Tuesday

10 Herbs for Your Spring Garden

Spring Herb Garden
Try these herbs for spring planting. Spring herbs can be some of the most satisfying plants in the garden. They typically germinate quickly or leaf out fast from their winter dormancy. They are also some of the signature flavors of our favorite warm season foods.

If you live where it starts to warm up fast in spring, it pays to get a few of them started indoors and then out into the garden as soon as you're sure frosty conditions are a thing of the past . . . for a few months anyway.

10. Cilantro. This tasty little herb looks delicate growing in the garden and is a signature flavor in many South of the border and Asian dishes. It's very easy to start from seed. If you'd like to try your hand at making salsa, stir-fry vegetables or fish tacos, having some cilantro growing by your back door is a great beginning. Quick to bolt, start this one early and keep pinching back the blooms to increase your harvest of leaves.

9. Chives. One of my personal favorites, chives don't demand much and come back year after year. I'm in Zone 5 right now and don't give them much attention, but the same patch has been supplying me winter and summer for years. Just keep them watered, give them some afternoon shade in super-hot locations and watch them go.

8. Parsley. I like using parsley in cooking. It adds color, some flavor and makes me feel a little virtuous for all the nice nutrients it contributes to prepared dishes. It's also a go-to garnish when you're in a hurry. I grow it from seed, but there's a trick to getting parsley to germinate. Soak seeds in very hot water (not boiling) and let them rest in the water for two or three days before planting. If you can plant four or five parsley seedlings, they'll keep you supplied for the season. Next year your plants will set seed for a whole new generation.

Basil
7. Basil. Up in plenty of time to serve with those homegrown tomatoes you're laboring over in the vegetable patch, basil really delivers fresh flavor and a Mediterranean ambience that's effortless. Whether you're using it in your own fresh pasta sauce, blending it into pesto or serving it on bruschetta, basil is a very nice herb to experiment with when you want to expand your culinary horizons.

6. Thyme. This must have herb is as useful in the garden as it is in your spice rack. It has tiny leaves that are delicious in sauces of all kinds. It's available as a shrubby plant and also as a ground cover. You can find silver, lemon, lime, variegated and other tasty/pretty varieties. Most need similar growing conditions, but keep them separate so they don't cross-pollinate.

5. Marjoram. Oregano's mild cousin, marjoram has a delicate flavor that's made for hot summer evenings. Use it in your chicken dishes, with lamb and as a flavoring for salad dressing. If you'd like to try making your own sausage, marjoram is a perfect herb for that little project too.

4. Mint. What can you say about an herb that rewards you every time you brush past it? It smells wonderful in the garden, makes a nice addition to casual bouquets and is an absolute essential for mojitos and mint juleps. If you love lamb dishes you probably have some mint growing in your yard already.

Oregano
3. Oregano. You can employ oregano in lots of dishes where you use basil. It's also a basic flavoring ingredient in moussaka, an eggplant dish. If you're planning on starting some eggplant over in the veggie patch, add some oregano to your garden for good measure. I love it with clams and as a flavor enhancer for prepared pizza sauce.

2. Lemon balm. Great in fruit dishes and wonderful in hot or cold tea, lemon balm has an amazing aroma that you have to experience for yourself.

1. Dill. If you enjoy fish, do yourself a favor and grow your own fresh dill. It tastes more robust than anything you can get dried, and it's very easy to grow. It bolts quickly in hot weather, though, so consider successive plantings.

7 comments:

  1. Any secrets on cilantro? I've tried growing in a container for 3 years now here in zone 6 and haven't been able to keep it alive. Love the post!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hey Dirt Digger,

    I've never had a problem with cilantro in Zone 5 and have grown it in pots on the deck and in the herb bed.

    When I've grown it in a pot, I always add a makeshift water reservoir for hot days when I can't water twice a day. I make them out of 2 liter bottles with the bottom cut out.

    I place a small piece of sponge in the pour opening and upend the bottle in the pot as close as I can get to the plant roots. I fill the bottle from the open top (actually the cut-out bottom) and it gives the plant a supply of water all day. If the water runs out too fast or slow, I adjust the density of the sponge. This is an inexpensive solution. There are also pots with built in reservoirs available.

    Good luck and thanks for visiting today.

    Sara

    ReplyDelete
  3. Thyme and chives come back every year in our Zone 4a garden. In fact, the chives are starting to poke through as of yesterday. I plan on transplanting all the chive clumps into the flower beds this year because it makes such lovely flowers.
    A type of mint grows wild in the area, so I don't bother growing it.
    Cilantro grows well, but it is quick to bloom and set seed, which cannot be all bad for those who want some Coriander seeds in the cupboard.
    Basil I don't bother sowing until at least late May because it's such a wuss and doesn't like cool weather.
    Parsley takes a while to germinate, but is worth it.
    Some say Lemon Balm isn't very hardy, but it comes back year after year in our garden.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I have just started a small herb bed and I’m currently growing first herbs from seeds. Some herbs I have bought as small transplants.
    One of them is purple basil. I have read that there in no difference to green one, only difference is color?

    I have one question: when herbs are planted very close to one another, does this impact their flavor later? For example: if I grow oregano and basil next to each other, would each of them still keep their own specific taste and fragrance? Thanks

    ReplyDelete
  5. Hi Vrtlarica,

    I've read that about purple basil too, but have found from my own experience that the purple basils I've planted have a slightly milder aroma. Maybe someone else will share their thoughts.

    About planting herbs close together:

    If the herbs are closely related, like different varieties of mint or thyme, they may cross pollinate and lose some of their unique characteristics.

    If the plants aren't related, placing them in close proximity may result in less healthy or stunted plants, but shouldn't alter their flavor or fragrance.

    Hope this helps.

    Sara

    ReplyDelete
  6. Hello Sara,

    I feel so fortunate to have come across this wonderful blog. I noticed that you share your home with cats. I have never gardened before but Im hoping to set up a small container garden of herbs in my sunroom. My cats like to lay out there in the sun and I'm concerned that they may eat one of the herbs that could be harmful. Have you run across any problems with your feline friends?

    Thanks, Cari

    ReplyDelete
  7. Hey Cari,

    Welcome! Please do plant herbs for your cats and yourself. My cats stay away from strongly scented herbs for the most part. The occasional leaf of a commonly available herb that gets nibbled is pretty harmless.

    I stay away from pennyroyal, though. There's been some trouble with pennyroyal and dogs, so I just stay clear on principal.

    I also plant at least a couple of catnip plants (and cat grass) for the cats every year. When they start getting at it too aggressively, I put it up out of reach until it has a chance to grow in a little.

    Have fun. Growing herbs is rewarding in lots of ways and I'm sure you'll love it.

    Sara

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