Most perennial herbs are easy to grow in most any soil that has been sufficiently enriched with wood ash and compost. Make sure its crumbly in texture and has the correct light and moisture requirement for the herb. Mints and Lemon balm do well in shade. Chives, tarragon, marjoram, mints, and lemon balm prefer moist soil. Oregano, thyme, sage, rosemary, and lavender need well drained sandy dry soil. Lemon balm will also tolerate dry soil.
- Chives are a hardy perennial plant and are one of the easiest herbs to grow, which reaches 12-18” high. Chives prefer full sun and moist soil, but not too much water. Its leaves are dark green hollow spears that are usually one of the first plants to come up in early spring. Little purple flowers bouquets bloom in summer to make seed for the next year. Garlic chives have white flower bouquets. These flower bouquets should be cut until later in the season, to keep the plant growing. At the end of the season they can be left on to keep the bees happy and set seed. A good mulch around the plant keeps down weeds. Propagate by saving seed or by dividing the root ball. Plants should be divided at least every three to four years to keep it healthy. Leave about a dozen small bulbs per cluster and set them about 10” to 12” apart. Harvest chives by snipping off the green part when they are 6 to 12” long. Freeze them for winter use. Some uses are soups, salads, and baked potatoes. Chives deter aphids from the garden.
- Tarragon is a perennial plant native to Europe and Russia. Tarragon needs moist soil and full sun and will tolerate infertile soil. The European tarragon has better flavor, but is an infertile plant. The Russian variety makes viable seed and is more weed like. Tarragon grows 2’ to 3’ tall and spreads out late in the season. It has long narrow dark green leaves on upright stalks sometimes with gray green flowers in the fall. European tarragon can be propagated by cuttings and division in the spring or fall. Divide every 3 or 4 years to keep the plant a manageable size. Mulch around and over the plant roots in fall to protect from winter cold. Harvest leaves throughout the growing season and dry for winter use. Cut a few inches from the ground and hang in bunches for 10 to 14 days in a warm dry place. Tarragon is a good companion plant to most other garden plants.
- Marjoram is a tender perennial native to the warm moist climate of the Mediterranean. Marjoram needs full sun and rich moist soil to thrive. In colder climates it must be grown as an annual. Marjoram is 12” to 18” high and has short branched squared stems with small oval gray green fuzzy leaves. Small white or pink flowers grow from little balls that grow out of the leaf clusters in mid summer. Mulch around the plants well to keep moisture in and weeds out. Seeds can be sown directly in the garden when the weather is warm enough, usually taking about two weeks to germinate. Marjoram can also be propagated by cuttings, layering, or division. Plants need to be about a foot apart. Marjoram is very fragrant and dries well. Harvest just before the flowers bloom by cutting the top half of the plant off. Marjoram is used in stuffings and sausages.
- Mints are a hardy perennial which can easily get out of control in the yard or garden if not confined in some way. They often reach 3’ in height and spread rampantly. Peppermint, spearmint, pineapple mint, and orange mint are just a few of the many varieties of mints. They prefer a moist rich soil and will do well in sun or shade. Mint has square stems and tooth edged leaves. Clusters of white or purple flowers bloom on the ends of the shoots from about midsummer on. Propagate by seed, or division. Divide old plants every three or four years. The leaves are very fragrant and may be harvested from spring through fall in warmer climates. Mint can be dried by cutting the stalks a few inches above the ground as soon as the flower buds appear. Hang to dry for 10 to 14 days in a warm dry spot. Mints are used to flavor candies, teas, meats, vegetables, and potpourris. Mint is a good companion plant to cabbage and tomatoes. Spearmint deters aphids from the garden. Peppermint and spearmint helps keep ants and flea beetles at bay and is good for keeping clothes moths out of the closet.
- Lemon Balm is a hardy perennial that grows to 48” high. It can grow in full sun to shade and in wet or dry soil. It has soft oval hairy yellow green leaves with scalloped edges and deep veined surfaces. Lemon balm spreads by seed and by runners produced after flowering, but its not invasive unless planted too close to another plant. You can plant seeds in fall or early spring, or propagate by cuttings or divisions. In full sun, lemon balm will be small and bush-like, but in shade it will be much taller and grow more sparsely apart. In summer the leaves will turn a duller green with white or pinkish flowers that make seed heads. Plants will die back in winter, but come back in the spring. The leaves have a mild lemon flavor and scent that can be used in salads, herbal teas, fruit punches, and potpourris.
- Oregano is a hardy perennial that is often called wild marjoram, because they are close relatives of the Mediterranean. Oregano grows from 18” to 30” tall with oval gray green hairy leaves and white or pink flowers in the fall. The plant does best in full sun with sandy and well drained soil. You may need to add a little lime or egg shell to the soil. Mulch around the plant and over it if winters are harsh. Oregano may be propagated by seed, cuttings, or divisions, but seeds are slow to germinate. Set plants at least 12” apart but up to 18” apart. To dry oregano, cut the stems and a few inches from the ground in the fall, just before the flowers bloom. Hang in bunches in a warm dry place for 10 to 14 days. Oregano is a good companion plant to most other garden plants.
- Lavender is a hardy perennial that requires full sun and well drained soil. Lime the soil some time before planting. Lavender grows from 12” to 30” depending on the variety. Propagate by using 2” to 4” cuttings from new growth in early summer or fall. You can propagate by seed, but they are very slow to germinate and very slow growing, as well. The best way to propagate is by dividing three year old plants in the spring. Plant any piece with roots, covering all of the woody stem with soil. Lavender is great for potpourri, bath oils, and also has medicinal value. Lavender helps keep aphids away from the garden and is good for keeping clothes moths out of the closet.
- Rosemary is a tender perennial evergreen shrub that grows from 2’ to 6’ high in warm climates, but must be grown as an annual in colder climates or taken indoors. Rosemary does well in containers in northern climates, which allows it to be moved indoors to overwinter. It has woody stems with needle like dull green leaves and blue flowers in the spring. It thrives best in warm climates and prefers a well drained alkaline soil that has had some lime or wood ashes added to it. Propagate rosemary by cuttings or divisions, as seeds are difficult to germinate. Harvest anytime for fresh use, or dry it for a winter supply. Rosemary is very fragrant and can be used for flavoring meat dishes and for bath oils and potpourris. Rosemary can be planted near sage, beans, broccoli, cabbage, and carrots. Rosemary helps keeps bean beetles, carrot flies, and cabbage moths away.
- Sage is a hardy perennial, native to the Mediterranean. It grows about 2’ high and has velvety textured gray green leaves with lavender flower spikes that bloom in the fall. The stems become woody as the plant grows and should be cut back periodically to keep the plant producing. Sage needs full sun and a well drained soil. Enrich the soil with compost and add a little lime or wood ash if necessary. Propagate by seed, cuttings, or division. Harvest sparingly the first season and freely after that. Leaves can be harvested at any time but at least a few times a year to keep the plant less woody. To dry, hang in bunches in a warm dry place for 10 to 14 days. Sage is mostly used to flavor meats and stuffings. Sage can be planted near rosemary, carrots, and cabbage. Keep away from cucumbers. Sage helps keep carrot flies and cabbage moths away.
- Thyme is an aromatic perennial herb that bees love, and is native to the Mediterranean. There are several varieties such as creeping thyme, common thyme, and lemon thyme. Thyme is one of the shortest herbs, only about 8 to 10” tall with small oval gray green leaves and pink or violet flowers in the fall. The stems become woody as the plant grows older. Thyme thrives best in full sun with sandy dry soil. It’s great to plant between stepping stones or in a rock garden. Propagate thyme by seed, cuttings, or divisions, but seeds are difficult to germinate. Plants should be spaced about 18” apart. Fertilize with a good compost and divide woodier plants in early spring. Harvest leaves throughout the growing season and dry for winter use. To dry, cut just above the ground when the flowers start to bloom and hang in bunches in a warm dry place for 10 to 14 days. Harvest sparingly the first year and freely after that. Thyme is used in stuffings, along with rosemary, and sage. Plant thyme with cabbage, which helps keep cabbage moths away.
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