb and Flower Gardening