5 herbs to know and grow

Baltimore Sun Sunday - - GARDEN - By Adrian Hig­gins

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:

Laven­der

DEAN FOSDICK 2012

Don’t be tempted to cut laven­dar back. Prun­ing stems be­low points of new growth will kill it.

GETTY

Basil gen­er­ally starts to de­cline with cooler nights in au­tumn.

FLOWERPHOT­OS/UIG

Rose­mary of­ten lasts one sea­son.

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