Herb Starters ~ Looking to jump into the world of growing herbs? Then you’ve landed in the right spot. While many folks grow chives, basil, maybe even some oregano, beyond that herbs can be a mystery to both grow and use. In this series of posts, I’ll help you understand herbs and share tips to help you get started growing the ones you’re most interested in using.
Herbs have been used and written about since ancient history but providing an exact definition can be elusive. Botanically, herbs are often defined as an herbaceous plant with a non-woody stem (think chives). While that definition is easy to remember it overlooks many useful plants. Today, many herbalists think of herbs as any plant with fragrance, flavoring or medicinal value. Now that definition opens a world of possibilities to all of us, unleashing herbs popularity and their mystery. These wonderful plants are used by many people in many ways, leaving some of us baffled as to where to begin. So, a good first step to becoming a successful herb grower and user is to narrow your choices by first determining what you want to do with them.
When choosing my herbs, I like to think of them in the five following categories: culinary, fragrance, home medicine, pollinator attracting, and organic gardening herbs. I’m sure there are more ways to think of herbs, but this is a simple method that works for me. You’ll find that many herbs fall into more than one category, that’s their beauty!
In the following section, I’ll further define each category and provide some herbs to get you started. I’ve picked a mix of readily available herbs and some that might be new to you. Choose a few that are familiar but also explore something different!
Culinary (Kitchen) Herbs
Fresh pesto, rosemary/garlic potatoes, bruschetta, and lemon verbena spring water say SUMMER to me and my family. I can’t imagine not having a pot of fresh herbs on my deck to snip from whenever I want to add a zip to a meal or snack. While growing fresh herbs for flavor isn’t fool proof, it’s one of the easiest and most common ways to get going with herbs. A goal of cooking with fresh herbs a few times a week is a great way to get started. If this intrigues you, some great herbs are: Sweet Basil, Chives, Dill, French Tarragon, Lemon Verbena, Mint, Oregano & Marjoram, Parsley, Rosemary, Sage & Thyme.
Gardening with the intention of showy blooms or harvesting vegetables are both worthy causes, but once you focus on creating a fragrance filled garden you may never go back. The fragrance of herbs can calm and relax you after a stress filled day. They can also be that pick-me-up when you need a morning or morning energizer. You might choose to grow a few of these just to keep your nose happy: Scented Geranium, Mimosa, Lemon Verbena, Thyme, French Tarragon, Roses, Dianthus, Hyacinth, Juniper, Lavender, Lemon Balm & Peppermint.
Home Medicine Herbs
While herbs should never replace the benefits of a licensed health practioner, there are some herbs that can be used at home to aid what I call Mom Triage. You might consider learning more about herbs to help digestion, soothe sunburn, alleviate bee stings or the like. A few you may want to learn more about include: Yarrow, Aloe Vera, Burdock, Chamomile, Dandelion, Echinacea, Elder, Lavender, Lemon Balm, Peppermint
Pollinator Attracting Herbs
Bees, bees, bees….the world is talking bees and for good reason! Unless you live in a cave, by now I hope you’ve come around to how important it is for everyone to attend to the needs of pollinators. Even small spaced gardeners with short growing seasons can do their share. Many herbs are wonderful hosts and nectar providing plants for a variety of pollinators. Additionally, many will offer flavor and fragrance for you, the grower, in return. A few great pollinator friendly herbs to consider are: Borage, Sage, Salvia, Bee Balm, Zinnia, Parsley, Dill, Rose, Lavender, Violet & Mint
Organic Gardening Herbs
A final but often little known reason for growing herbs is to organically improve your garden soil and plant environment for your blooms and veggies. Many herbs act as natural repellents for bad bugs, attract good bugs, and provide nutrients that benefit the soil and nearby plants. I can’t wait to write a whole blog post on this. But for now if you’re interested in herbs that repel insects, you may want to get started with basil, catnip, chives, mint, marigold, nasturtium, alliums, tansy and rosemary. Herbs rich in a variety of nutrients include: borage, chamomile, dill, parsley, shiso, sunflower, tansy, garlic, dandelion and yarrow.
I hope this post has enriched your understanding of herbs and provided a bit of direction as to why you want to grow herbs. I’ll be back in a few days with the next post in the series, Herb Starters: Growing Seeds. Many herbs can be started from seed throughout the growing season… another reason why they’re so fun and functional!
Learn more about getting your herbs started:
More Than Oregano
Spicing Up Your Garden Life!
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