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Herb Profiles

Choose the herb of your choice to read about it's uses and growing requirements.

Basil | Chives | Chervil | Dill | Lavender | Marjoram | Oregano
Parsley | Rosemary | Sage | Thyme | Pineapple Sage | Tarragon | Hyssop

Basil ( Ocimum basilicum)

Basil is an annual grown during warm, frost free weather. It grows into a bushy plant 6" to several feet high with oval leaves and white or pink flowers. It likes a sunny site but will tolerate light shade, and prefers a moist, but well-drained soil. Space the plants 1 foot apart, and pinch back the growing tips to keep it compact. Removing the flower spikes will prolong harvest, but you may want to plant a couple of plants to harvest the flowers for recipes. Basil is traditionally used in Italian dishes, but shines in Thai and other Mediterranean meals.

Basil can be grown from seeds or cuttings. The seeds need to be started indoors 4-6 weeks before the last spring frost.

There are over 30 varieties of basil, but sweet basil is the most commonly used. Basil is used in cooking, potpourris, medicinal and cosmetic preparations, and aromatherapy.

Basil does not refrigerate well, and if you cut more than you can use at one time, the stems may be placed in a jar of cold water, and will keep for 2-3 days on the kitchen counter. To preserve your harvest for the winter, you can dry or freeze basil. Frozen basil will not look as good as the fresh version, but will taste fresh.

To dry, hang the sprigs upside down in a paper bag or place on trays in a warm, dry place.

To freeze, wash whole sprigs and store in freezer bags. Press the air out of the bags before placing in the freezer.

Sources used:
The Herb Gardener: A Guide for All Seasons, Susan McClure
Better Homes and Gardens Herbs: ideas and instructions for creating beautiful herb gardens.

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Chives (allium schoenoprasum)

Grow chives in full sun in a well drained spot Space the plants about a foot and a half apart. Chives grow up to 24 inches high.

Chives are easily grown from seed. Start them about 6 weeks before the last spring frost in your area. They can also be started from self seeding if you do not cut the fading flowers. Mature plants can be divided every 4-5 years to obtain new plants.

When you cut your chives for use, cut them off at the base to keep the plants tidy.

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Chervil (anthriscus cerefolium)

Chervil is an annual herb that can tolerated light shade and prefers to be planted in a cool shady spot. It grows from 1-2 feet and should be spaced 6-12 inches apart in moist, fertile soil. While chervil can be grown in all zones, it thrives in cool, mild weather and may bolt in the heat. Chervil plants do not transplant well and should be started directly in the garden from seed. Use fresh seeds since they do not keep well. Fertilize only lightly with a fish emulsion in early and midsummer. Too much fertilizer will dilute the flavor. Chervil produces white flowers in the summer which should be cuff off while they are still buds to keep the plants producing leaves.

Chervil resembles parsley and come in two types: curly and flat leaf. The leaves have a mild anise flavor and can be used liked parsley in dishes. The leaves can be used fresh or frozen. Dried leaves loose a lot of their essential oils during the drying process and will lack flavor. To freeze, snip or chop the leaves and pack in ice trays. Cover with water and freeze. Store in the freezer in plastic bags.

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Dill

Dill is a quick growing, annual herb. It can reach a height of 3 feet. You should place it in the back of your garden and spaced 12 inches apart. Dill prefers full sun in a well drained soil. When the plant begins to flower, fertilize with an organic fertilizer high in potassium and phosphorus. You can grow dill from started plants or the seeds may be sown outdoors in spring or fall. There are some dwarf varieties which can be grown in containers. Dill has fine ferny leaves and produces umbrella like heads of yellow flowers which can be used for seasoning or fresh cut flowers. Both the seeds and leaves may be harvested to use in cooking. The leaves may be harvested, or the entire plant can be cut back when it gets about a foot tall. The seeds should be harvested when they begin to turn brown. Hang the seed heads in a warm, airy location over a cloth to catch the falling seeds. Dill leaves can be used fresh, dried or frozen.

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Lavender ( Lavandula angustifolia) English Lavender

I started with one lavender plant 2 years ago, added two plants last year, and plan on 2 more this year. I love the smell of lavender, and use it in many of my bath and body products. My lavender bath salts are made with lavender essential oils and lavender flowers. Shop for bath salts

Lavender

Lavender is an evergreen shrub that can be grown in zones 5-9 depending on the species. There are dozens of cultivars of lavender. Check with your local herb farm or nursery to see which variety grows well in your area. There are a number of herb farms on my Links page which sell lavender plants.

Like most herbs that are natives of the Mediterranean region, lavender likes to be planted in a well drained soil in full sun. Space the plants 12 inches apart to provide good air circulation. Lavender grows up to 18 inches tall. After planting, mulch with a thin layer of coarse sand.

If you would like more lavender plants from the ones in your garden, they can be propagated by cuttings, layering, or division.

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Marjoram (origanum majorana)

There is often confusion regarding the herbs marjoram and oregano, as they are similar species and look alike. Sweet marjoram, however, is most often used to flavor meals since it has the best flavor of the two. Except in frost free regions, marjoram is grown as an annual. These mound shaped plants grown up to 12 inches tall and should be planted 12 inches apart in full sun. Marjoram will tolerate poor soil, but needs good drainage. Marjoram can be dried and stored for winter use for many kinds of meat dishes and soups, as well as herbal sauces, and pizza.

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Oregano

Oregano is closely related to marjoram. Origanum vulgare is the oregano that is traditionally used in herb gardens, but there are many varieties, some tall and others low growing. The flavor of this oregano is not as intense as sweet marjoram or some of the more tender varieties such as Italian Oregano. Oregano is a favorite ingredient of Italian cooking and is often used with basil and marjoram.

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Parsley

There are two types of parsley, curly and Italian (flat leaf). Parsley is a biennial, hardy to Zone 3. Plant in full sun or partial shade in a fairly rich, moist and well drained soil. For a continuous supply of parsley, you can stagger three sowings. April or early May, July and early August. The last can be used for drying and use in the winter.

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Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis)

Rosemary is listed as a tender shrub growing in zones 8-10. I live in zone 7, and mine has over wintered in my herb garden for several years. Before the first frost, I do mulch it very good. If you live in a colder climate, you may want to keep your Rosemary as a potted plant that you can bring into the house in the winter. It needs to be kept in a sunny window if you bring it indoors.

Plant rosemary in full sun and in a well drained location to prevent root rot. It can grow up to several feet high and become bushy. Space the plants 2-3 feet apart with good air circulation to prevent powdery mildew. Fertilize your plants once a month during the growing season with a dilute, balanced, organic fertilizer. Rosemary can be used dried or fresh.

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Sage (salvia officinalis)

Well known for its contribution to the Thanksgiving table, common garden sage may not be as easily recognized for its medicinal and cosmetic purposes. Its botanical name "salvia", is the Latin word for " to heal", and has been used throughout the centuries for a number of healing therapies. The most common use for sage is in the treatment of sore throat and irritated gums. Sage contains astringent tannins that help reduce inflammation in the mucous membranes. A simple mouthwash or gargle can be made from pouring 1 cup of boiling water over a tablespoon each of dried sage and peppermint. In addition add 1 teaspoon of apple cider vinegar. Steep the mixture for 8 - 10 minutes. Strain and refrigerate up to a week. To use, warm and gargle for a sore throat, or swish in the mouth for sore or bleeding gums. Gargle every few hours for a sore throat.

For an upset stomach, steep 1-2 tablespoons dried sage leaves in a cup of boiling water for 8-10 minutes. Drink up to 3 times a day.

To leave dark hair shining, place a handful of fresh sage leaves in a pint jar of cider vinegar. You may want to add a few springs of lavender or lemon verbena for added fragrance. Cover and steep for 2 weeks prior to using. This mixture can also be poured into your bath water to help calm itchy skin.

Planting and Harvesting Sage:
Plant sage in well-drained soil to discourage rot, and slugs. Place in full sun and space 18-24 inches apart. Cut back the old stems in the spring to encourage new growth. To rejuvenate the plants, divide every couple of years.

The best flavor from sage is when it is used fresh. Place a few leaves under the skin of a baking chicken or turkey. Sage may also be dried in a dehydrator (90-95 degrees), in the oven for a few minutes (120 degrees), or in a paper bag in the trunk of your car on very hot days. Dry sage until it is as crumbly as frosted flake cereal.

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Thyme (Thymus vulgaris)

Common Thyme
There are many varieties of thyme, but generally all do well planted in well-drained, sandy soil, in full sun. Thyme also does well planted in containers. It grows to 12 inches high and plants should be placed 12 to 18 inches apart. In the spring, cut the woody stems back by about half to encourage healthy new growth. You need to divide the clumps every couple of years to keep them tidy and vigorous. If you would like more plants, the easiest way is to divide them in the spring. Thyme can also be propagated by root stem cuttings. Thyme can be harvested early and later in the season, but you should stop harvesting late in the summer to help the plant over winter without damage. Thyme is hardy in zones 4-9.

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Pineapple Sage (Salvia Elegans)

Pineapple sage is a tender perennial to zone 9. In most zones it is grown as an annual, planted in the spring after all danger of frost has past. As an annual, it may grow up to 3 feet tall, and should be planted in well drained, light, sandy soil. Space the plants 18-14 inches apart and fertilize with a all-purpose organic fertilizer after planting. If grown as a perennial, cut the plant back in the spring and fertilize.

Both the leaves and flowers (which are bright red and attract hummingbirds), can be used in culinary dishes and cosmetically.

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French Tarragon (A.dracunculus var.sativa)

I started my herb garden about two years ago with just a few plants and add new plants each year. This year I chose tarragon as one of those plants. I hope you enjoy the recipes and will try this plant.

Tarragon grows in zones 5-8. Plant it in full sun in a well drained, but moderately fertile soil. Space the plants 18 inches apart.

French Tarragon does not produce seed. If you want more plants, it can be divided, or cuttings can be taken in summer. You should divide Tarragon every couple of years and replant the healthiest section.

The leaves can be used fresh, dried, or frozen.

There is a Russian Tarragon, but the flavor is inferior to the French Tarragon. If you have a tarragon in your garden that blooms and forms seed, it is the Russian variety.

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Hyssop-Hyssopus Officinalis

Hyssop is a perennial which can grow in zones 3-8. It should be planted in well drained soil in sun, or it can tolerate light shade. Space the plants 12" apart. Hyssop can grow up to two feet high and produce flowers that stretch even higher. It produces flowers which may be blue, white, or pink. Cut back hyssop in the spring and fertilize with a balanced organic fertilizer to encourage new growth. Keep hyssop trimmed or it can become bushy.

Hyssop is a fragrant ornamental that is often used as an edging plant. It's flowers are great for cutting and using in potpourris or soothing Herbal Seasonings
- Herbal Teas
-. Uses include culinary and medicinal.

If you allow the plant to blossom, be sure to harvest before the flowers open. Cut the flower stems in the morning and either hang them to dry in a dry shady place, or spread them out on paper, or drying rack. When the plants are completely dry, strip the flowers and a few leaves from the stalks, and store in an air tight container.

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