Herbs are plants with many talents. Not only do they smell good and look beautiful, they are easy to grow, and they taste good.
Some herbs planted around the vegetable garden can enhance the crop's growth and flavor, help prevent disease, and even deter unwanted pests.
With all of these wonderful attributes, how could you go wrong by hoeing up a spot for them in the garden?
To grow herbs, just pick a sunny place with well-drained and enriched soil. Many herbs grow well in container gardens or window boxes.
Plant herbs on an overcast day and when the soil isn't too wet. Pop the herb starts out of their containers with the root ball intact. Fluff the roots before plunging the root ball into the prepared hole. Water the plants and give them a shot of a balanced fertilizer.
Keep them pinched back and pruned because once they flower, they go to seed. Cutting them back on a regular basis also gives them a nice shape.
Weed the herbs occasionally throughout summer. Twiggy plants like lavender, sage, and thyme usually don't need a lot of water. Herbs with soft growth and leaves like angelica and mint may require extra moisture during dry spells.
Basil, lemon verbena, chive, parsley, oregano, rosemary, and marjoram are good choices for any beginning herb garden.
Pest problems in the garden? Marigold, nasturtium, and rosemary can deter Mexican bean beetles. Purple ruffle basil or oregano planted near tomatoes will repel insects, and chive planted around rose plants will also chase pests.
Chive, garlic, and nasturtium have been known to deter aphids. Tansy is good for chasing away ants, beetles, and flying insects.
Mint prevents cabbage moths and ants, and improves the vigor and flavor of cabbage. Use thyme around a strawberry patch to fend off worms.
When you're ready to harvest herbs, be careful to avoid using any part of a poisonous plant. Some plants have many usable parts, including flowers, leaves, stems, seeds, bark, and roots.
Leaves are the most common part used. To harvest them, pick clean dry, undamaged leaves. The best time is midmorning just before they flower. Freeze them immediately, or dry them in bunches in a warm, dust-free spot out of the sun. It takes about four to 10 days for them to become brittle. Then store them in an airtight jar in a dry cupboard.
Timing is important to keep flowers intact. Flowers contain the most active ingredients when they first fully open. That is the time to collect them. Look for blooms that are unblemished and in good shape. Pick them when they are dry in midafternoon.
When you pick them, cut the stem and avoid touching the petals. Always throw dirty flowers on the compost pile. Washing them will ruin the texture. Transport them in an open basket.