Thursday

The 10 Best Herbs for Your Spring Garden

If you cook, craft or like the idea of whipping up a few homemade remedies for your family, herbs are for you.  The wonderful world of these useful and often small plants can seem confusing at first, though. What follows is my list of essential herb plants for a new (or renewed) herb or vegetable patch.  They cover the bases by being useful, flavorful and pretty fun, too.

Chives
Chives in bloom

If you want to feel powerful in the kitchen, grow chives.  Being able to walk into your garden and snip a few chives to sprinkle on a baked potato, into a salad or over a casserole is what "kitchen" gardening is all about. You'll love sending the kids out to cut some chives for dinner, and won't that be a neat lesson about how practical (and tasty) plants can be.

Parsley

Flat leaf parsley
Although there are quite a few cultivars these days, there are only two basic types of parsley, flat (usually considered best for cooking), and curly (pretty as a garnish but also edible).  Parsley can be a confusing plant because it's biennial.  That means it usually has a two-year life cycle and then dies.  The first year it produces lots of leaves, and the second year, during spring, it sets seeds, falters and dies.

Once you understand how the process works, it's pretty easy to cultivate a constant patch of parsley in the garden spring and fall; just plan annual plantings and remember to harvest seeds from last year's plants.  Oh, and soak your seeds in very hot water for a day or two before planting them.  You'll get more sprouts that way.  

Lavender

 If you spend any time on my blog, you know I love lavender.  Besides being lovely in the garden,

Lavender
lavender is also handy.  You can use it in cooking, decorating and crafts.  It has medicinal uses, too.  Lavender 's scent is almost immediately recognizable, and it appeals to men and women equally.  Want a restful evening, put lavender buds or essential oil in your bath water or place a lavender sachet under your pillow.  You can't go wrong with lovely, wonderful herb.

You'll find recipes and instructions on this blog for lavender sugar, lavender salt, lavender wands, lavender oil and lavender sachet -- among other projects.    Understanding Different Types of Lavender - a Basic Primer 

Aloe vera

I've kept aloe vera for years and years. It never disappoints.  It's my go to remedy for stings and
Aloe vera
burns, even over OTC preparations.  It's also easy to grow if you remember to keep it in a sunny location, and protect it from frost. I put my plants outdoors in May and bring them back indoors in October before the first frost of the season.  Over the winter months I only water them a few times, and then just a little. When aloe vera is dormant, it needs little or no care beyond protection from the cold.  When it's outdoors in spring and summer, it can usually fend for itself.

 Mint

Mint was the first herb I thought was really neat. And why not?  I was a small child and it smelled

Spearmint
like Christmas candy on a stem!  Mint is tasty on lamb, makes a great garnish, can be used as a refreshing tea and can be helpful in the treatment of stomach upsets. It's also a unique and charming addition to a mixed fruit salad. If you're into canning, making your own mint jelly is a hoot and is a great gift for a favorite cook.

 Thyme 

Thyme is one of those herbs that's easy to maintain and useful in the kitchen.  It can bring added flavor to stews, soups and sauces and will also work well in a wine or citrus marinade.  If you dry

Thyme
herbs or make potpourri, thyme dries into an attractive little bundle.  I like to use it in wreaths.  There are also specialty thyme varieties with interesting aromas like caraway, lemon and lime. Typically small, thyme will often nestle into a corner of a flowerbed and thrive there for years. There are also creeping varieties that can be planted between pavers for a charming, rustic look.

 Rosemary


Rosemary
A premier cooking herb, rosemary is much easier to grow in cold climates than it used to be.  You can maintain some of the newer cultivars in zone 5, and if your area is colder than that, you can always make it a commuter herb -- outdoors in summer and indoors in winter.  If you grill, love lamb (or pork) or take herbs to enhance memory, a patch of rosemary will work wonders in your garden.

Tarragon/Cilantro/Dill

These three herbs are popular in cooking and all have strong flavors that some people adore and
Tarragon
others abhor.  They're easy to grow and add something unique to food.  I happen to like them all. Their individual flavors defy description, beyond tarragon, which tastes mildly of licorice -- to me anyway.

Cilantro and dill are annuals that tend to bolt in mid-summer, while tarragon is a perennial. If you're cooking seems bland sometimes, perking it up with these herbs will offer new and fun ways to make mealtime special.    



As you're planning your vegetable garden this year, don't forget to throw in some herbs. They're useful in so many ways. Some varieties will even repel destructive garden insects.  To us, they smell wonderful, to garden marauders, they smell and taste vile. When you think of all the plants in your landscape that just take up space looking conventional, couldn't you use some perky plants that actually make life easier?


  Companion Planting Herbs



Dill in bloom

6 comments:

  1. Question - One of my favorite herbs is dill but I never have any luck growing it. I have an herb garden and successfully grow all of the herbs mentions above. Dill just bolts on me.
    What am I doing wrong?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Viola,

      You're probably not doing anything wrong. There's no easy answer. I do have a few tips, though. Used in conjunction, they help delay bolting long enough to make growing herbs like dill and cilantro worthwhile. You can find my post about bolting here:

      http://theherbgardener.blogspot.com/2010/05/how-to-keep-plants-from-bolting.html

      Good luck,

      Sara

      Delete
  2. I never seem to have luck planting dill in my garden (too much clay for it's liking) so last year I planted dill and parsley in my outside planters long my flowers. I figured it that even if it ended up looking as pathetic as it usually does in my garden, the few leaves the dill does get might look nice among the flowers. I added the parsley because I like the curly leaves and thought it would look nice too. It turned out to be a great idea. The dill did much better. Sure some of the dill still bolted despite my best efforts to keep up with trimming it, but I planted enough of it that by late summer I still had a few leaves left. I will say though that the yellow dill flowers made a very pretty edition to my planters. I still had parsley in LATE December because (completely by accident) the planters ended up being close enough to the house that they had just enough protection from the elements to protect them from the frost...That is quite impressive considering I live in South Eastern PA! It became a science experiment to see how long the parsley would stay green despite the elements.

    This year I am going to try to stagger planting the dill. I might throw few dill seeds in along with the actual dill plants so that by the time the plants bolt, the plants started from seeds should be coming in nicely.

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