5 herbs to know and grow
April is the month to plant herbs — in pots, in raised beds, in designated herb gardens.
Fragrant, textural, pretty in bloom and ever ready to provide aromatherapy with the brush of the hand, these plants thrive in hot, dry locations and can take care of themselves.
There is a price for this perfection. Many of the most popular herbs are from the Mediterranean basin and must endure less-thanoptimum environments in hot, humid climates. With a bit of effort, the gardener can mitigate this climatic misalignment — but not fully overcome it.
Humid summers and frigid, wet winters are addressed by placing herbs in sunny, breezy locations and, most of all, in soil that is free-draining. The latter means amending clay soil; you could add horticultural gravel chips, chicken grit or sand, along with some compost.
Avoid organic mulches, which will promote rotting crowns, especially in the winter. I mulch my herb beds with simple and cheap pea gravel, and as it gets worked into the soil from year to year, the effect is all to the good. The bed is then spruced up with a fresh topping of gravel.
Many herbs do well in containers, where you can control the growing medium and provide the drainage they need — no saucers under the pots, please.
They will need watering more often than bed-planted herbs and should be fed a weaker, soluble fertilizer or at half-strength every couple of weeks or so. It is always best to water at the roots rather than the foliage.
Young transplants in small nursery pots should not be planted directly into large containers because the soil will stay too wet for the volume of roots and the plants may well rot.
Place a new plant into a slightly larger container — going up 2 inches in diameter — and let it grow there for a few weeks before putting it in its permanent home.
Here’s my advice for five herbs everyone should grow:
Don’t be tempted to cut lavendar back. Pruning stems below points of new growth will kill it.
Basil generally starts to decline with cooler nights in autumn.
Rosemary often lasts one season.