Thursday, August 5, 2010

Growing herbs - just do it!

Growing herbs is so easy.  Many will grow easily from seed.  I just stick the seeds into a pot of seeding soil and water well.  They like full sun too.  I was nervous about basil in full sun but it did well - both sweet basil and the purple basil.
When the basil gets about 8-10 inched tall you can harvest it.  Best to go less on height, though, and more on flowering.  When the flower buds start to develop, that's a good time.  Next week's post is all about what to do with that harvest.  And some ideas for the flowers too if, like me, you didn't quite get there in time - its not a disaster!
The pot on the left shows the post harvest basil - it will grow back and I'll get another harvest from it.  The pot on the right has thyme at the back and sage at the front.  One of these may out compete the other.  The trick is to pick more of the fastest growing one.  I am hoping to harvest them as I need them year round.  I'm not sure what frost might do.  Same thing with tarragon which I've also paired with sage.  Tarragon chicken -yum!


I've either grown all my herbs either from seed or from cuttings out of  Al's garden, namely the chives and the Italian oregano (or marjorum).  Lavender and rosemary were hard to germinate but a couple of seeds did and really that's all I need - once these guys get started they are pretty prolific.  That is why, for now, I am growing all my herbs in pots.

Some day I may commit to planting them in the ground, but I've heard that they can take over. I've placed them at the edge of the back lawn so they catch some water from the sprinklers that may otherwise fall on concrete.  I hope to replace the grass lawn at the back with a chamomile lawn.  Has anyone done that?  Would you recommend that.  Please leave a comment with any tips.

I did buy the prettily variegated lemon thyme because I could not find seeds for it.  Something ate my lemon balm and I sowed more seeds.  I noticed dicotyledons which I hope are those seeds germinating.  The lemony herbs add an extra zest to a dish.

Rosemary finally germinated, having been planted at the same time as all the thyme and the sage.  Be patient though, two more germinated nearby, long after the first one. You can see one of them bottom left.
And in this shot you can just see the dicotyledons and the first true leaves  of the other in the top right.
I transferred the soil from the other 3 pots in the seeding six pack in case any of the other seeds decided to wake up and join the party. 

Lavender, I did plant directly into the ground.  It's a contained area bordered by rocks.

When these are both bigger, I hope to harvest year round from them too, so no need to dry or preserve them.

My cilantro (coriander) bolted in May and hasn't come back! I've been slack about resowing the pot, though I've been equally slack about deadheading or seed saving, so if the birds haven't eaten all the seeds they may sow themselves.

Cilantro doesn't preserve well so succession is the way to go to get a continuous supply.  I'm going have to put a reminder in my calendar to sow a few seeds each month.  Nip off the flowers for more leaves, or you can save the seeds and cook with those too.

Lemon grass goes well with cilantro, especially in Thai cuisine.  I started lemon grass from a stalk I bought in a grocery store back in February.  When the roots were at least a centimeter long I planted it, thankfully in a pot.  It has gotten huge and is a very attractive plant too.  All this is from two stalks.

Chives are such a handy herb - they lend flavor to either warm or cold dishes.  I practically ignore mine and they do well.  Even when they flower, I haven't found it to change the taste of the leaves.  They are a really pretty addition to any garden.  Here is a picture of some I took in Al's garden, mine of course are much smaller (not so private joke!)
In the background you can see Al's forest of Italian oregano.  He grows the Italian oregano (sometimes called marjoram), with white flowers and gave me some.  I  grew some oregano, with the purple flowers, from seed.  They look lovely when they all blossom together and the bees love them.  Just as the flowers are about to die back you harvest them at the base of the stalk.  You may have to fight the bees off!

And when the bees are done with the flowers the birds love, love, LOVE the seeds.  I five mocking birds gathered around the herb pots.  I'm hoping that they will snack on some protein too and take out any nasty bugs, grubs and slugs that may gather in the garden too. 

In next weeks post, I'll tell you how to dry the oregano and basil.

If you aren't lucky enough to have the Californian climate, trying growing herbs on your kitchen window still for a year long supply.  It's worth it for the fresh taste.

Byddi Lee

17 comments:

  1. I've been having a hard time growing herbs. But I don't give up easily.
    http://nycgardening.blogspot.com/2010/08/burpee-you-redeemed-yourself-yet-again.html"

    I'm still having a hard time growing Rosemary. Have not gotten them to germinate yet. How long did it take you?

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  2. I've always had a problem growing herbs in pots. I'm sure they'd do better for me if I had them planted in the ground, but I don't dare do that. They would definitely take over. Especially mint. NEVER plant mint in the ground. O_O The only herbs I have planted are rosemary and lavender. They grow in shrub form, and don't get away on you. And I really like the smell from them when it rains. :D

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  3. Wow, talk about adding spice to your life! I love the idea of a chamomile lawn- I planted a ton of it between stepping stones in a garden mixed with creeping thyme. They've grown about 10" tall, with cute yellow buttons floating over the top and mixing so well with the purple thyme flowers. It's watered with a micro spray from a drip system.
    One of my favorite things is to dead head the oregano- such an overwhelming, wonderful scent!

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  4. Mine used to always die in pots too Knya, until I discover fish emulsion - once a week - I do the fertilizer Friday thing I suppose. But it seems to be working!

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  5. Ah, I once got some chives and oregano divisions from a friend. I grow other herbs, too, but these two self-sow like crazy and I now have them everywhere. Every so often, I pull big bunches of them up to get them back under control, but mostly I love them. -Jean

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  6. I agree, herbs in the garden are a must, and pots work great. I've only really had two herbs completely run amok when planted straight in garden soil, the garlic chives (that took over an entire planting bed), and the dreaded mint, which could swallow an entire yard. For me at least, rosemary has done better either in a very large pot (like a half wine barrel as it matures - I've had them grow that big), or direct in the soil. As for basil, there can never be too much. When life gives you basil...make pesto! :P

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  7. The best thing about weeding out herbs is that they smell lovely!

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  8. Wow! You are growing a lot of fabulous herbs! I'm with you on keeping them in pots. My herb garden is a patio garden. I worry about them taking over in the veggie patches. The purple basil looks good!

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  9. Chive blossoms make a wonderful lite vinegar-great for salads; also helps them from reseeding. Good luck to you with these,I'm sure you'll enjoy cooking even more!

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  10. I found your blog through BloggUp! Glad I did, I really enjoy it. I just started growing my own basil in the window & love it! More herbs will come, it's kind of addicting. :)

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  11. Hey Julie - glad you like the blog - you're right about getting addicted to growing herbs... next thing you know you'll be building raised beds!

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  12. @ Gardening Jones - Great idea - thanks for the tip!

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  13. I couldn't agree more with the recommendation to grow herbs -- wherever you want, in a pot, in the ground (except, yes, Kyna, for mint). My favorites are basil and chives. Basil is an especial favorite of the bees, too. I know an organic farmer who plants basil all 'round the perimeters of his fields!

    And here, parsley is such a welcome sight in the midst of winter, all bright and green when everything else is dormant or dead. Much needed to give an intense lift of fresh to cold-weather comfort food like soups and stews. :)

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  14. I've had a nightmare trying to get Rosemary to grow. I just don't seem to get any germination. Oh well, there's always next year.

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