"IT'S OUR GARDEN" By Elizabeth and Crow Miller
Your Herb Garden / Growing And Caring For
Plants like thyme, winter savory and pot marjoram can be increased by simply covering some of the side branches with soil and then, after rooting, cut from the parent plant and set as new plants.
The mints spread rapidly by means of surface or underground runners that may grow several feet from the parent plant. As new plants spring up, they can be separated and replanted or left to spread in clumps.
The seeds, leaves, flowering tops, and sometimes the roots of the different plants are used for flavoring purposes. The flavor of the herbs lasts longer if they are dried and properly cured and stored. The young, tender leaves can be gathered and used fresh at any time during the season, but for winter use they should be harvested when the plants begin to flower and should be dried rapidly in a well-ventilated, darkened room. If the leaves are dusty or gritty, wash with cold water and drain thoroughly before drying.
The tender-leaf herbs; basil, rosemary, tarragon, lemon balm and the mints, which have a high moisture content, must be dried rapidly away from the light if they are to retain their green color. If dried too slowly they will turn dark or mold. For this reason a well-ventilated, darkened room, such as an attic or other dry, airy room, furnishes ideal conditions for curing these herbs in a short time.
Harvesting of the seed crop is done when mature or when their color changes from green to brown or gray. After curing for several days in an airy room, a day or two in the sun before storing will insure safekeeping.
As soon as the herb leaves or seeds are dry they should be cleaned by separating them from stems and other foreign matter and packed in suitable containers to prevent loss of the essential oils that give them teir delicate flavor.
Basil: Plant seeds early in spring 3-feet apart, 12 to 15 to the foot, and cover to a depth of 1/2-inch. Thinning the plants is not necessary; grorth is quite rapid and when plants begin to flower cut 6 to 8-inches above ground to provide for drying. Bring some plants into the house before the first frost, which will kill them, and cut back to the first leaves above the base of its stem for potting. The soil for these potted plants should be much richer than the soil outdoors. A mixture of 2/3 humus and 1/3 sand should be just about right. The soil in the pots should be just barely moist. If the plants leaves seem parched and crumble, the air may be too dry, or the artificial sunlight too close to the foliage. Spray liquid organic fertilizer (seaweed / fish mixture) once every 3-weeks to promote healthy indoor growth. Bring the plants indoors by stages, over a period of time. Transplant the herbs from your garden into individual pots; then keep them outdoors during daylight hours and bring them in at night.
Rosemary: This is a small, perennial evergreen shrub of the mint family which rarely produces seed, so that it will be necessary to obtain plants or rooted cuttings to start. One or 2-plants will supply enough leaves for flavoring purposes. It produces a dense shrub 2-feet in diameter and about 3-feet in height by the end of the second season of growth.
Sage: A shrubby perennial herb of the mint family, growing to a height of about 2-feet. Seeds may be planted in a cold fram or window box, or the plant can be propagated by stem cuttings.
Tarragon: Anise-scented perennial, which rarely forms seeds, but the plant is easily grown by root or crown divisions. The leafy top growth can b~ cut back several times during the season. The leaves and tops should be driec! rapidly away from light; otherwise they will turn dark.
Remember, that dried herbs are 4 to 5-times stronger than fresh herbs. The delicate aroma and flavor of savory herbs may easily be lost by extended cooking, cutting the leaves of the fresh herbs too fine or grinding them in a mortar which exposes the aromatic oils.