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Grow Your Own Herbs

A Beginner's Guide

Question: I have always had a traditional type of vegetable garden (tomatoes, squash, peppers, beans, etc.) but this year I'd like to try growing some herbs. I am interested in the culinary ones, especially, thyme, sage, basil, oregano, mint and chives, but I'd also like to understand more about the medicinal ones, especially comfrey. What do I need to know to begin? Also, are there any herbs that repel deer?

Answer: You have already taken the first step to adding herbs to your garden and harvest this season by listing what you desire to grow. The next step is to figure out if you can provide the right conditions for them (i.e. space, sun, soil, and water). To do this, check in a good herb gardening book for those helpful symbols of sun, drops of water, zones, etc. or because all the ones you want are easy to find in local nurseries, look for the information on the little tags in the herb pots. Herbs can be planted in a space dedicated as an herb garden or they can be tucked into perennial beds, displayed in pots or used for borders.

Everything you want to grow is a perennial for our climate except the basil which will be an annual, meaning you will have to replant it every year. Because the plants will gradually grow larger, make sure to give them enough space to expand. One of the best experiences of gardening is to enjoy these well-established herbs as companions in the garden and kitchen through the years.

As for medicinal herbs, I'd suggest the same approach. Pick one or a few that are of particular interest to you and learn what conditions they need. I think we get used to thinking of herbs as little, tender plants, but be prepared to see herbs from a different perspective. Botanical medicine can come from flowers, leaves, roots, seeds, nuts and even tree bark. Comfrey is good for wound healing, and is a beautiful plant of substantial size (3-4 feet tall). Among others, Echinacea, chamomile, skullcap, and St. Johns Wort grow well here, but some herbs come from tropical climates like gotu kola, ginger and passion flower. They may require some special care but are well worth it. It is a learning experience to understand what it takes to make an herb grow and an unforgettable experience when an herb is useful and helps your health to improve.

As for the *&#$!! deer.excuse me, but I myself am seeking solution to the same problem. I have most recently observed that though there is not a tulip to be admired from the many bulbs I planted last fall, the herbs remain untouched by those pesky, nimble nibblers. Here is a list of what is thriving in spite of them.

Lavender, lovage, chives, salad burnet, oregano, mint, Echinacea, sage, sorrel, rosemary, thyme, garlic, blood root, fennel, spikenard, parsley, motherwort, St. Johns Wort, black cohosh, blue cohosh, valerian, comfrey, lemon balm, raspberry, and rue.

There are so many fascinating aspects to herb gardening, it is worth it to take some classes which are available through Millcreek Herbs and Red Butte Garden. Check the upcoming schedule at www.millcreekherbs.com.


Merry Harrison, RH(AHG) is a clinical herbalist, teacher, author and wildcrafter.
For class schedule and to ask questions: www.millcreekherbs.com




Reprinted with permission: Catalyst Magazine


Other articles for the garden...

Growing herbs From Seed  •   Acquiring Medicinal/Culinary Herbs  •   Unusual Culinary Herbs  •   The Garden You Didn't Plant
Exotic Garden Herbs  •   Harvesting Your Herbs  •   Mint  •   Repelling Pests  •   Fall Gardening Tips
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