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Herb Gardening Part 1 – Perennial Herbs

on April 25, 2014

Herbs are one of the easiest things to grow.  They tolerate drought, most of them prefer full sun, and they even thrive in the heat.  And, since a lot of herbs are perennial, it is a one-time investment that yields years of harvest!

If you’re thinking of planting an herb garden, here are some things to consider.  First, start with things you know you’ll use and are comfortable using.  For example, I love using oregano and basil in cooking.  It adds great flavor to almost any dish, and nothing beats using it fresh (although I dry herbs to use in the winter, too).  Some herbs sound exotic, like Pineapple Sage and Chocolate Mint, but will you use them, or would you be giving up garden space for something that, although it smells good, may not be very practical for you?

Second, think about the space you have.  If you don’t have a lot of garden space to work with, pick herbs that don’t take up a lot of room.  Rosemary, thyme, chives, and tarragon are some of these.  If you have more room, add oregano and sage, both of which grow to take up several square feet.  If you don’t have a garden, don’t worry, herbs do great in container gardening, too!

Here are a few perennial herbs to consider:

 Oregano is a hearty herb that requires little maintenance.  And it tastes amazing in red sauce and pizza crust!  Oregano can grow to be pretty big – mine takes up a space of about two feet in diameter.

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 Sage is another hearty herb that grows in a more bush-like form.  It’s great with chicken and pork, and the purple flowers it puts on bring color to your garden.  Sage is another garden hog – mine is about 18 inches in diameter.

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Chives are amazing in salads and as toppings on baked potatoes.  A word of caution – they really multiply!  But, they’re pretty easy to dig up and thin out.

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Tarragon is another perennial herb, but it is not quite as hearty as others, in my experience.  It is less heat tolerant, and requires a little more water.  It’s wispy branches grow more up than out, so it doesn’t take up a lot of room.   It tastes wonderful in chicken and in cream sauces!

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Thyme is another great perennial addition to your garden.  It tastes wonderful in eggs and chicken, and it’s a great, low maintenance ground cover for any garden!

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Mint – I love mint, but here’s the thing: it would survive a nuclear blast.  Don’t be deceived in thinking it won’t take over.  It will.  I had mint in my garden, then is started to multiply, so I moved it to it’s own five foot section of garden.  In the last 4 years, it has completely filled that spot and crept into the yard (it sends out roots underground and comes up pretty much wherever it wants).  And the place I moved it from still has mint coming up at random places.  But, I love how it smells (so does my husband when he mows the part of our yard that is mint-infested).  I often add mint to bouquets of flowers for added scent, and adding mint to a pitcher of water or brewing it in tea is wonderful!  Bottom line, if you want to grow mint, plant it in a container!

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Lavender is another perennial with a great scent!  Depending on the kind you get, it can get pretty big, but it’s easy to trim back.  It also puts on either white or purple blooms, depending on the type.  Lavender is also great in flower bouquets.  I know you can cook with it, too, but I’ve never done so.

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Catnip is a part of the mint family, but isn’t quite as prolific.  I’m sure there are other ways to use it, but I just grow it to make my cats crazy.

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Rosemary is technically a perennial, however, if your winters get too cold, it won’t come back the next year.   Burpee says rosemary is a perennial in zones 7-10, and since I live in zone 6, I have occasionally had rosemary come back in the Spring, but it’s not a guarantee. Rosemary is amazing when baked in breads and sauces!

Perennial herbs are a great addition to any garden, and their heartiness and beauty can be a great, functional addition to landscaping.  Start small, and slowly add to your garden; and don’t forget to save room for the annual herbs!  Happy gardening!

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