Herbs in the Garden

"An herb is the friend of physicians and the praise of cooks." - Charlemagne

For thousands of years, herbs have been used as scents, foods, flavorings, medicines, disinfectants, and even as currency. Early cultures, such as the Egyptians, recognized that certain herbs had curative powers. Greek physician Hippocrates (460-377 B.C.) developed a system of diagnosis and prognosis using herbs. Today, herbs are an ingredient in many natural remedies and nutritional supplements as well as an important culinary component in dishes around the world.

Having fresh herbs in your garden is easy. Most herbs require full sun. Be sure to plant them in areas that receive six or more hours of sun each day. Many herbs are quite ornamental, so feel free to plant them in your garden beds rather than restricting them to the vegetable patch. Herbs are also very good candidates for container gardening, making it possible for those with very small gardens or even no garden at all to have fresh herbs most of the year. Wherever you plant them, once you have your herbs established, be sure to harvest regularly. This will encourage the continued production of those delicious edible leaves.

Many herbs, if left to their own devices, will send up flower shoots at some point in their development each year. This will effectively halt the production of leaves, ending their culinary usefulness. To encourage the plants to continue to produce foliage, remove the flowers as soon as they appear. Some herbs, such as cilantro, will bolt, or go to seed, once the temperatures start to rise in the summer and no amount of deadheading will stop it. However, the seeds of the cilantro plant are another popular seasoning called coriander, so let it go to seed and enjoy this second crop.

Stadler Nurseries carries a wide variety of herbs, usually from about mid-April through mid to late summer. A few of the more common annual herbs we carry include basil, dill, cilantro, curly and Italian parsley. These will need to be planted each year. Perennial herbs include thyme, chives, tarragon, sage, spearmint and oregano. Plant them once and they'll return year after year, bigger than the year before. Rosemary, a tender perennial, can even be brought inside in the winter and enjoyed year-round.

Think about what kinds of food you like and plant herbs in your garden to complement those tastes. Like Italian food? Plant basil and oregano. Is Mexican cuisine a favorite? Be sure to include some cilantro. Rosemary and thyme are delicious on roasted vegetables. You get the idea. Plant herbs in your garden and you'll be rewarded with fresh, vibrant flavors in your foods and the satisfaction of having grown it yourself!

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