Having fun with herbs

In the last Halcyon Acres® blog post, we explored some growing tips, tricks and discoveries concerning thyme, basil, sage and oregano. Click on the link to see some of the easy growing tips for perennial herbs addressed.

parsley at halcyon acresToday, we’ll cover some herbs that may not come back year after year, but are easy to grow once you get them established and wonderful additions to meals and other lifestyle activities.

Parsley is a biennial. You don’t want to eat the leaves that are produced in the second year (they’re very bitter), but if you want an easy way to keep the crop coming year after year, leave last year’s plants in and reseed in spring. Once these plants go to seed (in the second year), they’re pretty good at self-propagation. So, if you plant two seasons in a row, you should always have new parsley plants coming in the spring without much effort. Another benefit we noticed this year to keeping plants in the soil after the season ends for most is the leaves continue to stay green and tasty even in extreme cold under heavy snow. Just make sure you mark your rows with flags high enough to see once snow falls. Parsley has some wonderful health benefits being rich in vitamin A, C and K. It’s a great antioxidant and good anti-inflammatory. Plus it provides a tasty, mild flavor to so many foods.

Dill is so much fun. It’s pungent flavor and prolific leaves makes a little go a long way. This is a plant that’s easy to start from seed. In fact, if you leave it in the garden through the fall, you’ll have a good self-seeded crop come spring. This is an annual, but easy to keep going year after year if you let nature take its course. Dill is a tough one to get started in the garden in the spring if you haven’t let it self-sow. It’s slow to germinate and weeds tend to choke out new plantings (at least around here). If you’re starting your first dill crop, it’s probably best to begin in containers.lavender at halcyon acres

Lavender is a perennial, but making it through the winter is pretty iffy in Zone 5. Frankly, we were too aggressive with weeding this spring (it comes up late and should be planted initially in warm weather) to know if last year’s crop made it (oopps – the lavender roots were too deep in the pile to find by the time I realized where I was in the garden). This is just such a wonderful, versatile herb, though, it’s worth planting each year if it doesn’t make it. Start seeds inside. Keep them warm and moist.

Rosemary is so much better fresh, it’s an herb you ought to consider including in the mix. Last year was the first try with this one, so I’m not sure if it will survive the cold winter. We didn’t have a lot of luck trying to start this from seed indoors, so wound up buying plants in the spring.

Cilantro is super easy to grow. You can just cast seeds in the garden and it will come up in almost any harsh conditions. The pungent smell wafts through the entire garden. Needless to say, it also serves as a great insect repellent to for the more sensitive companion plants you may be trying to protect. It tend to bolt in hot, dry weather, but you can also use it after it’s gone to seed.

Those are my favorites (at the moment any way). What are yours? Please share in the comments below.

Growing herbs in your vegetable garden

Recently, I’ve discovered the power of herbs. Not only as a wonderful natural insect repellent in companion gardening, lovely scent to add to gardening pleasure and tasty addition to any meal, but also for the natural health benefits they provide. Of course, clients love copious quantities of fresh herbs each week, which is wonderful too. Most are pretty easy to grow.

Thyme grows well at Halcyon Acres
Thyme is a hearty perennial for Zone 5

My favorites for the garden include: Thyme, basil, sage, oregano, parsley, dill, lavender, rosemary and cilantro.

Thyme is hard to get started, but hearty once it’s established. It’s a wonderful addition to any vegetable dish, salads, eggs and meals that include lamb. It’s a perennial that grows well here, in Zone 5. Chef William did a great post on Thyme for those who want tips and ideas for cooking as well as information on believe medicinal qualities of this herb.

Basil won’t survive even a light frost. It’s easy to start from seed and best planted in warmer weather. This is a great companion plant for tomatoes and goes great with them for meals too.

Sageis wonderful not only for cooking, but also smelting. It’s claimed to have cleansing properties, so many people will dry a bunch and burn it from room to room to chase away whatever. It’s best to start from seed in containers as it starts slowly and is very hard to find as seedlings in the garden. The good news is it transplants into soil beautifully and once rooted, lasts year after year. It’s bushy in the way it grows but matures at about 2-feet high and 2-feet wide around here. We like to plant it with either oregano or strawberries as both are great ground cover to keep out the weeds and sage doesn’t need surface soil light to grow once it’s established.

Sage is a favorite at Halcyon Acres
Sage is an herb you don't see in too many gardens - wonder why?

Oregano is delightful in eggs, salads, of course pasta dishes and anything else where you’re looking for a mild flavor enhancer. You’ll need to use a lot more than dried as the flavor is far less pungent, but fresh is fun. Some claim it can be invasive, but we haven’t a problem with this. As noted, we plant it with sage and the two plants seem to get along quite well.

We’ll cover the rest of my favorite garden herbs in the next post.

For those who enjoy herbs, Chef William’s Healthy Food and Diet website will be featuring great tips, ideas and background with herbs as a feature this week and perhaps beyond. I encourage you to get check out his blog as it’s well done and I always learn from what he has to share.