Many of the plants that we grow – annuals, perennials or shrubs are herbs in the true sense of the word. Herbs can be used for a variety of purposes – adding that “natural” touch to food, medicines, dyes, essential oils for fragrances, pesticides and much more.
The Herb Society of America constructed the National Herb garden in 1980. It is the largest designed herb garden in any nation, and consists of perennial, annual and woody herbal plants.
Wouldn’t it be great if you could plant an herb garden yourself? Following are some tips that may make it easy for you to consider one:
The size of the herb garden: You need a very small plot (4 feet x 6 feet) in any corner of your surrounding. You can either plant the herbs directly on the available ground or choose containers to plant the herbs.
Caring for the herb garden: It is important to take care of herbs, especially during the changing seasons. You may need to maintain a consistency of temperature and take special care for the comfort of the plant.
What are the plants that are usually grown in a herb garden? You can pick any herb ranging from basil, borage, chervil, mint, chives, sesame to thyme. But remember that each plant has it’s own characteristics, and you need to understand the nature of the plant before opting for it.
Some herbs and their details for your herb garden:
BASIL (Ocimum basilicum): Known for its medicinal properties, Basil is one of the most attractive plants for a herb garden. You may choose to plant the seed directly in the garden in mid-May. Usually germination occurs in 7 to 10 days. You may even transplant it at a later stage. Basil is an excellent culinary herb and can add a distinct flavour to tomato juice and tomato pastes. It is also a remedy to cough and cold.
BORAGE (Borago officinalis): This is another annual and should be planted directly in the herb garden in mid May. It usually germinates in 7-10 days. If you’d like to transplant it, try it at an early stage when the plant is small. Borage is again a culinary herb that can provide tossed salads with an elusive flavour.
CHERVIL (Anthriscus cerefolium): Adding that exotic flavour to egg dishes, this herb usually germinates over the fall, and survives the winter. Plant it directly in your herb garden, and do not attempt to transplant it.
CHIVES (Allium scboenoprasum): Growing from bulbets, these are really easy to grow in your herb garden. Germinating in 10 days, they often resemble fragile spears of grass. They can be transplanted and grow well even during drought. You can use them to flavor all kinds of sauces, salads and egg dishes.
DILL (Anethum graveolens): Often used to flavor pickles or meats, this annual foliage can be grown directly in the herb garden or a container. They usually do not survive transplantation.
LAVENDER (Lavandula): Often used for the purpose of fragrance, Lavender is a hardy perennial. They can add variety to your herb garden, as they are a welcome break from culinary herbs.
MINT (Mentha spicata): Mints are hardy perennials that spread by roots. You may opt to sow them indoors, and later transplant them to your herb garden. They grow best in good rich soil. They add that popular flavour to lemonade and fruit juices, jelly and other edibles.
SESAME (Sesamum orientale): Sesame is used to flavor breads and cookies. They need warmth for germination (that takes around 3 to 7 days) and are usually planted in any herb garden in May.
THYME (Thymus vulgaris): Used for flavouring soups, this can easily grow from seeds in your herb garden. They germinate in 21 to 30 days and the growth is slow when young.
How To Store The Herbs:
Now that your herb garden has given you herbs for cooking or for garnishing in salads, you need to store them the right way.
To dry herbs for use in winter, chop the heads of the leafy varieties in midsummer. Wash them with cold water and hang them to dry. Tie the stems together and put them in a paper bag with head inside (leaf inside & the stems near the opening). Tie the bag, and keep it aside for 2 – 3 weeks. Then take the herbs out, crumble the leaves, place them in a pan in the oven and allow them to get warmed (but not over 100 degrees). You may also choose to dry them in the sun. Finally store them in airtight containers in a cool place.
Now that you know how to cultivate a herb garden and store herbs as well, go ahead and cultivate exotic herbs in your herb garden for that special evening to show off your gardening and culinary skills.