Plant Terms Defined

Mixed Herbs Before we start discussing plans for an herb garden, let's define some terms. Herbs and vegetables fall into three broad growing categories that will help you understand what type of future you can expect from them.

Annual Herbs Defined
Plants that complete their life cycle in a single season are said to be annual. That season often starts in the spring and ends with the first frost, but with a very few fall blooming plants, the late start may mean that they will set seed and die the following spring. Basil, dill, and cilantro are examples of annual herbs that are spring blooming and NOT frost hardy.

Biennial Herbs Defined
Biennial plants have a two-year life cycle, germinating in spring, going mostly dormant in winter, and coming into bloom the following spring. After blooming and setting seed, they quickly die. These plants are in the minority, and all that I know of are frost hardy. Of the herbs, the most popular biennial that comes to mind is parsley.

Perennial Herbs Defined
Perennial plants survive from season to season. They are self-renewing and can be friends in the garden for many years if well cared for.

Hardy Perennials
Hardy perennials can be mulched in the fall and survive harsh winters under a warm blanked of shredded leaves or bark. Oregano, winter savory, mint, sage, and thyme are all examples of hardy perennials.

Tender Perennials
Many tender perennial herbs that cannot survive a harsh winter set seed each year and can be treated like annuals in cold climates where they are unsuited to a harsh winter.

You can bring many tender perennials indoors to overwinter. French lavender does well as a potted indoor plant, as do rosemary and aloe vera. They can be moved indoors before the first hard frost in the fall and returned to the garden in spring. This is a good arrangement for herbs that are unsuited to overwinter in your climate, but grow too slowly to be treated as an annual.

Special Note: My tender perennials are kept in pots year round. I place the pots on my deck or in my flowerbeds in spring, and then treat them for pests and bring them indoors in the fall. This arrangement has worked well for my lavender, aloe vera, and rosemary for years.

1 comment:

  1. What a delight to stumble upon your lovely blog. I've just added you to my links on my blog - and I even quoted you in my latest post - with credit and a link back to your blog, of course! --Morna :-)


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