Contributed by Info Guru Angela Hail
Growing herbs is both beautiful and practical.
The basic rules of thumb when picking out herbs to grow is 1) how does it do in your region, 2) is it something you’ll actually use, and 3) how much space does it require – especially good to know if you are container gardening. The following is a list of some popular herbs which take a minimal amount of effort on your part to thrive.
Lavender is the stuff French dreams are made of. The scent of it, the delicate purple flowers just begging to be stuffed into aromatic sachets or added to a perfectly blended herbes de Provence, the lovely silvery foliage . . . there is nothing more romantic than lavender. And it is also easy to grow, if you remember a few key things: don’t over-water, as it hales from the Mediterranean and is used to dry, somewhat rocky conditions (a well-drained soil will help you here), and place her in full sun.
Oregano is an essential herb in so many cultural cuisines–think Mexican, Greek, and of course Italian, just to name a few–that it behooves you to grow this one in your garden. It does lovely in the ground, thrives just as well in pots, and is always there when you need a handful to throw into your homemade spaghetti sauce.
Dill is a tallish, feathery-leafed plant used to flavor things like dill pickles, fish, and dill potato salad. It is also doubly useful as you can use both the fresh leaves and the seeds. This is a fantastic garden plant, since it attracts many beneficial insects. However, it also attracts tomato horn worm, so plant it well away from your tomato plants.
Probably the most common garden herb, thyme is a must have. It grows like a weed, having similar needs as oregano (and therefore can be grown side by side, if you’re crunched for space), and has a plethora of culinary uses.
Cilantro, like dill, grows tall and offers a little extra bang for your buck. The cilantro leaves are used fresh in salsas and Indian dishes and a number of other foods, and, once the flowers go to seed, the seeds are harvested as coriander.
This hearty perennial is almost impossible to kill (even if your thumb is less than green) and will come back year after year. It grows just as well in a pot as it does in the ground, grows big, soft, silvery-green leaves, and will make your fish, chicken, and rice dishes taste like heaven. If you want an herb to tuck into a corner and forget about, and still get some use out of it, this is your plant.
4. Lemon Verbena
Not the most common of garden herbs, but this intensely aromatic plant should not be overlooked. If you see lemon verbena at an herb fest or garden center, stop and gently run a finger over one of its leaves, and smell. Your olfactory senses will be filled with the sweetest, lemony-est aroma you have ever experienced. The dried leaves can be used in potpourris and the fresh to infuse cooking oils with lemony goodness. Like lavender, it doesn’t like too much water and wants full sun.
Basil is another beautifully aromatic herb that will give you a growing-season’s worth of payoff. Grow it tall in pots or in the ground and then harvest throughout the summer for fresh pesto and use in sauces. Basil is also fantastic as a whole-leaf addition to margherita pizza.
Plant rosemary for remembrance, the old saying goes. It doesn’t do well outside in every climate when it’s young, but if you grow it in a pot and bring it in during a hard freeze, it will eventually grow to be big as an evergreen bush, and it’s pine-like richly scented leaves will greet you whenever you brush past it. Besides, nothing beats fresh rosemary in your cooking.
This is hands down the easiest herb to grow, and it comes in a wide variety of cultivars, from your basic peppermint and spearmint to the more exotic chocolate mint and orange mint. You have to smell them to believe them. The only caveat with mint is it is so hardy and so invasive that you must plant it away from your other herbs (especially the creeping ones like thyme and oregano) or risk the mint taking over. Never fear, like most herbs mint absolutely thrives in a pot, so it’s easy to sequester and let it have its own bit of minty real estate.