Dirt on Gardening

An herb bed is not complete without some annual herbs such as tarragon, basil and cilantro. There are also some “tender perennials” that are also nice additions to the kitchen and to the garden.

Most annual herbs need to be started indoors prior to planting outdoors. Some annual herbs can be seeded directly into the ground. Read the packaging for the herbs prior to planting. Or, purchase annual herbs that are already sprouted at your local garden center.

There are many different types of basil; it is one of the most diverse herbs. There is lemon scented and cinnamon scented basil. There is Thai basil (typically used in Asian cooking) and sweet basil (typically used in Italian cooking).

Due to its annual nature, some gardeners like to plant the purple and chartreuse forms of basil as an ornamental. Personally, I love my sweet basil for pesto, pizza, sauces and fresh summer dishes. Find a type of basil that you like to eat, and a few plants will keep you in basil all summer.

Tarragon is another herb that provides a lot of flavor for meats and salads. It’s a low growing plant with light green leaves.

I start my tarragon from seed prior to planting it outdoors in May.

Cilantro and parsley are two similar herbs that grow about two feet in height and provide fresh leaves to use in cooking. Both cilantro and parsley have a small, round seed that can be direct sown in the garden. Both plants will bloom at maturity and may drop seed that will sprout in the following year.

Speaking of sprouting from dropped seed, the herb, dill, is a great offender in this department. I don’t remember the last time I actually planted dill; I just wait for it to grow in some unusual place in the garden. Dill reaches three to four feet in height, and the feathery leaves can be used for cooking. Dill has large blossoms in the summer, and these are used for canning, especially in making pickles.

Dill seed is easy to recapture by tying a paper bag around the seed head before the seed falls off at maturity.

Two tender perennial plants that I like to grow each year are rosemary and lavender. I put them in the herb bed in large pots, and move the pots to a cool, sunny spot for the winter where I keep them regularly watered. The two herbs will grow large and shrub-like, but they are a nice addition to the pantry and the garden.

Many herbs, especially the annuals, can be grown right alongside the vegetables in the garden, but if you are going to invest in annual herbs, find a permanent spot to grow them.

Herbs are fairly low maintenance; they don’t require a lot of water or fertilizer. They do require a well-draining planting site, and you can enjoy the perennial herbs for many years.

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

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