Herbs, with their multitude of uses, enhance gardens by adding color, interesting forms, and rich or subtle fragrances. An essential addition to many recipes, herbs are easy to grow and well worth the effort. Plant your herbs where you can get to them easily for frequent harvesting such as in the garden or in containers or window boxes. You can keep them in your vegetable garden or plant them in a special show-off bed of their own. If you plant perennial herbs in the vegetable garden, set them off so they'll be easy to avoid during spring and fall tilling.
Herbs may be annuals (started from seed each year, as is basil), biennials (requiring 2 seasons of growth to produce fully, as with parsley), or perennials (that grow back year after year, like chives). Despite these basic differences, most herbs require the same growing conditions: a minimum of 6 hours of sunlight per day, excellent soil drainage, and moderately rich, friable soil. All herbs will benefit from a little fertilizer added to the soil. Use 1-1/2 to 2 pounds of 5-10-10 or its organic equivalent per 100 square feet during soil preparation a day or two before planting. Many herbs will get tall and leggy with higher fertilizer amounts; compact, bushy plants usually produce more essential oils for herb flavor. Growing herbs, like cooking with herbs, is often a process of trial and error. If a plant is not growing well in a particular location, dig it up and try it in a new location. Early spring, just as new growth begins, is a good time to move many perennial herbs.
Article published on June 23, 2008.