Part 1

"IT'S OUR GARDEN" By Elizabeth and Crow Miller

Your Herb Garden / Getting Started

The satisfaction of growing your own fresh herbs, which can be used through the summer months and dried for winter use, is well worth the small garden plot required. Where no garden plot is available, window boxes may be sued for such herbs as chives, parsley, rosemary and basil.

For those who would like to try some of the more popular types there are the pungent herbs: rosemary, sage and basil, dill, mint, sweet marjoram, tarragon and thyme; or herbs especially good in blends: chervil, chives, parsley and summer savory.

Seeds of the annual and perennial herbs are best planted in early March inside flats of well-composted soil set in a greenhouse, cold frame, or even a sunny window. They should be transplanted to your garden in May. Deep-soak the transplants in a mixture of seaweed and liquid fish, and provide a mulch of straw to hold moisture and stop weed growth.

Thin the seedlings after they have reached a height of about 3-inches, leaving approximately the same space between plants. It is best to thin seedlings in the late afternoon to reduce wilting of the remaining seedlings caused by root disturbance. Thin again when the seedlings have developed more abundant foliage and better root structure; space about 6-inches apart.

Here's a good idea, if you don't want to have all your herbs growing in one location, is to scatter some of the taller plants, such as sage, in with the flower garden for an interesting variation. Add lower, shrub-type herbs along borders and rock gardens, interspersed with lavender, nasturtium and marigolds; the first as food for the soul and the latter two for the stomach in salads (petals of the flowers and leaves of nasturtiums).

Annual herbs may be grown with the vegetable garden. A few feet of each of the annuals or half a dozen plants of the perennial will supply enough herbs for the average family.

The soil for planting should be prepared well in advance with compost. A pound of bone meal to each 15 square feet should be added for best results with perennials. A straw mulch is applied late in the fall will prevent winter injury and will aid in starting early spring growth. Sage, rosemary and thyme require a well-drained, moderately moist situation; parsley, chervil, and the mints give best results on soils that retain considerable moisture but have good drainage.

A few plants, such as sage, lemon balm and rosemary, can be propagated best by stem cuttings. Stems from the latest growth or the upper part of the older stems make the best cuttings and usually can be rooted easily late in summer or early fall. With a sharp knife, the stems should be cut into 3 to 4-inch sections, each containing a set of leaves or leaf buds near its upper end. The terminal and the intermediate sections root equally well. The leaf area should be reduced by about 2/3 by removing the larger leaves and allowing only the buds and young leaves to remain on the upper 1/3 of the section. To prevent wilting, the cuttings should be placed in water as soon as they are removed from the plant.

A shallow box filled with 4 to 6-inches of clean sand and fitted with a glass cover makes a good rooting bed. Insert the cuttings to a depth of 1/2 to 2/3 their length in the moist sand; pack firmly, and saturate the sand with water. Cover with glass so that a 1/2 to 1-inch opening remains along one side of the box for ventilation. Place the box in a protected, sunny place and keep moist, but not wet, at all times. The cuttings should be protected from direct sunlight by cheesecloth shades for the first week to prevent wilting. With good care, roots should appear in about 2-weeks, and in 4 to 6-weeks the cuttings will be ready to pot or to set in cold frames or in other places where they can be protected during the winter. Early in spring the plants can be transplanted to a permanent location. ,

Copyright · 1995/ Crow Miller, Syndication / Herbs / On-Line