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Garden herbs

Creating an herb garden is fun and practical. The aromas are wonderful, the view is beautiful, and many can be used as medicines or for cooking. Growing them is easy. They're hardy and thrive well in all kinds of soils. But for optimal results, it's helpful to keep in mind a few things about each specific one.

Common garden herbs

In these we have herbs that smell great and make for an essential addition to any chef's toolkit.


Commonly grown and greatly appreciated by herb gardeners, basil loves warm soil and dry air. But it's sensitive to cold, so be sure to wait until spring is well along and no nighttime frosts are still occurring that will damage the plant.

Then, in about six weeks, you can harvest the leaves and dry them for use in casseroles, bread and a wide variety of other recipes. By mid-summer you'll see white flowers on 1-2 foot stalks and the plants will have profuse dark green or purple leaves. Keep them separated by about a foot and this delightful herb will make for an excellent addition to your garden.


Growing up to a foot, they make for little soldiers all lined up in a row, or a chaotic bunch of radicals. Either way, these beautiful green stalks with their violet-colored flowers are a delightful sight in the garden. A member of the onion family, they also make for a terrific addition to dozens of recipes.

Dried and chopped, chives will be delicious in omelettes, fresh salads, and tomato soup. The flowers can also be used for making potpourri where they add a spicy scent.

You can plant seeds or develop them from bulbs. As perennials, they'll come back strong year after year, as they winter over well. They take little care, though you may want to divide the plants every couple of years to avoid overcrowding.


Dill is another great herb for recipes, and very easy to grow. Ultimately reaching 2-4 feet in height, it will produce blue-green feathery leaves with small clusters of yellow flowers. It loves a lot of full sun and the seeds don't require much care at all. Just toss a few dozen out into a small patch of the garden and watch them grow!

You may need to do a bit of thinning in a few weeks. When they've reached a couple of inches high, you want to make sure the growing plants are separated by 8-10 inches (20-25 cm), so each will get its full share of soil nutrients and sunlight.

Collect the flower heads in full bloom and use them to decorate or dry for use in cooking. Or, a couple of weeks after the dill has flowered, you can harvest seeds. Cut the flowers and hang them upside down over paper and collect the seeds as they fall. Then crumble the leaves. Great for chip dips, salads, and many other delicious fresh foods.


Beautiful, fragrant and great ground cover for an herb or flower garden, these easy to grow perennials are a must. Purple or pink flowers appear on tall stems in mid-summer, surrounded by gray-green leaves. They smell lovely, making them a perfect addition to potpourri.

Growing them from seeds requires a bit more work, so pick up some from your local gardening supply as full plants or root stem cuttings. They love sun and dry, alkaline soil with good drainage. Once established, they will fade in winter, but come back strong year after year.

You can cut the small flowers and decorate around the rim of a vase or add them to a sachet. Either way you'll get a lot of enjoyment out of these easy-to-care-for and delightful herbs.


Indispensable in the kitchen, parsley leaves are easy to grow and maintain. A biennial, they'll blossom every two years and they do well in containers or gardens. They sprout into dense mounds, but may reach as high as a foot if kept spaced eight inches or more. One type has mossy leaves, another a flat leaf, but either is great for cooking.

They can be started from seed, but in that case they should be planted indoors before winter ends and allowed to develop at room temperature for a few weeks. They love full sun, but will thrive in partial shade as well.

Their use in cooking is well known and every chef will have his or her favorite way of using them in soups, salads and casseroles. Just dry the leaves in air and crumble according to your favorite recipe.


Another perennial, these fragrant herbs can grow up to two feet or more in height. The scent is familiar from Christmas candy, but the mint plant is a delight in nature as well. Their tiny purple flowers are as beautiful as the leaves are aromatic.

They've been used in cooking and natural medicines for centuries and they make for a useful addition to everything from chewing gum to soap. As a scenting agent for eau de toilette water they're divine. As a spicy addition to tea, they're superb.

They should be grown in soil that is kept moist and you'll need to trim them fairly often. They can grow in sun or shade, but a mixture is best. You may have to renew the beds every few years. All the extra effort is well worth the reward, though.


These evergreen shrubs make for a wonderful addition to the garden. The leaves are delightfully aromatic and they make wonderful potpourri. Many will enjoy them as a topping for salads or to lace meatloaf.

The dark green leaves absorb sun readily, which they love, and they're not too fussy about soil as long as it isn't too wet. The rosemary bushes produce lovely, thick clusters of pale blue or pink flowers in the spring. They also make great container plants inside the house or out. Bring them indoors during winter and you'll have a fragrant delight.


One of the finest herbs to grace any garden, these ancient wonders make great ground cover, aromatic potpourri and excellent cooking additives. Sage plants love sun and when they get enough of it grow to two feet.

Easy to grow from seeds, they're even easier when you use stem cuttings. Just make sure they have well-drained soil to avoid root rot and space the plants about a foot and a half apart. With gray-green, feathery leaves, they can cover large areas if not kept in check.

The upside is they're very hardy and, even in cold climates, they'll come back year after year. That means years of good smells and beautiful color from their lilac-colored flowers. You can harvest leaves before the flowers sprout and dry them. Treat yourself by rubbing the fresh leaves through thumb and forefinger and take a whiff. Delicious!


These tiny plants make for great ground cover. They're also a terrific addition to the chef's toolkit. They grow only a few inches tall, but they recover year after year so they're easy to care for. The pink and purple flowers add color, while the odor is a delight.

They love full sun and grow best in well-drained soil. Make sure it isn't too hard-packed after winter, when the snow has pressed on the surface. Since they're short, the roots don't reach down very deep and need good aeration. Keep in mind that they can attract bees. Some people consider that an advantage, others a nuisance. Plant accordingly.

When thyme blooms, you can cut off some stems and allow them to air dry. Once they're brittle, just crush and use for potpourri or in a salad.

Whatever your favorite herb, you'll want to add these three to your garden plan. They'll keep it beautiful and wonderfully aromatic year after year.