Dirt on Gardening

Many cooks use herbs as a way to season or flavor food without adding a lot of salt.

Herbs and a vegetable garden also go hand in hand because most herbs are ready to be picked about the same time that fresh vegetables are ready, so they can easily be added as a complement to fresh dishes or items that will be canned.

When I began gardening on my farm two decades ago, an herb bed was one of the first things I started. I do not take the time to dry my herbs, but I do like to use them when they are fresh.

However, herbs can be dried and used in many different ways. Many of the perennials herbs will remain useable until early winter and begin growing again in early spring.

Oregano is an herb that is a perennial, which means that it comes back year after year. It is low growing and forms a thick mat of sprouts. Oregano blooms in early summer, and bees and other insects are attracted to its flowers.

Spearmint is another herb that forms a thick mat of green sprouts. It also blooms in the summer, attracting lots of pollinating insects.

Oregano and spearmint are two herbs that, once started in the herb bed, can be shared with your gardening friends; they will spread, and spread and spread. You will definitely have to teach them who is boss of the garden, but you will have the payoff of fresh oregano and spearmint to flavor your dishes and drinks.

Perennial sage is also a wonderful accompaniment to the herb bed. Perennial sage is not low-growing; it has a woody stalk with branches covered in light green colored leaves. Perennial sage reaches about two feet in height. It blooms a small purple flower in summer. This plant is not likely to spread in the garden.

Thyme is another herb that is a low growing perennial. Thyme grows in small mounds that spread to about a foot in diameter after planting. Thyme will return year after year, and it also has a small white bloom in the summer months.

Chives are one of the first herbs to pop up in the perennial bed each year. A chive plant sends up long thin shoots that look similar to onion seedlings. These shoots can be cut and will re-sprout throughout the growing season. In the spring, the chive plant will also grow a round, pink blossom at the top of the plant.

In my next column, I will cover additional herbs and herb growth facts.

Questions or comments related to gardening? Contact Joleen at missourigardener@hotmail.com

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