Among all of the herbs I grow, mint requires absolutely the least amount of care. In fact, it grows so prolifically, it could overrun the garden! Peppermint has many helpful qualities: it’s anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, reduces nausea and has a calming scent.
It’s a bittersweet time when summer ends. Those summer months are a blessing and a curse, but now the hot evenings, the mosquitoes, the sweat, and the sweet juicy tomatoes are all on the way out. What better way to say goodbye to short sleeves than with an end-of-summer cookout?
Gather your friends, grill up some fresh turkey burgers, open a can of light beer, we used Lost 40 Day Drinker, and pay your respects to the days of bright summer flavor. My good friend Scott McGehee of Yellow Rocket Concepts in Little Rock shared a few secrets to turkey burgers, aioli and Italian salsa verde on the patio of his restaurant. As the chef at Big Orange, which specializes in classic and innovative burgers, he would know a thing or two about the subject. This menu serves six people, so keep that in mind when you’re making the invitation list. (Hint: Double it!)
Once you recognize the boxwood shrub, you’ll see them everywhere. In most neighborhoods, they are more ubiquitous than speed bumps. But what if I told you the boxwood basil has the same aesthetic as the sought-after boxwood shrub, but it pulls double-duty by also being pesto-ready at any moment. And like the traditional boxwood, this basil is beautiful for edging your garden or shaping into a topiary. I bet you never thought your basil could also look like a bunny.
Stay warm indoors this winter while tending a windowsill herb garden. Growing herbs is a great way to exercise your green thumb, without freezing it off in the garden. There are so many herbs that you can cultivate indoors, and also use in hearty winter recipes. Add a splash of fresh oregano to your spaghetti, or sprinkle a few sprigs of fresh thyme atop a slow-cooked pot roast with herbs harvested right from your windowsill.
When I’m planning my windowsill garden, first I think about which herbs I use the most in my cooking. Growing your own herbs is not only a great way to add some fresh flavor to your food, but you can also save a lot on your grocery bill.
Some of the easiest herbs to grow include rosemary, scented geraniums, oregano, thyme, bay leaf, mint and chives. These herbs like well-drained soil and lots of indirect sunlight. Indoor air can become very dry in the winter, so think of a nice, humid place for your herbs like the kitchen or bathroom window. Prune and harvest often to keep these herbs producing, and don’t be afraid to get creative with your planters, like this Double Tin Pot from the P. Allen Smith shop. Herbs are functional and decorative, so utilize their aesthetic qualities to add life to your home during the cold, dreary months of winter.
We all have our favorite scents, but have you ever stopped to wonder what might be attracting us to those scents? Aromatherapy is an ancient practice that acknowledges the calming, therapeutic effects essential oils have on the body, mind and spirit. Essential oils are extracted from plants by distillation, and possess a strong, concentrated fragrance derived from the plant.
They can be used in a variety of ways from just inhaling them directly for an instant calming effect, to steam inhalation, added to diffusers, diluted as massage oil or added to your bath. Check out some of these popular oils and their uses…
Chamomile: anxiety and stress reliever, antispasmodic, sedative, reduces insomnia, anti-inflammatory.
Eucalyptus: great for flu season, expectorant, decongestant, clears and energizes the mind.
Ginger: great aid for digestive issues including gas, constipation and nausea.
Lavender: calming, reduces anxiety, promotes cell regeneration to heal wounds and burns, soothes insect bites.
Lemon: detoxing and uplifting, great for home cleaning and use as room spray.
Lemongrass: antimicrobial, great for cleaning and use as natural insect repellent.
Patchouli: antidepressant, anti-inflammatory, soothes the nervous system.
Rose: promotes cell regeneration, aphrodisiac, nourishes the emotions, relieves and reduces stress and anxiety.
Rosemary: promotes respiratory health, expectorant, expands and deepens the breath, energizes, relieves sinus congestion.
Tea Tree: antimicrobial, antibacterial, anti-fungal, supports and enhances the immune system.
Peppermint: anti-inflammatory, relieves nausea, great for muscular aches and pains and arthritis, relieves migraines.
I love to grow anything that I can put to good use – flowers for cutting, vegetables for cooking and herbs for all kinds of purposes. And while the onset of autumn signals the end of homegrown tomatoes and bouquets of blooms, it doesn’t necessarily mean I can’t continue to grow herbs. I simply move them indoors.
Not all herbs will grow well indoors. For the least amount of heartache try a few from this list: scented geranium, mint, rosemary, parsley, bay leaf, thyme, chives, garlic and oregano.
Basil, dill and coriander should be started from seeds and mint, rosemary and bay leaf can be rooted from cuttings.
Basil is fairly difficult to grow indoors because it is such a lover of sun and heat. It can be done though if you can provide the plants with 16 hours of artificial light and daytime temperatures of 65 to 75 degrees F and nighttime temperatures that do not drop below 50 degrees F.
Making the Adjustment
If you are moving your plants in to the house from the garden or starting with seedlings purchased at a nursery, it is important to acclimate them to the lower light conditions. New leaves that are accustomed to the lower light conditions must be produced for the plant to survive. To do this place the plants in a shady spot in your garden for one week. Next bring the plants indoors for a few hours each day. Do this for about another week before you bring them in for good. Be sure to give yourself plenty of time to complete this process before the first frost. This adjustment period can mean the difference between a healthy herb and one that loses it leaves, becomes leggy or even dries up and dies.
A windowsill with southern exposure is often all you need to grow herbs indoors. Most herbs require at least 6 hours of direct sunlight and it doesn’t hurt to put them under a grow light. The exceptions to this rule are mint, parsley and rosemary, which can take a little less light. With this mind place the sun lovers in the center of the windowsill and those that need less light on the outside edges.
If you use a grow light, be sure the lights are about six to nine inches above the tops of the plants.
Your herbs will prefer temperatures between 55 and 70 degrees F.
It is important that your potted herbs have proper drainage. I use a mixture of 1 part good quality potting soil, 1 part sand and 1 part humus.
Towards the end of winter you may find that the soil in the containers has become compacted. Simply rake the surface with a fork to loosen it up.
During the winter plant growth slows so they don’t require as much water. The rule of thumb is to only water when the soil surface is dry. Herbs such as bay leaf, thyme, oregano and sage should dry out completely between watering while mint, rosemary and scented geranium prefer a little more moisture.
To help herbs survive the stuffy air typical in our homes during winter mist the plants, especially rosemary, on occasion and increase air circulation around them with a small fan. Keep in mind a fan may cause the soil to dry out faster, requiring you to water more frequently.
Unlike herbs that grow in the garden, potted herbs need regular feedings. Fertilize with a fish emulsion at half strength about once a month.
If you have a problem with pests, I recommend you use an insecticidal soap. Saturate the tops and undersides of leaves. Insecticidal soap is effective and safe. And this is something to keep in mind if you’re planning on using these to spice up some of your favorite recipes.
I like to use herbs in interesting and different ways and lemon thyme is an herb that is terrific for more than just the herb garden.
For instance, it’s a great groundcover for areas where you need something decorative and interesting. The only requirement is that the soil must be well-drained. At the Garden Home Retreat I planted lemon thyme in a long, narrow bed under an espaliered apple tree. What a knockout.
To harvest thyme, all you have to do is take a pair of scissors and just shear off the tips.
Not only can you use lemon thyme in a lot of ways in the garden, but it’s versatile in the kitchen too! In the summer, I use it season roasted chicken. And new potatoes? It’s a must have.
You know, what’s so great about herbs is that you can use them in so many ways to give life a little more flavor. Pick up some herbs and have some fun.
Pelargoniums or scented geraniums are cousins to the more common zonal geraniums. And while their flowers aren’t nearly as showy, the aroma of their foliage certainly makes up for any lack of blooms.
There are over 50 different species of scented geraniums grown. Each of them has its own distinct aroma.
Gardeners have become avid collectors of them. And once you’ve experienced their heavenly scents you’ll know why. There is a wide range of flavors from lemon and nutmeg, to peppermint and chocolate. There’s a scent for everyone.
Scented geraniums can be grown outdoors during the summer but they should be brought inside before the first autumn frost with your other houseplants.
As with other geraniums, pelargoniums should be placed in a bright sunny window that gets about 4 hours of sun each day. Keep them on the dry side and do not fertilize. They may begin to look a bit rough but next spring, when the temperatures warm, up they will once again thrive in your garden.
When I owned a nursery we carried many varieties of scented geraniums. My advise for finding these plants is to first check your local garden centers. You should start with places that specialize in herbs. Many nurseries will special order plants for you as well.
To the Greeks, rosemary was an herb used to enhance the memory. So, it became associated with remembrance. It was named to honor the Virgin Mary, called the Rose of Mary, or later shortened to rosemary. There are a lot of stories in folklore about this plant, but I grow it for its beauty in the garden and its flavor in the kitchen.
Rosemary is an easy herb to grow when you understand a little bit about its background. A native of the Mediterranean, it prefers a warm, sunny and dry environment.
It is not cold hardy throughout the country, most varieties will not survive below 15 to 20 degrees F. But don’t let this keep you from growing rosemary. This herb is ideally suited for container gardening. I keep a pot just outside my kitchen door.
You can also plant it, container and all, in the garden. Just lift it out of the ground when temperatures begin to drop in fall and bring it indoors.
When you bring rosemary inside for winter, put it in a sunny window (south facing is ideal) and be careful not to overwater it. The roots can easily rot. An occasional misting can help if it gets too dry in your house.
I have good luck with most herbs with the exception of rosemary. I cannot seem to get it right. It does okay for a short time, but then it gets gray and dies. I usually transplant into a clay pot using a good grade of potting soil, place in a sunny spot, and water only if it is dry. Rosemary is one of my favorites and I would like to figure out how to grow it successfully.
Kansas City, MO (zone 6)
Well, it certainly sounds like you are doing everything right. As a native of the Mediterranean, rosemary prefers a warm, sunny and dry environment which according to your question is exactly what you are providing.
Because you described the affliction as "gray" I’m suspicious that your rosemary had powdery mildew. It is a white, moldy looking fungus that is a common problem for rosemary. Powdery mildew tends to be more unattractive than fatal, but left unchecked it could kill a plant. Powdery mildew is most active during hot, humid weather. Placing your rosemary where it will get good air circulation will cut down on its occurrence. If it appears again, spray with a fungicide that is safe for edibles such as Garden Safe Fungicide 3. Continue to apply the fungicide every week until the problem is gone. I also recommend testing a small area first before you spray the entire plant.
Another thought is the potting soil is not draining well enough. This is a big concern with rosemary because too much moisture around the roots will cause the leaves and stems to turn brown and the plant will eventually die. Try a grittier mixture such as 1 part good quality potting soil, 1 part sand and 1 part humus.
Typically rosemary will not overwinter in your area. It freezes when temperatures dip below 25 degrees F. But it is an easy herb to grow indoors. Move it inside along with your houseplants in fall. Put it in a sunny window (south facing is ideal) and be careful not to overwater it. The roots can easily rot. An occasional misting can help if it gets too dry in your house.