Herbs are plants that are grown for the special flavor and aroma of their various parts. They are used mainly to season, enrich, or otherwise improve the taste or smell of certain foods. Since they are not classified as vegetables. Since their growth habits and cultural requirements are similar, herbs are often included with vegetables in the garden.
One of the best ways to enjoy year round gardening is to plant an herb garden. Herbs are easy to grow, they require very little care, and they don’t take up much room. Even if you don’t have a large backyard, you can still grow herbs successfully. A small garden bed, a window box, or even a few clay pots, can provide you with fresh, aromatic herbs year round. Herbs are rapid growers and they have a wide variety of uses in the home. They can be used either fresh or dried and when dried they’ll keep for long periods of time.
Herbs are fairly easy to grow. A good garden soil that’s free of weeds and close to a water supply will keep your herbs healthy and growing rapidly. If you can, plant herbs on a narrow strip of land, preferably at the border of your vegetable garden. This will keep your herbs easy to reach. If you scatter them across a wide garden plot, you’ll end up having to walk over the plants to reach and gather them unless you can provide some pathways within your garden. Of course, if you’re growing herbs in window boxes or clay pots, this won’t be a problem.
Dill is probably the easiest and the hardiest herb you can grow. It’s usually planted in late fall and early winter because of its ability to withstand cool temperatures. It may also be planted in the spring. Dill isn’t particularly fussy about its soil so any all-purpose soil that’s suitable for your regular garden vegetables is fine for dill. Another plus is that dill is rarely bothered by any diseases or insects. Fresh dill leaves add excellent flavor to salads and cream sauces, and as a dried herb, dill is well known for the distinct flavor it gives to pickles.
Another popular herb enjoyed by gardeners is sweet basil. This herb is an annual, and it can be replanted in the same area year after year. Basil is also used both fresh and dried. It is widely used as a flavoring for soups, meats and fish. One word of caution: don’t over plant this one. A few basil plants will usually provide more leaves and flowers than an entire family can use in a year.
A few plants, such as sage, balm, and rosemary can be propagated best by cutting. Stems from new growth or the upper parts of older stem make the best cutting for easiest rooting. Cut the stem into 3 to 4 inch pieces each containing a set of leaves or leaf buds near the upper end. To prevent wilting place the cutting in water as soon as they are removed from the plant. A shallow box filled with 4 to 5 inches of a mixture of clean sand, peat, and perlite makes a good root bed. Insert the cutting to a depth of one half-to two thirds their length in the moist mixture; then saturate the mix with water. Place the box in a protected place and keep moist (but not sopping wet) continuously until roots develop in about two weeks. Continue to water until the cuttings are ready to set out in pots or in the garden.
Such plants as thyme, winter savory and marjoram can be propagated by simple layering, which consist of covering the lower portion of the side branches with soil, leaving much of the top of the plant exposed. When the covered part of the stem have rooted, they can be cut from the parent plant and set as individual plants.
Older plants of chive, rosemary and tarragon can be multiplied by dividing the crown clumps into separate parts. These divisions can be set as individual plants.
Mint spreads rapidly by means of surface or underground runners that may grow several feet from the parent plant. The runners, with roots attached, can be removed and transplanted to other locations
Obviously, the list of herbs which grow very well in Florida is quite lengthy, so we won’t be able to go into all of them here. If you can keep in mind just a few points about herb gardens, maybe you can enjoy the virtues of some of these herbs yourself. Remember that herbs are generally very easy to grow and can be adapted to either outdoor garden or indoor container growing conditions. For just a small amount of effort, growing herbs can provide you with year-round gardening satisfaction.
For more information see UF/IFAS Gardening Solutions.