I am a notorious multi-tasker, constantly juggling as many activities as I can manage. However, recent studies have shown that multi-tasking is not the most effective way to get things done so I’ve been trying to be more focused. It’s a lot harder than I imagined!
Although I’ve been cutting back on my multi-tasking, it’s a characteristic that I still admire in a plant. This is why I love herbs so much. They are the ultimate double duty plants, beautiful in the garden and useful in our homes.
There are culinary herbs for cooking; fragrant herbs for potpourris, and medicinal herbs for good health.
Sometimes the practical qualities overshadow the aesthetics herbs have to offer – their interesting forms, colorful blooms and fragrance all add intriguing dimensions to a garden’s design. Just a few examples are the striking red flowers of pineapple sage, the round, lavender blooms of chives and the tiny, white flowers on creeping thyme.
Caring for your Herb Garden
Soil – Herbs don’t require a rich soil, but it must drain well. Raised beds and containers are ideal for satisfying this requirement. A good soil blend is equal parts topsoil, sand and compost. If your soil is already sandy, just add the topsoil and compost.
Water – Most herbs need 1-inch of water a week. Lavender, artemisia, sage, and thyme can get by with less.
Fertilizer – Don’t over feed your herbs. An application of manure in spring and a mixture of fish emulsion diluted to half strength in mid-summer will provide all the extra nutrients they need.
Harvesting – Don’t be afraid to use your herbs. Cutting leaves and stems will make the plants a lot thicker and fuller and more productive. Harvest early in the morning, when the essential oils are strongest before the sun warms the leaves, releasing the oils.
Deadheading – Some herbs require deadheading the blooms to keep the plant productive. Basil and mint both benefit from having their flowers pinched back before they mature.
Clean Up – After the first killing frost in autumn pull up annual herbs such as basil. In spring cut back dead stems on perennial herbs like artemisia and mint. Also in spring prune overgrown herbs by removing about one-third of the plant before new growth begins.