new to herbs with a question

diana1952April 17, 2008

I love all the wonderful scents of herbs. Plus I now know how much better my cooking is with fresh herbs. I want an herb garden but don't know where to start. How to design the garden what plants to get etc. Besides all that I will learn here, is there a good basics book to get? I live in boise so its very hot here in summers. Will I need to tranfer some in pots during winter so I can continue to have culinary herbs. Thank you for any advice.


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ksrogers(EasternMass Z6)

Your herb chocies are many, as are their planting requirements. Suggest you get a few books on the subject as well read through the many thousands of posts here.

    Bookmark   April 17, 2008 at 3:15PM
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Most new herb gardeners fall prey to the "I want it all!" syndrome (voice of experience). Start with herbs you can use and enjoy: sage, parsley (preferably flat-leaf Italian), oregano, thyme, rosemary.
Hot summer in Boise? Same here in Texas! So, parsley is a cool season crop and done by late June. Rosemary is perennial, as are the rest I mentioned. When you purchase your herb plants, get two of each. One goes in the ground, the other in a larger pot. That way you can protect some from harsh winter weather and see who survives outside.
Design your garden so you can reach each herb easily. The best ones I have seen are arranged like a wagon wheel, with the spokes being paths and the spaces between the spokes planted with herbs, and the "hub" of the wheel a tall herb, like a sweet bay tree or fennel. However, this is from a person who has stuck herbs all over the place and runs around the yard and garden with a basket to collect cuttings!
Best book for general growing I have found is Thomas DeBaggio's Growing Herbs from Seed, Cutting and Root.It is out of print, but still available at Craig Claiborne's Cooking with Herbs and Spices is a great book to give ideas on using herbs in recipes. It, too is out of print but should be available used at Alibris.
Growing herbs is so satisfying. You are off on a wonderful, tasty adventure!

    Bookmark   April 17, 2008 at 5:20PM
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I would add a tip or two.

1. Find out which herbs are annuals. If the label states tender perennial it probably should be treated as annual.

2. Some plants like basil do not do as well being moved indoors so plan on planting basil in late summer in a pot to move indoors. Thyme for me does not like to be moved.

3. Purchase several packages of seed of things like dill. So you will have a source of plants as some herbs are very short lived.

4. Check the internet and your local paper of an herb society and other plant groups. This is a nice way to trade things you don't like for something to try.

    Bookmark   April 17, 2008 at 7:25PM
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Forget about designing a herb garden. First, take a tour around a herb nursery, touch, smell and taste the ones that appeal to you. Then go to your local library, or search the internet, to find out about each one you liked.

That way, you'll know whether it has weed potential, what conditions it prefers, how big it will get etc. THEN you can buy seedlings and plant them in the appropriate places in your garden (sunny spot, shady spot, vege patch, pots etc).

You CAN, of course, have a special herb garden, but not ALL herbs will be happy there - and some might get a little TOO happy and threaten to take over!

Don't be afraid to plant suitable herbs amongst your ornamentals. Some herbs are very attractive indeed. Some herbs make excellent borders for garden beds.

Like most plants, herbs will grow where THEY want to - not always where YOU want them to! It's a matter of experimentation, really.

You could go to extremes as I have done, and have every plant in your garden a herb! Take a peek at the link below.

Here is a link that might be useful: Daisy's herb garden

    Bookmark   April 18, 2008 at 10:46AM
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fatamorgana2121(Zone 5/6)

Daisy gives some excellent advice. I would add this, start small. Gardens can, excuse the pun, always grow in size. But starting small allows you to learn while keeping maintenance and care at a manageable level. It also lets you start a garden while not paying out tons and tons of cash - especially for something you may end up not liking in your garden.

Also, garden clubs and other botanical/horticultural organizations all across the US are having all sorts of events this time of year. Find one in your location. Meet other gardeners, see their gardens, and perhaps get a few starts from them. Many times long-time gardeners offer up extras to people just starting or they can direct you to the best places to buy.


    Bookmark   April 18, 2008 at 11:18AM
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granite(z6 NC)

Daisy! Your garlic chives bloom PINK! I didn't know there were PINK ones, mine bloom white. Now I need to go look for pink garlic chives!

For the new herb gardener:
1. What herbs do you regularly use in cooking?
2. How much space are you planning to dedicate to your garden?
3. How much sun exposure will your garden area have?
4. Is your prospective garden situated where you will have easy access to watering?
5. What is your budget for the garden?

My answers to these questions and yours may be very, very different! Like Daisy, I have herbs growing all over my property, and a more formal herb "quilt" as the entryway to my veggie garden.

For cooking I like "hot and spicy" oregano, garlic chives, chives, garlic, winter savory, English and French thyme, Tarragon, parsley, rosemary, dill and basil. I have cilantro, but the variety I grow is too hot for my tastebuds. With the exception of parsley, dill, basil, and cilantro; these herbs are all perennial. I let my annual herbs go to seed in the garden and the only herbs that I've found that I need to reseed every year is basil; the rest all spring up in abundance. (Some for me, some for friends, and some for the compost heap). Rosemary can make a large bush so you may want to locate it in a flower bed. The cilantro and basil will need more frequent watering than the other herbs; in fact they are the only herbs I do water once the bed is established.

Check with your local botanical garden, garden club, etc to see the growing patterns of herbs in your area. Plants here in the south tend to get boisterous! Herbs are very rewarding to grow as they smell nice as you are working with them, don't need a lot of fussing (only the basil and cilantro will need regular watering and fertilizing), and appreciate a good "haircut" (removing up to 1/3 of the foliage at a time) for shaping as well as harvesting. Search the forum posts here, but don't be afraid to ask your questions.

Can you post a picture of your proposed garden site?

    Bookmark   April 19, 2008 at 5:14PM
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Granite, beautiful herb garden. I have garlic chives which bloom white and then some that bloom pink - mauve garlic chives. I might have some seeds saved from last year. Email me and I'll send you some.

    Bookmark   April 19, 2008 at 5:58PM
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Granite, beautiful herb garden. I have garlic chives which bloom white and then some that bloom pink - mauve garlic chives. I might have some seeds saved from last year. Email me and I'll send you some.

    Bookmark   April 19, 2008 at 6:14PM
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If I were starting a new herb patch, from scratch, here's what I'd plant:
ONE rosemary plant. It will grow into a small tree in no time, and you can decorate it with lights for Christmas.
ONE sage. It will sprawl and get contorted, then kind of wither after a few years.
ONE upright thyme, like English or Silver Queen. This will sprawl, but be evergreen, so you can use it all year in cooking. Word of caution: while preparing dinner in your home during a 'wine tasting party', do not instruct one of your inebriated guests to 'go into the garden and get some thyme', because they may retrieve a branch of your Knockout Rose, citing "it has leaves, and it's green." Really.
Hide the car keys.

ONE basil. It is an annual, and very fast growing, and soon it will be as large as a small rubber tree. Basil tastes bests when it is young, and gets bitter the larger it gets (in my humble opinion).
ONE peppermint. This needs to be in a pot, or else it will run roughshod over the entire garden, crawl up the deck, snake its way into the house, cover the furniture, chase the cat and eventually you will have to move out.
ONE catnip. This will lure all the roaming cats in the neighborhood into your yard to get high. Word on the street in the feline underground will be that you have the "good stuff."
ONE stinging nettle, so that each time you are working in your garden, and you brush up against it and it bites you, you can curse the "Herbs of the American Frontier"
book that made pioneer home remedies sound like a good idea.

These are some things you can try in your new garden!
Surely they've never actually happened to anyone. :)

    Bookmark   April 26, 2008 at 11:18PM
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fatamorgana2121(Zone 5/6)

Be sure to check zone hardiness for your location and any plants you select. I can not get rosemary to over winter here, even the most cold-hardy varieties. I'm not sure what zone you are in...

If rosemary is too tender for your location, I would add a rose to the garden instead. Find a nice rugosa rose. It is pretty hardy (to zone 3 or 4), produces large hips, and needs minimal tending/pruning. Roses were a staple in herb gardens for centuries. They provided essential oils and rose hips (high in vitamin C). Besides the beautiful blooms and fragrance, the rose plant will add a nice structure and focal point as well for your garden design.


    Bookmark   April 27, 2008 at 9:28AM
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Lavenderkitty, Thanks for the advice and the good laugh - I needed a bit of both.

    Bookmark   April 27, 2008 at 1:35PM
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Lavenderkitty- Great story...I especially like the thyme mix-up and the cat-chasing peppermint (LOL)

Does anyone have any pictures of their herb gardens? It would really help me (and I'm sure other newbies) to see some of your beautiful gardens, to get an idea how big the herbs get and how they grow with other plants. Roses are always nice, too! :)

    Bookmark   March 17, 2010 at 6:06PM
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Most important, as has been mentioned by almost everyone, is plant things you love to eat. If you have a sunny space be vigilant with rosemary  ours is threatening to take over our front door, and I'm wondering if I'm going to need a chainsaw to trim it back! It's horribly hot and humid here in Savannah and I've had curly parsley thrive all summer long, survive our winter, and then go to seed the following year. I always have some of that, as well as LOTS of dill, to share with the swallowtail butterflies. We also love basil and have 6 or 8 plants. The bees here swarm the basil flowers, so we let some of the plants flower for them. Put a bunch of basil leaves in the blender with some olive oil and freeze in ice cube trays for a taste of summer when it's icy outside. My sage came back for 3 years and then died last year, for reasons that are unclear to me. Thyme has been carrying on beautifully for 4 years, and I have oregano in a controlled raised bed so it can't take over anywhere else (it's like mint that way). I keep trying with chives, don't seem to do well for some reason, but haven't given up yet!

Plant what you enjoy eating, ask questions here, and keep on trying if something doesn't work out for you one year. It'll probably thrive next year... Good luck!

    Bookmark   March 18, 2010 at 8:35PM
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For herbs, I think you should have a dedicated raised bed.
I would not plant non-herb annuals in my herbs garden.
The only annual I plant in there are dills, cilantro, summer savory and basils(Dwarfs), which by my definition are "Herbs"
I also have these perenials:
=Thyme = sage = oregano = chives = winter savory = parsley.

I transplanted my Lavenders, lemon Balm and lemon verbena, rosemay
to another location by a walkway, as hedging. Because they get too large
and I have a small circular herb garden, about 6' in diameter.

    Bookmark   March 19, 2010 at 2:07AM
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fatamorgana2121(Zone 5/6)

mgpaquin, I've found sage not to be the longest lived of my herbs and especially so if conditions were not to its liking. Try again. But be aware that it does resent moist, rich garden soil. It prefers lean and well-drained soil.

Also from what I've read chives don't do as well in the deep south. It usually likes it cooler than conditions there allow. You could try another of the allium clan that is more tolerant of heat or try a different location in your gardens - one that is not in the full sun all day.


    Bookmark   March 19, 2010 at 8:30AM
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I've got mint growing with my mums, bergamot backing my daylilies, Basil fronting my gladiola bed, and lemon thyme along with mountain pinks edging the rocks along my little garden seat...

I admire the heck out of people who trim their lemon balm into celtic knotwork and fill the spaces between with different colored herbs...but it doesn't work for me, so the herbs are just mixed in like they're normal foliage plants that I can eat : )

    Bookmark   March 19, 2010 at 3:21PM
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fatamorgana2121(Zone 5/6)


chinacat, sounds like we have the same crazy-quilt gardening style. Herbs, veggies, ornamentals, and more all sharing garden beds. I do generally keep annuals together but that's about it. The rest is dictated by space and the plant's needs.

And I have to agree, knot work gardens are a beauty but I couldn't take doing that fussy sort of work myself!


    Bookmark   March 19, 2010 at 4:20PM
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Since the OP is from Idaho I think that any mention of rosemary other than treated as an annual should be tossed out the window. It is a nice dream that it can live where temps go below zero but that is all it is, a dream.

I would suggest perhaps a section given over to annual type herbs then interplant the rest where you have space. Summer savory is definately one that I agree with but I would also add lavendars to use in cooking. You give to places you live but will stick with Boise. Much of the soil should be well draining and many herbs should do well for you.

Chives of all types are nice to add to dishes or just on top for a little zest but like some of the others the seed will spread so cut the flowers off and use on top of salads or you will have them everywhere.

    Bookmark   March 19, 2010 at 10:18PM
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