Novice At Growing Herbs

jmcdmdJanuary 17, 2009

I've never grown herbs before but plan to this spring....or even sooner if any can be done indoors.

I'm looking for any info that would include:

1) Websites to visit for information

2) Best places to obtain herbs (online or a specific nursery)

3) Easy to grow must-have herbs (for eat/drink only....don't care about medicinal)

4) Herbs that I probably would want to avoid because of their difficulty to grow successfully in the Lower Midwest/South.

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txaggiegirl(TX 8b)

1) The Herb Society of America
2) I have had really positive response from Joy Creek Nursery and they have a really economical pricing, decent variety, and some good information links.
3) Rosemary, thyme, sage, oregano, chives, parsley (flat-leaf, NOT curley), dill, and any herbs that are used in regional cooking. For instance, we are addicted to pesto so I keep 30 types of basil and have moved out all but the minimal vegetables to grow them. I must also have coriander, Texas Tarragon, cuminm epazote, tomatillos and a few mild peppers.

The HSA lists more than 2,000 herbs. I like to have different varieties of oregano, for instance, because one variety may be better for cooking at one time of the year than another. This you will have to determine for your garden, usually based on the type of cooking you enjoy and what variety works in your climate best.

4) I have difficulty here in central Texas with the rampant herbs, such as garlic chives and the groundcover oregano (often called Texas oregano). I have to keep my lemon verbena in a pot and I have a real challenge with keeping true tarragon viable in the heat. The nice thing about having so many options available, is that you can choose alternative varieties or species to achieve the same end result.

Other notes:
Include plants for pollinators, such as wildflowers for your area...just see which ones are edible. Squash is also to be included as much for the blossoms, as the vegetable.

As hard as I have tried -- and I have been growing herbs for almost 40 years -- I can not train myself to use those dried things from the store. I am now totally spoiled by fresh herbs and the difference it makes, not only in our health, but in the quality of the cooking. Beware! This herb thing can be addictive.

Good luck! MaryAnn

    Bookmark   January 17, 2009 at 11:37AM
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(3) all herbs, when taken as a tea, have a medicinal effect. In fact, the usual dosage for an adult of herbal tea is 1 cup per day. So, if you're drinking a cup of herbal tea, you're taking a medicine, whether you need it or not.

As with all medicines, there are contraindications, interactions, unwanted side effects. Whichever herbs you choose, you need to do some homework to find out about their medicinal uses BEFORE you drink the tea (don't be guided by their availabililty on supermarket shelves!!). Some herbs can affect individuals even in culinary amounts.

Just be cautious.

(4) Your local nursery may have some herbs which are likely to do well in your area. It really helps to know where any herb originates from - so you can provide the conditions it prefers in its natural habitat. Again, more homework.

    Bookmark   January 17, 2009 at 4:07PM
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karen_b(6a s.c. PA)

Have you thought about which herbs you might be interested in using? If not, you may want to think about that first. Once you have decided which herbs you will actually use in your everyday menus then decide are you going to grow the herbs in pots or a garden. Then your best bet for determining which of those herbs will grow best in your area "google" the herb and also you may want to add a list of those herbs on this thread for others to comment on exactly.

As Daisy mentioned for the herbs that will most likely do best in your area check out your local nurseries.

In most areas, with at least 6 hours of direct sun and good soil, most herbs will grow sufficiently for your home use. The rest is trial and error and don't be afraid to try something new.

In the herb classes I've given for our local Master Gardeners I've often recommended starting with annuals like parsley (technically a biennial), basil, cilantro, Salvia elegans (pineapple sage) and a few easy to grow perennials such as chives, oregano, thyme, and mints (in container only). All except the annual sage are easy to start from seed. Of course these are only a few but the easiest to grow and they are all readily used in everyday cooking & teas.

    Bookmark   January 18, 2009 at 12:21AM
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One way to plan your herb garden is to make a list of the herbs you regularly use by taking inventory of the herbs in your kitchen cabinet.

*ANISE. Use licorice-flavored seeds for cookies, candy, meat, soup; leaves for stews, salads, meat.
Grow: Best to sow in place, thin to 6-8 inches apart, full sun. Slow growing.
 Harvest: Harvest seed about 1 month after flowers bloom.

*BASIL, Sweet. Use leaves in tomato dishes, pesto, spaghetti sauce, soups, vegetables, stews.
 Grow: Easy to grow. Sow seeds in place after last frost or start inside and transplant; full sun; space 12 inches apart. Pinch tips to grow bushy.
 Harvest: Harvest leaves just before flowering begins; cut plants 4-6 inches above ground.

*BORAGE. Use cucumber-flavored leaves in salads, flowers in soups, stews.
 Grow: Sow seeds in place; difficult to transplant; space 12 inches apart in sun or filtered sun.
 Harvest: Harvest young leaves before flowers open.

*CARAWAY. Use seeds to flavor breads, cheese, cakes, salads, soups, stews; leaves for salads.
 Grow: Sow seeds in place, space 8 to 10 inches apart.
 Harvest: Harvest leaves when mature; seeds will form second season, harvest a month after flowering.

*CHERVIL. Use fresh or dried leaves in salads, soups, fish, poultry, vegetable dishes. Use in sauces: béarnaise, vinaigrette, rémoulade, sauce verte.
 Grow: Sow seeds in place or start indoors in pots, keep soil moist, partial shade, space 6 inches apart. Easy to grow indoors, does not require direct sun.
 Harvest: Pick leaves just before flowering. Tender leaves may be dried.

*CHIVES. Give an onion/garlic flavor to salads, soups, eggs, sauces, sandwiches. Make chive butter
 Grow: Grow from seeds or divide the clumps; full sun; space 5 inches apart. Will grow in kitchen window
 Harvest: Clip leaves close to ground.

*CILANTRO - CORIANDER. Use leaves similar to parsley in fish dishes, soups, curries, Mexican dishes. Use crushed seeds in pastries, sauces, curries, shellfish platters.
 Grow: Easy to grow. Sow seeds in place in early spring; full sun or filtered shade; thin to 6-10 inches apart.
 Harvest: Pick leaves when plants are 4 to 6 inches tall. Fresh leaves are called cilantro. Harvest seeds called coriander in midsummer when they begin to turn brown.

*DILL. Use slightly bitter seeds in pickles, sauces, meats, salads. Dill weed (the plant's leaves) is used as a bouquet in salads, potatoes, tartar sauce, and butter dishes.
 Grow: Sow seeds in place in spring; full sun; well-drained soil; thin to 12 inches.
 Harvest: Pick fresh leaves when flowers open; gather seeds when brown.

*FENNEL, SWEET OR COMMON. Use licorice-flavored seeds in breads, cheese spreads, vegetable dishes, and potatoes. Drop a few seeds in vinegars.
 Grow: Sow in place; full sun; thin to 12 inches apart; stake when tall.
 Harvest: Pick stems just before flowers bloom. Seeds can be dried.

*MARJORAM, SWEET. Sweet-spicy leaves complement flavor of salads, omelets and eggs vinegars, rub on pork, veal; use like oregano.
 Grow: Perennial treated as an annual. Sow seeds in place or start indoors and transplant when danger of frost is past.
 Harvest: Harvest young at any time, mature leaves before flowers bloom.

*OREGANO. Use dried or fresh leaves in tomato sauces, beans, cheese, soups, roasts, vegetable dishes such as zucchini.
 Grow: Start seeds indoors or divide already established plant; full sun; thin to 10 inches apart. Grows well in containers.
 Harvest: Gather fresh leaves as needed; leaves can be dried.

*PARSLEY. Use as garnish, whole leaves or minced.
 Grow: Biennial. Soak seeds in warm water 24 hours before planting; plant in partial shade; thin to 6-8 inches apart.
 Harvest: Pick from first year plants, good-sized, not yellow, leaves when needed. Leaves can be dried.

*PEPPERMINT. Leaves in tea, jelly, sauces; sprigs in sauces, summer drinks.
 Grow: Start from root divisions or cuttings, space 8-10 inches apart; sun or shade. Contain spreading by growing in containers. Renew every 3 to 4 years.
 Harvest: Cut springs or leaves frequently.

*ROSEMARY. Sprinkle fresh or dried for lamb, pork, veal, sauces, and soups. Use as a rub for veal, lamb, and chicken.
 Grow: Propagate from slips or seed.
 Harvest: Gather leaves and sprigs as needed.

*SAGE. Use fresh or dried leaves for stuffings, rabbit, chicken, roast turkey, baked fish, pork chops and meats, eggs or vegetables. Slightly bitter flavor.
 Grow: Start from seeds or stem cuttings or divide established plants; full sun; space 30 inches apart. Slow to begin growing. Renew every 3 to 4 years.
 Harvest: Harvest leaves before flowering. Cut back after blooming.

*SAVORY, SUMMER. Use in salads, soups, eggs, dressings, poultry dishes, fish, with vegetables. Goes well with beans
 Grow: Sow seeds in place after danger of frost is past; full sun; space 6-8 inches apart. Easy to grow.
 Harvest: Gather leaves before flowering.

*SPEARMINT. Use as garish on fresh fruits, ices, summer drinks.
 Grow: Start from root division or cutting; sun or shade; space 8-10 inches apart. Renew every 3 to 4 years.
 Harvest: Cut springs or leaves frequently.

*TARRAGON, French. Use leaves for fish, shellfish, poultry, veal, meat, eggs, vegetables; salads, sauces and marinades.
 Grow: Start from cuttings, root pieces, or seeds; can take partial shade; space 12 inches apart. Protect in cold-winter regions.
 Harvest: Gather leaves before flowering.

*THYME. Use leaves in soups, gumbos, chowder, salads, omelets, vegetables, meat; has warm, clove-like flavor.
 Grow: Start from seeds indoors or in place; propagate from cuttings, space 10-12 inches apart; prefers dry soil and full sun. Renew every 3 to 4 years.
 Harvest: Clip off tops when plant is flowering.

    Bookmark   January 18, 2009 at 7:51AM
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francescod(6b/7a VA)

Note: French Tarragon is seed sterile. Seeds offered in catalogs as French Tarragon usually turn out to be Russian Tarragon which looks very much like French Tarragon but is totally useless as a culinary herb and can become invasive. Sometimes seeds sold as Tarragon turn out to be the substitute, Tagetes lucida, aka Texas Tarragon/Winter Tarragon/Sweet Marigold and is actually a marigold that has some flavor characteristics of the real French Tarragon.
French Tarragon is exceptionally cold hardy in a dry spot but will rot if the roots stay wet in either summer or winter. Tarragon can survive in areas that only get a foot of rain per year-so it likes very well-drained soil in wetter areas. It will do better in areas that have a period of time near or below freezing. Plants that don't come back the following year usually died before winter cold set in due to fungal disease or root rot.

Dill and cilantro are very short lived annuals. They may only provide leaves for up to 8 weeks or so. Less in hot weather, more in cooler weather. It is best to plan to sow more than one crop during the growing season to ensure a harvest throughout. Once the flower stalk starts all the plant's energy is devoted to making seed and foliage harvest ends.

    Bookmark   January 20, 2009 at 8:09PM
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