MANY of the plants we
grow such as annuals, perennials, shrubs and trees are
herbs in the true sense of the word. With increased
interest in recent years in continental or gourmet cooking
the word "herb" is nearly always thought of by home
gardeners to mean the "culinary" herb.
The Herb Garden
The herbs I have grown
are listed below with instructions for growing them.
Perhaps inexperienced gardeners as well as those who
have not yet had the pleasure of growing these interesting
plants will give some thought to starting a small herb
garden. Some people even start an indoor herb garden in their kitchen. Even a small plot 4 by 6 feet will grow all
a small family would need. If not grown for use in cooking,
herbs are worth growing for pleasant aromatic foliage
and some of them for the beauty of the flowers as well.
Herbs can be used fresh for garnish in salads and to
perk up the flavors of bland vegetables or to add flavor
to meats and stews in which case one needs only to nip
off a few leaves when wanted.
To dry herbs for winter
use cut off tops of the leafy varieties in midsummer
and wash them off with cold water. Hang them up just
long enough for the drops of water to evaporate, then
tie the stems together and place in a paper bag with
stem ends at the opening and close the bag with a rubber
band. Use a paper clip as a hook through the band and
place the other hooked end over your line where you
are going to hang the herbs to dry, indoors. After 2
or 3 weeks remove from paper bags, crumble the leaves
and place on a shallow pan and dry out in the oven with
the setting at "warm" or at least not over 100 degrees.
Some herb enthusiasts dry them by spreading them out
on trays or sheets of hardware cloth covered with cheese
cloth and place in a dry area. To dry seed heads allow
them to grow until seeds are mature and ready to drop
from the plant. Cut seed heads on a very dry day and
spread on clean paper (not newspaper). It is better
to keep them in the sun the first day as little insects,
which may have been secreted in the heads, will leave
as the seeds dry out. Store herbs in glass jars or other
airtight containers in a cool place.
HERBS TO GROW FROM SEED
BASIL, SWEET (Ocimum
basilicum) Both green and 'Dark Opal' basil are attractive
plants for the garden. I prefer to plant the seed where
it is to grow directly to -the garden in mid-May. Germination
usually occurs in 7 to 10 days. Basil is not difficult
to transplant. Grows to 18 inches; space 12 inches between
plants. 'Dark Opal' has beautiful deep red foliage and
lovely pink flowers and is excellent to use along a
walk or as a solid bed for decoration in the garden.
Basil is very good to use to flavor tomato juice and
officinalis) This has pinkish blossoms which turn
blue like the perennial pulmonaria. It is an annual
and should be planted directly to the garden in early
May in the North. Growing to 2 feet it should be spaced
10 inches apart. Germinates in 7 -to 10 days. Resents
transplanting except when quite small. It is excellent
used in tossed salad to add a most elusive flavor.
cerefolium) Although this plant will germinate in
the fall and live over the winter I would advise the
inexperienced gardener to grow it as an annual, sowing
the seed to the garden in mid-May (in this area). Grows
to 2 feet and should be spaced 8 inches apart. Grows
quickly and is mature in 6 weeks. Resents transplanting.
Fresh leaves can be frozen in small packets after washing
carefully. Excellent to flavor egg dishes.
scboenoprasum) This is a perennial plant growing
from bulblets. They are really very easy to grow from
seed. Mine, started under the fluorescent lights as
well as in the greenhouse in the spring germinated in
10 days. The tiny little plants look like fragile spears
of grass. When transplanted they wilt slightly. Even
during a continued drought they grow very well. Mature
plants grow to 12, inches; space 6 inches apart. They
are very hardy even in cold locations. Flowers are pretty
enough so that chives can be grown as a border or in
the rock garden. Fine in salads, egg dishes and sauces
of all kinds. Potted up, chives will grow on a sunny
windowsill in winter.
graveolens) This is an easily grown annual with
feathery foliage. Blossoms are tiny and pale yellow.
Grows to 21/2 feet in my garden and germinates in 7
to 10 days planted at the same time as tender vegetables.
Resents transplanting. May be spaced as close as 4 inches
apart. Self-sows readily. Fine for use in pickling and
to flavor meats.
I have had excellent success with germinating seeds
of lavender giving a four-week pre-chilling period in
the coldframe before bringing into the greenhouse with
germination in 14 days. This year sown under the lights
the seeds germinated in 15 days with no pre-chilling
period. This is a hardy perennial with gray foliage
and spikes of fragrant lavender flowers, which when
dried are used to perfume the linen chest and for sachets.
Dry easily when hung free in a dry garage or attic.
(Majorana hortensis) This is a perennial in frost-free
sections of the South but is grown as a hardy annual
in the North. Sow seed indoors with germination in 7
to 10 days. Grows to 12 inches; space 6 inches apart.
Plants may be potted up and grown in the greenhouse
or sunny window over -the winter. Adds a delicate flavor
to lamb, fish, salads and soups.
spicata) This mint is very easy to grow. It is a
hardy perennial and spreads by root stolons. Sown indoors
seed germinates in 10 to 15 days. It grows to 2 feet
and is rather sprawling, in habit. Space 12 inches apart.
Is at its best in good rich soil. Fine to use for mint
jelly and in mint juleps, lemonade and other fruit drinks.
SAGE (Saivia officinalis)
This is a hardy perennial in our location and is often
grown in gardens for its pretty foliage and spikes of
bluish flowers. Seed sown indoors germinates in 14 days.
Grows to 2 feet and should be spaced 12 inches apart.
Can be sown outdoors in May with germination in 21 to
30 days. Fine herb for dressings for chicken, turkey,
pork and for flavoring sausages.
(Satureja bortensis) This is an easily grown
annual being best planted in mid-May in our location
directly to the garden where it is to grow with germination
in 7 to 10 days. Grows to 12 inches tall; space 5 or
6 inches apart. Good to flavor fish dishes, beans and
orientale) This herb has whitish colored leaves
and pretty pink flowers. Needs warmth for germination
and should not be planted into the garden until -the
soil and air are very warm; about 70 degrees. This would
be in late May in our location. Germination will take
place in 3 to 7 days. Although they grow 21/2 to 3 feet
they need but 9 or 10 inches between plants as they
do not branch. Seeds are used to flavor breads, crackers
THYME (Thymus vulgaris)
This is a hardy perennial being of somewhat shrubby
growth. Leaves are cut for drying before the blossoms
are open. It is easily grown from seed sown indoors
with germination in 21 to 30 days. Grows slowly when
young. Grows to 12. inches; space 8 inches apart. It
needs rich soil. Thyme is used for flavoring soups and