It's spring! It's time to play in the garden! Oh, happiness! Happy, happy days!
I live in the Bluegrass State, also known as Kentucky. The standard rule of gardening around there is to plant your summer varieties after Derby. Derby is always the first Saturday in May (last Saturday), so this is a busy week in the garden.
There is no need to wait until Derby to plant herbs. The Derby rule does not apply to cool-season crops or herbs. Herbs are very forgiving and easy to grow.
If you cannot grow anything, you should grow herbs.
If you do not have a green thumb, you should plant herbs.
If you kill everything you plant, you should give herbs a chance.
If you have terrible soil, herbs might be happy in it.
Unlike delicate, fragile vegetable plants, herbs are basically weeds. They grow in the wild. They grow in clay. They grow in bad weather. They grow without water, or sun. They grow where you want them and where you don't want them. I think they would grow on Mars if someone would just take them there. :-)
Herbs are not only easy to grow and keep alive, they are wonderful! They season food, they heal, they give aroma, they make beautiful decorations. They can be dried and stored and enjoyed all year.
Herbs are also pretty easy to work with when it comes to planting times. Other crops need to be sown at the correct time, precisely, or else. Herbs can be planted pretty much anytime you want, or anytime someone gives you a clump of oregano. Spring and early summer are the best times for putting in some herbs, but summer or fall will work too. Herbs are low maintenance and have many beneficial uses.
First you need to decide where to plant the herbs. Many folks add herbs to their landscaping. This works extremely well since many herbs are perennials (they will come back year after year). I have a dedicated bed in my garden whose job is to provide me with herbs. I call it the "Herb Bed" – very original, eh?
Please consider your climate and what herbs perform well in your area before selecting the herbs for your garden. Some of my favorites to grow include: stevia, basil, rosemary, thyme, oregano, cilantro, chives, dill, lemon balm, cat nip and mint. I also grow garlic and onions with the herbs, but they aren't technically herbs. There are many other herbs out there, but these grow well here and I use them often.
Chives. Welcome to the "herb" bed. Chives make my salads, tomatoes, and baked potatoes happy.
Cilantro. My only complaint with cilantro is that it peaks too soon. When all the tomatoes, basil and onions are ready for some cilantro, it's dead. Cilantro is wonderful in spring and early summer, but when it gets smokin' hot and humid around here, the cilantro fries. It just can't take the heat.
When salsa time comes around, I usually have to (shudder) buy cilantro from the store. (Gasp!)
To see salsa making, go here.
Thyme. Plant this once and you will eat it forever.
Basil. Pesto, tomatoes, salads, spaghetti, salsa, Oh, the possibilities! Basil likes warm weather and doesn't do winter. It grows quick and will give you fresh leaves all spring, summer and fall. It will grow until the first frost kills it. You can even hang the branches and dry them to use all year.
To encourage basil to grow into a gorgeous bush instead of a skinny stalk, just pinch off the top of the plant. This will cause it to grow more branches near the base of the plant and fill out.
Oregano. Plant this once and you can start an oregano farm. You can eat it, dry it, give it to everyone you know, and still have more of it than you'll know what to do with.
It starts with one tiny, adorable, baby oregano plant from the local nursery. It will be barely tall enough to reach above the cow manure – but just wait. It will turn on you (and most of your garden real estate). In two years, you will have a 6-foot-by-6-foot Oregano Land.
Oregano is my enemy. So is lemon balm. So is mint. They are trying to take over the universe.
I have dug it up, torched it, even sprayed it with weed killer. It won't go away. Be sure you really want oregano before you plant it. Also be sure where you plant it is where you want it – because no matter what you do to it, it will continue to grow there for the next 25 generations.
Rosemary. Rosemary is one of those perennial plants that is supposed to live for 15 years and keep on coming back. Someone forgot to tell this to the last four rosemary plants I've put in my garden. I have never had rosemary survive the winter.
I suppose it could be worse … it could be oregano.
Garlic. I love garlic. It completes me, and most things I cook.
Garlic is usually planted in the fall/early winter. I was late getting mine in, but it doesn't seem to care. Go here to see the planting.
Onions. Here are the onions I planted with a rake handle. There are still some yet to come forth from the ground. My hunch is the small child helping didn't get all the onion sets placed in the hole "root side down." This is not a big deal, it just takes the plant longer to emerge from its hole. It has to do a somersault first.
To see how we planted the onion sets, go here.
If you don't already have an herb garden, you should consider one. If you are an expert, herbs will be an easy addition. If you are a newbie gardener, herbs are a great way to ease into gardening since they are easier to grow than other plants.