The herb gar­den

Home - Santa Fe Real Estate Guide - - THEMASTERGARDENERS - CA­ROLE OWENS

The fo­liage and flow­ers of herbs of­fer fra­grance, tex­ture, fla­vor, and beauty that awaken our senses. Botanists de­fine an herb as any plant used for its culi­nary, cos­metlc, medic­i­nal, or aro­matic qual­i­ties. Although most herbs are used for cook­ing and fra­grance, there is a resur­gent in­ter­est in medic­i­nal uses, such as chamomile tea for re­lax­ation and pep­per­mint for gas­tric com­fort.

From an­cient Egyp­tian oint­ments and per­fumes to Vic­to­rian herbal fra­grances and flo­ral dis­plays, peo­ple have used herbs for cen­turies. The Egyp­tians used fennel, co­rian­der, and thyme around 1555 BCE. In 162 CE, the Greek physi­cian Galen used herbal reme­dies that con­tained up to 100 in­gre­di­ents— he was the first com­pound­ing phar­ma­cist!

Culi­nary herbs can be found gar­den-fresh, store-pur­chased, or dried. Fresh herbs have a life ex­pectancy of one week, if re­frig­er­ated. Dried herbs are more con­cen­trated than fresh and can be kept from­six to 12 months in a cool, dark place if stored in clean glass jars.

Cos­metic use of herbs dates back six cen­turies. Mix­tures were used to whiten the face in sev­eral cul­tures, with some claim­ing that white skin made users look pretty and el­e­gant. Today, herbal cos­metlcs come in many forms.

Herbs have roles in many re­li­gions. Frank­in­cense is used in nu­mer­ous Chris­tian churches. Siberian shamans use herbs. Pue­bloans use herbs to in­duce spir­i­tual ex­pe­ri­ences such as vi­sion quests. The folk­lore and su­per­sti­tions as­so­ci­ated with herbs are quite fas­ci­nat­ing and merit fur­ther study.

In New Mex­ico, herbs are lim­ited to neu­tral or al­ka­line soils. A 10- by 12-foot area of­fers am­ple space for an av­er­age-sized fam­ily’s herb gar­den. To pre­pare, amend the soil in the early spring with a well-bal­anced or­ganic fer­til­izer and plenty of com­post. When plant­ing, space herbs to al­low for the the ma­ture slze of each plant. Drip sys­tems of­fer the best ir­ri­ga­tion. Mulching with wood chips, straw, pe­can hulls, or other or­ganic ma­te­rial is im­por­tant in our hot, dry cli­mate. Mulches cool the soil, re­duce water evap­o­ra­tion, dis­cour­age weeds, and re­duce the amount of soil splash­ing onto leaves. Depth and dis­tance be­tween plants vary with each herb. Hap­pily, in­sects and dis­eases are rarely se­ri­ous prob­lems.

The Santa Fe Master Gardener As­so­ci­a­tion has an Herb Demon­stra­tion Gar­den on the cam­pus of the Santa Fe County Ex­ten­sion Office at 3229 Rodeo Road that is avail­able when of­fices are open: Mon­day-Fri­day from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. All of the herbs in the gar­den tol­er­ate poor soil, lit­tle water, and mod­er­ate ne­glect! Some at­tract pol­li­na­tors and ben­e­fit all the lo­cal gar­dens.

A num­bered list of herbs is lo­cated in a plas­tic box at the en­trance to the gar­den. Each planted herb has a num­bered rock placed next to it that cor­re­sponds with the list. While on cam­pus, visit the Cac­tus Gar­den, the Xeric Gar­den, the Earth Kind Rose Gar­den, and the com­post project. A demon­stra­tion veg­etable gar­den project is in progress. The Santa FeMaster Gardener As­so­ci­a­tion will spon­sor a free, “Let’s Grow” ses­sion at the Herb Gar­den on Satur­day, Sept. 10, from 9 a.m. un­til noon. Bring shov­els and gloves for a morn­ing of hands-on herb har­vest­ing. Santa Fe Master Gar­den­ers will help you learn to prop­a­gate by di­vid­ing herbs and re­plant­ing in pots to take home to en­joy! All are wel­come.

Ca­role Owens has been a Master Gardener for five years. She is a re­tired Famiy Nurse Prac­ti­tioner and now de­votes some of her vol­un­teer time pro­vid­ing TLC to all things green.

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