Growing an Herb Garden

If you've never grown an herb I urge you to pick your favorite one to grow and use it in your cooking. Once you've become accustomed to cooking with herbs growing right outside your door you won't be able to cook without them. Cooking with fresh herbs gives food flavor without adding a lot of salt or sugar. Plus, herbs are actually good for you.

Perennial Herbs


Thyme (source)

Used in many savory dishes it grows well in a sunny environment and doesn't need any special attention. Although I live in southern Idaho it doesn't get horribly cold here in the winter. When I'm preparing meals for  Thanksgiving or Christmas I'm still able to use the Thyme growing outside.


Sage (source)

Similar to Thyme it grows very well in a hot and dry environment. The annual rainfall where I live is a mere 12 inches a year and we average 201 sunny days a year. On the outskirts of town sage is one of the few plants that survives. I think sage is also pretty so I've planted some in front of my house. The green leaves have a hint of silvery gray and the plant develops royal purple flowers in late summer.


Oregano (source)

My oregano is planted by the edge of the covered patio. It receives the hot afternoon sun and an occasional watering from the sprinklers. Over the years the patch has grown at a rate typical of most plants but I'm definitely not worried about it taking over the garden.


Mint (source)
On the other hand, be careful where you plant mint because it is likely to take over a garden bed. The north side of the house receives a few early morning hours of sunshine but is shaded the rest of the day. Since I have difficulty growing most things in this location I planted mint hoping it would take over. It has done well but it hasn't filled in the bed as quickly as I would have liked. Granted, I only put in a few small plants and expected them to fill a bed nearly the length of the house. Once a year the dried limbs should be broken off. The dry limbs have seeds for new plants so if you want more mint plant accordingly otherwise throw it away. If you put it in the compost you'll have mint growing wherever you spread your compost.

Lemon Balm

Lemon Balm (source)
A friend dug up a little of this plant from her garden and it has spread pretty quickly through mine. Although it is only planted in the back yard I have found small plants of lemon balm in the front yard. If you pick a leaf off of the plant it smells like lemons. I'm guessing the lemon balm traveled via the blade of the lawnmower or the sole of a shoe. It's very easy to grow and the dried limbs need to be broken off once a year. The dried limbs contain seeds for new plants so keep that in mind if you do or don't want more plants. Much like mint be careful where you plant lemon balm. I've never used lemon balm for cooking but I hear it makes an excellent tea.

Bi-annual Herbs


Rosemary (source)

Rosemary does well with a fair amount of water and sunshine but a plant only lasts 2 years. In order to keep rosemary around a cutting must be made from the plant and used for growing a new plant. I have had a plant dry out due to too much sun and not enough water. (Do they really dry out for any other reason?) I've never generated a new plant from a cutting but I noticed some store bought rosemary developed roots when I stuck the ends in a glass of water. Perhaps this year I'll give it a try because I love rosemary and it is very versatile.

Annual Herbs


Basil (source)

I've planted basil in a few locations but it seems to do well with a lot of sunshine and and water. Much like sage, and thyme it can really take some intense heat. One of the things I love about basil is the more you break off leaves for cooking the more the plant grows. 


Parsley (source)

Planted in a relatively shady spot parsley did very well. I'd say it grew to a bush nearly 2 feet wide. I use fresh parsley from time to time but definitely not often enough to use a bush 2 feet wide. Even with a dusting of snow the parsley remained green well into December. It was definitely tougher than I thought it would be. I planted it on the north side of the house about 1 foot from the foundation so it was fairly well protected.


Cilantro (source)

I love cilantro and it is a crucial ingredient for some of my favorite dishes, however, it's a bit of a high maintenance diva in the garden. When blooms appear they have to be broken off right away if you want to keep the plant growing. Otherwise the blooms turn to seed, the plant dries out, and you're left with coriander. It's great that two herbs come from one plant but you definitely have to know what you're doing to maximize the herb you want.


Dill (source)
When I planted some cucumbers a few years ago I planted dill with hopes of canning some pickles. The cucumbers didn't produce very well in my poor Idaho soil so the pickles were never canned. I used the fresh dill a few times when I was cooking but it isn't an ingredient I use very often. Since fresh dill looks very delicate I planted it in the shade on the north side of the house. It grew to be about 2 feet tall but didn't last very long. The plant produced flowers and similar to cilantro it was done shortly after. If the flowers are removed before they dry the plant will continue to produce new leaves.

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