Herbs are a must in my garden and over the years I’ve become quite adept in their culinary uses. As my cooking skills have grown, so too has my knowledge about when, where and how to plant herbs in the garden. Here are my top 5 secrets to a better herb garden.
1. Choose a suitable site. “Location, location, location” applies to proper placement of herbs. Most of the common culinary herbs like sun so select a location that has southern and western exposure for maximum warmth and sun. A few herbs prefer shade such as hyssop, lemon balm and mint, so be sure to keep them out of the scorching sun.
2. You planted the herbs to use, so use them! While it may seem contrary, pinching back herbs often is a surefire way to get them to produce new foliage rich in essential oils, which equals flavor and aroma. Young herbs really need to be pinched back to encourage them to branch out. If an herb becomes too bushy and unruly, pinch it back by one third and be brave; you’re not going to hurt the plant. Annuals, like basil, can be pinched as soon as they are a few inches tall.
3. Some herbs can become downright invasive. These plants include catnip, lemon balm, and any type of mint which will aggressively take over the garden. Curtail these rambunctious growers by planting them in pots and then digging the pot into the ground or just plant them in decorative containers for use as potted plants along the deck or lanai.
4. Keep them readily at hand. Another tip regarding the location of herbs is to plant them near the kitchen or barbecue if that is where you do most of your cooking. Having them readily nearby will increase the likelihood that you will use them frequently, a win/win for your taste buds and for the plant since it is getting pinched back frequently.
5. Include them with ornamentals. Herbs can but don’t have to stand on their own. For added interest in the garden, intersperse herbs amongst the annuals and perennials. Herbs, like chives, are an excellent way to cover up the dying foliage of spring bloomers such as hyacinths and daffodils. As the cheery bulbs begin to die back, the chives reach their peak and bloom, effectively covering up the dead foliage of the bulbs. Tuck herbs, such as thyme, in amongst a rock garden or create a perennial garden border of lavender or a hedge of rosemary. Herbs are as versatile in the garden as they are in the kitchen and only the limits of your imagination can restrict their use in the landscape.