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Most herbs are easy to grow

Posted: June 24, 2012 - 12:01am

There are many different types of edible plants that can be planted in the vegetable garden or in the landscape, but often overlooked are herbs.

There are a number of herbs that do well in our area. Gardeners grow culinary herbs more than some of the other herbs, but whatever type of herb is being grown, all have similar requirements to grow well.

Most of the herbs grown in this area have origins near the Mediterranean Sea. This area is arid, so these plants can withstand dry conditions.

Some of the herbs best suited for dry conditions are rosemary, thyme and sage. These herbs have more problems when they receive too much water.

Most herbs do better in well-drained soil with a pH of 6.0. They require very little fertilizer. Too much fertilizer not only can damage the plant, but reduces the oils that gives them their flavor and aroma.

One of my favorite herbs to grow is basil, which requires a little more water than some of the other herbs. Basil can have problems if the plant receives too much water. This herb likes full sun, as do most herbs.

Basil also comes with added benefit of repelling moths. I plant basil around my tomatoes and have very few or no caterpillars attacking my tomatoes.

Another herb I like to grow is rosemary, which is a perennial evergreen shrub that is easily grown. Rosemary has a scaly bark and green, needle-like leaves that give the plant a grayish color and makes it an unusual plant in the landscape.

A benefit is the pale blue flowers rosemary will produce from December through April. The plants will be covered with these blooms, which attract bees to gardens in early spring.

Rosemary does best in a soil with a pH of 6.0 to 7.0. The soil needs to be well-drained. The biggest problem I see with rosemary is too much water. If rosemary gets too much water, the roots will rot. The first sign is the plant will start to turn yellow.

The other major requirement for rosemary is full sun. I have some in partial shade and they do well, but they don’t flower like the ones in full sun. A light mulch around the plant will help control weeds and keep the soil loose.

Rosemary comes in two forms. The first is the upright form that will get about 6 feet tall. The other form is prostrate. The prostrate varieties make great ground covers or will flow over walls.

Both the prostrate and upright forms can be used in cooking. The leaves and flowers can be used as a garnish or in cooking, and I have used the twigs and limbs as skewers on the grill.

When harvesting parts of the plants, it is recommended not to prune more than 20 percent of the plant at a time. Otherwise, the vigor of the plant will be reduced and it will take a long time to recover.

To start new plants, it is best to use cuttings. Take a clipping 3 to 4 inches long, stick the cuttings in moist soil, and in a few weeks, the plant will put on new roots.

Another benefit that I have found with rosemary is that it is deer resistant. Deer don’t like rosemary, so I use it around plants that deer like to eat.

Another herb that is easy to grow is parsley, which is a biennial. This means the plant grows one season, produces flowers, seeds the next season, and then dies.

This herb is easy to grow from seeds. All that is needed is for the seeds to make good contact with the soil. They have the same growing requirements as most herbs, pH of 6.0 and full sun.

One of the added benefits of parsley is that it is a larval food of the some of the species of swallowtail butterflies. We usually plant a good amount of parsley so the caterpillars will have plenty to eat.

Charles Phillips is a retired Columbia County Extension Service agent and operates Hort Consulting. Reach him at cphillipshort@comcast.net or at (706) 836-2152.

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