In a narrow space of their Martinez back yard, homeowners Mary Ann and Marc Woodworth decided to spice up the area that normally goes unused.
They planted an herb garden.
"We have planted a nice assortment of Genovese basil, Dukat dill, garlic chives, regular chives, french tarragon, cilantro, several rosemarys, Greek oregano, lemon verbena, several varieties of lavender, thymes, sages, many types of mint, Italian parsley, marjoram and even some catnip for our cats," Mary Ann Woodworth said.
As avid gardeners, the couple felt the investment of various herbs would nicely complement another one of their favorite pastimes.
"My husband and I love to cook, and there is nothing better than home-grown herbs fresh from the garden. We just go out the kitchen door and snip off what we need. We even have some of our neighbors drop in to get herbs when they are cooking," Woodworth said.
The area the Woodworths planted is right beside their kitchen.
"It's a good location, obviously because it's convenient for cooking," Woodworth explained. But more importantly, "this area receives full sun, and that's what most herbs prefer," she said.
Two other factors when planting an herb garden are soil and air circulation.
"Good drainage is a must, as well as good air circulation," Woodworth said. "And don't use a lot of fertilizers; this causes more growth with less flavor. Use fertilizers at half the strength if you need to."
It's important to get just the right balance for the soil, because "herbs also don't like too rich a soil mix," Woodworth said. So they brought in topsoil and mixed it with sand.
Many herbs in this area grow quite well and are even evergreen. Rosemary makes an attractive shrub, and some varieties can even grow to 6 feet. Basil also does very well and is a great herb for pots.
"Keep pinching off the flowers to keep it from going to seed, and you will have lots of basil all summer," Woodworth said.
Oregano, thymes, mints, sages, marjorams and some lavenders grow here all year long.
"Oreganos seem to have a better taste if you dry them before using them," Woodworth said.
While numerous herbs fare well locally, gardeners should be aware that many species are invasive.
Herbs in the mint family are known to take over an area, "so it's best to have a container around the roots or sink the pot in the soil. Unless you're willing to go out and pull the stuff up," Jan Markle said.
Just as the Woodworths share their bounty of herbs with neighbors and friends, Markle is open to sharing her herbs as well.
"Parsley is nice for cooking, but I really plant it for the caterpillars," Markle said.
"Parsley is the only thing that some species of caterpillars can survive on," she explained. "Then, of course, the caterpillars turn into beautiful butterflies, and I'm always happy to see them.
"I think parsley is a wonderful thing to plant," Markle said.
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