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Herbs

A Round Rock Garden Plant Profiles: Herbs

Below is a listing of herb varieties that we are currently growing, have grown in the past, or tried to grow!  I’ve included some of my sowing/planting/growing/harvesting notes.  To jump to the specific herb, use the list below:

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Herb List

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Basil, Sweet (Genovese cultivar)(Ocimum basilicum)

Annual.  Tender and delicate.  Be sure to wait until all threat of frost passes.  Can be grown to 2′ tall x 2′ wide with care.  It prefers medium water and doesn’t like to dry out between waterings.  Best if kept out of late afternoon sun as long days will make it flower and go to seed much more quickly.  A great tip is to pinch off the top growth of the plant so that the plant concentrates its growing efforts on building a strong, woody base and bushy, horizontal growth.  By removing the top growth before the plant flowers, you can extend your basil harvest, making it productive up until the first frost without going to seed.

I had two basil plants the very first season I started the herb garden.  By following the above tip, I had basil coming out of my ears!  Basil is best fresh and really is poor dried, so the best use of an overabundance of basil leaves is to turn it into pesto.  If you freeze the pesto in airtight containers, it will keep until you’re harvesting fresh basil the next year.   To make pesto, take 1 1/2 cups firmly packed basil leaves, 2 cloves of garlic, 1/2 cup fresh Parmesan reggiano (don’t skimp and go with Kraft), 1/4 – 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil, a small handful of toasted pine nuts and 1/4 cup of fresh parsley and place in a food processor.  Blend until reduced to a paste.  If freezing, I’d leave out the pine nuts.  I like to take a little of this out at a time, thaw it and put it in pasta, on top of pizza or as a topping on bruschetta or crackers.

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Chives (Allium schoenoprasum)

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Perennial.  Evergreen.  Herb.  Full sun to part shade.  Grows to 12″ tall and can be harvested continually once large enough.  Sow 1/4″ deep 6″ apart March through August or start indoors six weeks prior to transplanting.  15-21 days to germination.  Seeds require darkness to germinate so keep them in a dark closet until they sprout.

Fresh chives are awesome on just about anything, offering up a great garlicky onion flavor and bite.  They lose their flavor quickly, so add them at the end of the preparation as a garnish.  Chives also flower and attract beneficial insects to the garden.  Chives can be dug up and separated in the spring to produce more plants.  We have three well-established chive clumps going, with about twenty more seedlings going as well for later transplanting.

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Curry Plant (Helichrysum angustifolium)

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Evergreen.  Ornamental. Full sun to part shade.  Medium to low water.  12-18″ tall by 18-24″ wide.  Can be trimmed to size needed.  Drought tolerant.  Yellow flowers in Spring/Early Summer.

The curry plants were purchased for a couple of bucks each because they smelled so wonderful and their white foliage is a great contrast in the herb garden.  They are not edible.   This plant is not to be confused with the spice blend called curry powder, which  contains: turmeric, fenugreek, cumin, coriander, black pepper, bay leaves, celery seed, nutmeg, cloves, onion, red pepper and ginger.  It does, however, offer up that same warm spicy scent whenever it is touched.  I grow mine in part shade in well draining soil and it seems to do fine whatever Mother Nature throws at it.  Although it appears to have needles, it is velvety soft.  I plan to keep mine trimmed like a little bonsai.

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Dill (Anethum graveolens)

Short-lived perennial (frost to frost).  Full sun to part shade.  Medium water needs and likes a humid environment.  If dill leaves shrivel in the sunny location in which you have it planted, you’ll want to mist it from time to time.  Space plants a foot apart.  They’ll grow to up to three feet.  Flowering generally occurs within eight weeks from emergence, forming umbrels of small yellow flowers.  Dill can be harvested once flowers begin to form, or you can let it flower and collect seeds.

Dill attracts a lot of beneficial insects to the garden, which feed upon its flower nectar as well as the leaves.  It is a host plant for the swallowtail butterfly family.

 

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Fennel, Florence (Foeniculum vulgare)

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Hardy herb.  Self-sows freely, but dead-heading keeps them from spreading.   4-6′ tall x 2′ wide.  Bright yellow blooms in summer on multiple umbrels.  Also produces a bulb that can be eaten and seeds that can be collected for seasoning.

I use fennel seeds a lot in my cooking.  It’s great with steamed carrots, and I put a couple tablespoons in my Indian lentils.  Mmmm, they have a nice anise, slightly oniony flavor.   I purchased four transplants and put them in the ground in early April.   Fennel is a host plant for the swallowtail butterfly family – and we generated much interest from black swallowtails last season because of these four plants

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Lavender, Spanish (Lavandula stoechas)

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Perennial.  Evergreen.  2-3′ tall and at least 18″ spacing.  Full sun.  Lavender blooms from Spring through summer in cycles.   Aromatic and can also be used as herb (a main ingredient in Herbs de Provence). Drought resistant.

Our lavender plant is confined to a container as it seems to do best that way.  I’ve killed others by over-watering.  This one lets me know when it needs water as the flower stalks will sag.  A great smelling, attractive plant to bees, butterflies and birds.

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Marjoram (Origanum maiorana)

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Hardy Perennial.  Herb.  Full sun to part shade.  Produces a small shrub up to foot in diameter.  I recommend buying a transplant as it takes a little while to get these going to harvest-able size.  A close relative of oregano.

Marjoram is one of the more fragrant herbs in the garden, with a sweet floral perfume.  It is the main ingredient in Italian Seasoning and goes great with a host of foods.  Marjoram dries easily and its flavor intensifies.  I have one in my herb garden, which is enough for our family’s uses.

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Mexican Mint Marigold (tagetes lucida)(a.k.a. Texas Tarragon)

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Newly transplanted mint marigold

Tender Perennial (hardy to 20 degrees).  Flower/Herb/Medicinal.  Full sun.  Medium to low water.  Plants grow up to 3×3′ shrub.  Late summer to early winter blooming.  Start indoors six weeks before last frost.  1/2″ sowing depth.  Plant flowers the second year, so if you want blooms this year, obtain a transplant.

Part of the Plants For Texas program.  Mexican Mint Marigold is a great substitute for French Tarragon in the kitchen with a pleasing, mild anise flavor.  It is also an attractive flowering plant that draws in butterflies and bees to your garden.  Native Central Americans have used tagetes lucida for colic, malaria and even rattlesnake bites.

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Oregano, Greek (Origanum heracleoticum, Origanum vulgare hirtum)

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Greek oregano

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Perennial.  Herb.  Evergreen.  Up to 24″ tall with 2-3′ spread.  Space plants 12″ apart.  Full sun to part shade. Very fast growing.  Blooms clusters of white flowers in the spring after stems grow to up to a foot tall.   Native to Greece and Turkey, oregano is naturalized in the states.  It is the medicinal variety, used in tea/tincture for indigestion and cough, and in oil for toothaches and for its anti-fungual and antiseptic properties.   Drought tolerant, do not over water.   Oregano is one herb that increases in flavor intensity when it is dried.

Greek oregano can be identified by its fuzzy leaves, which are not present on Italian oregano.  Oregano is a very spicy, flavorful herb that is essential for Greek and Italian cuisine.  It is a main ingredient in both poultry and italian seasoning spice blends.    I also make tincture of oregano, which is excellent as an oral rinse.  Fill a container with dried oregano – leaves and stems – and fill container with 80-proof vodka, cover and let sit two weeks shaking occasionally.  After two weeks, remove the leaves and stems and keep the tincture closed in a dark cabinet.  Keeps a long time.  To use, simply use full-strength, swishing in the mouth and spit out.

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Oregano, Italian (Origanum x majoricum)

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Italian oregano

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Perennial.  Herb.  Evergreen.  Up to 24″ tall with 2-3′ spread.  Space plants 12″ apart.  Full sun to part shade.  Drought tolerant, do not over water.  Fast grower.  Blooms clusters of white flowers in spring after stems grow up to a foot tall.

Organicum x marjoricum is actually a hybrid between pot marjoram and Greek oregano, for a milder, sweeter flavor.  I have one plant that is highly prolific – more so than the Greek variety.  It cooks the same as the other, only I use a little more.  Flavor increases by drying.

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Parsley, Curled Leaf (petroselinum crispum)

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Curly Leaf Parsley

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Hardy annual/biennial.   12-18″ tall, space 9-12″ apart.  Flowers second year and dies.  A member of the carrot family and relative of celery, parsley is the world’s most popular herb.  Two tablespoon of parsley contains 150% of the the RDA of Vitamin K, 15% Vitamin C, 12% Vitamin A and about 3% each of folate and iron.  As such, it is a very nutritious herb, but one that gets overlooked as a garnish.  The oils in Parsley have been shown to inhibit cancer and tumor growth and encourages heart health.

I have four parsley plants I transplanted last fall.  They rode out the winter, and I assume they will begin flowering soon before turning to seed and dying.  I use parsley in many dishes, but I also keep it around as a food and host plant for swallowtail butterflies.

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Parsley, Flat Leaf (petroselinum neapolitanum)(a.k.a. Italian)

[image coming soon]

Hardy annual/biennial.  24-36″ tall, space 2′ apart.  First year planting from seed is recommended for best leaf production, although germination rate is low.  The plant then overwinters and the following year produces flowers and seed, but reduced leaf production.  Harvest leaves any time, choosing outermost leaves first.  Seeds can be harvested once they are hardened and begin to turn brown, or they can be left to self-seed.  Parsley has deep roots and requires moist soil.  In dry climates, you want to supplement water frequently.

Parsley is a host plant for the black swallowtail butterfly.  If you plant parsley, be sure to plant extra so that the caterpillars have some to eat, too.  Be careful when harvesting leaves so as not to remove eggs, which are usually found on the underside or edges.

 

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Peppermint (mentha piperita)

Peppermint

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Perennial. Culinary and medicinal herb.  Full sun to partial shade.  Medium water, but does best moist.  Peppermint is grown from cuttings.  It is a hybrid of the water mint and spearmint and is sterile.   Luckily, it is pretty easy to grow from cuttings.  Can grow 1-3 ft. tall and produces flowers from mid-summer through fall, which are attractive to bees and butterflies.  Mint spreads by runners, so it is best contained to a pot, planted in an isolated spot of the yard or garden, or by sinking an entire pot of it into the ground.

The above picture is the mother plant I purchased last year.  I say mother because we’ve used it to make several clones, but it, too, was once someone’s clone.   I planted some in the ground in the corner of the yard, but it is much slower to grow than spearmint.  A great herb to make teas out of or flavor a number of dishes and drinks.  Good for stomach ailments, sore throats and headaches.  Tincture of peppermint added to other tinctures like oregano make a great antiseptic mouthwash.  Take one part oregano tincture and two parts peppermint tincture and mix together.  Add stevia extract/tincture for sweetness.

 

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Rosemary, Prostrate (rosemarinus officinalis, cultivar: prostratus)

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Prostrate rosemary flower

 

Perennial.  Culinary herb.  Evergreen.  Although “prostrate”, it still reaches over 1′ tall and 2-3′ wide.  Full sun.  Light water.  Drought tolerant once established.  Prostrate rosemary produces beautiful lavender flowers from Spring to Fall, which are attractive to bees, butterfly and birds.  Can easily be propagated by cuttings of soft wood.

I have only one prostrate rosemary plant, which was transplanted in early April.  I have it planted next to the edge of a bed where it will hopefully spill out onto the gravel path.

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Rosemary (rosemarinus officinalis, cultivar: Tuscan Blue)

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Tuscan Blue rosemary, spring 2010

Tuscan Blue rosemary, spring 2011

Perennial.  Culinary herb.  Evergreen.  3-6′ tall and wide and wonderful as a hedge.  Highly aromatic.  Produces dark blue blooms repeatedly throughout the year.  Prized for its wonderful versatile flavor.   Full sun.  Low water.  Drought tolerant.   Propagated easily from soft-wood cuttings.

I have one bush in our native bed.  It has grown four times its original transplant size, despite my using it often for cooking.  Rosemary is delicious and used almost daily in our house to one degree or another.  The thicker, woody stems can be stripped of leaves, soaked in water, and used as skewers for grilled chicken, which is awesome!

 

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Sage, Common Culinary (salvia officinalis)

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culinary sage

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Perennial.  Culinary herb.  Evergreen.  Full sun.  Gets leggy if not enough direct sun.  Light water.  Does not do well moist.   Drought tolerant.  Produces purple blooms from Spring to early Summer, which are attractive to beneficial insects and ants.   Aromatic and versatile in many cuisines.  Easily propagated from soft-wood cuttings in mid-Summer.

We had two sage plants last year that grew out of control.  When I reworked the herb bed, I removed them.  Now we have one in a separate 2′ x 2′ bed along with two flat parsley plants where it receives more sun.  A very useful herb to have around, which is delectable dried and ground into gravies, stews and rubs.  I love this in my sausage, country gravy.

 

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Spearmint (mentha spicata)

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spearmint leaves

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Perennial.  Herb.  Evergreen.   12-18″ tall to any width you’ll let it grow.  This invasive herb spreads by underground runners and will quickly take over an area.  Full sun to part shade.  Prefers moist soil.   Mid summer to early fall blooms of white, pinkish flowers.   Attractive to bees and butterfly once blooming.   Sterile, but you don’t need seeds with this prolific plant.

Okay, so I did what most gardener’s say not to do: plant the mint outside of a container.  I transplanted four plants that I grew from cuttings.  They took over a corner of the yard between fall and spring.  By summer the entire corner was filled with spearmint reaching over two feet tall.  I eventually ripped all of it out of the ground after it flowered.  I found it was pretty easy to get rid of, but I did have to make sure to pull all of the roots out.

This is a great herb to use as garnish, as an ingredient in tabouli, in mojitos, and can also be used medicinally.  I have prepared tincture of spearmint (for directions, see Greek oregano above), which is useful in flavoring other tinctures.  Spearmint tea is easily made from fresh or dried leaves and helps soothes stomach aches, indigestion and cramps.

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Stevia (Stevia rebaudiana)(a.k.a. sweetleaf)

Tender perennial.  Native to tropics and subtropics.  Prefers sandy or well-draining soil.  Avoid letting soil stay moist as this will increase chance of fungual infection.  Prefers low nitrogen, high phosphorus and potassium fertilizer for sweetest flavor.  Viable seed is rare, so most are obtained as established plants in spring that can be used to propagate additional plants by cutting.  Pinch plant tips to promote bushier growth.  Benefits from foliar sprays such as compost tea.  Also, monthly feeds of liquid seaweed (0-0-1-) are beneficial.  Our two plants are in a pot where it can be moved indoors during cold weather to prolong its life.  It will not over-winter outdoors in our area.

Stevia leaves contain a substance (steviocide) that is 300 times sweeter than sugar.  Unlike sugar, stevia has a slower onset of sweet flavor that lingers much longer.  It also has a flavor slightly reminiscent of anise.  Leaves can be chewed or steeped with other herbs in a tea.  Tinctures can also be made, which extracts the sweet essence of the leaves.  Combine this tincture with spearmint tincture, for example, and you have a pure, organic and all-natural mouthwash.  If grown indoors, keep in mind that shorter days make it flower.  If growing as a perennial, it is best to cut back to 6 inches before flowering for highest steviocide content.  Plant will regrow and can be harvested many times in this manner.

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Thyme, English (Thymus vulgaris)(a.k.a. garden thyme)

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English thyme

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Perennial.  Herb.  Evergreen.  Thyme is an indispensable herb for the kitchen garden.  Small, compact growth on short vine-like branches with tiny aromatic leaves.   Base becomes woody with age.  12-15″ tall, space about 12″ apart.  Great for rock gardens.  Also produces small white flowers in Spring and Summer.

I started out with two thyme plants and I absolutely love them for their fragrance and flavor.  Thyme is good on just about everything from veggies and mashed potatoes to meat marinades and soups.  Since starting the herb garden, I have added two more thyme plants.   The ones planted in full sun are a foot in diameter and height.

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Comments on: "Herbs" (6)

  1. I might also recommend Lemon balm. It is part of the mint family so spreads quite a bit and can pop up in other beds. I have it as a bushy ground cover in the Butterfly garden. This is a wonderful herb to mix in teas or flavor summer drinks. This year I have had to redo my herbal potager due to the oregano taking over the bed. I dug it up and moved it to the butterfly garden as well (Italian variety/makes for a wonderful ground cover too). The herbs I am trying out this year are Lavendar ‘Munstead’, Chocolate mint, Rosemary ‘Blue Spires’ and a Basil for making pesto. I will probably add more later. I’ve also had wonderful luck with Cilantro, but as no one in my family enjoyed the flavor I eventually removed it. I live in the midwest.

    • roundrockgarden said:

      The oregano will do that, won’t it!? It doesn’t take long for it to spread out and take over, but it’s perfect in a rock garden. Good luck with your herb garden additions and changes. You should check out my Basil Growing tip to maximize your basil crop. I grew only two plants last fall and made a large tub of pesto that I’ve been using since October.

  2. Ruth Griffin said:

    This is so amazing, have really learned alot from all your posts/pictures.
    I am inspired to start my herb garden today! Do you7 have any info on organic weed control?

  3. I am new to herb gardening – and gardening in general. Have you had luck with planting them in pots? We are overrun with rabbits. We live in Pflugerville – and just stumbled upon your wonderful site.

    • Pots are a great way to grow an herb garden, especially in limited space yards like those in the suburbs. We have a TON of rabbits, too. A well-maintained fence is really the best deterrent. If you have a fence, look closely at any gates, and walk the perimeter to find access points. Usually these are shallow burrows under the fence (they don’t need much room to squeeze under). You can try applying a liquid deterrent like DeFence or Liquid Fence, which contain natural, eco-friendly ingredients. The main ingredient “putrescent egg” smells like a dead animal to deer and rabbits and scares them away. These products are not noticeable to humans once dried. Apply these products around both sides of any access points as well as around garden beds and/or containers. Rabbits are notoriously hard to control, but these sprays are “guaranteed” to work! I’ve not tried them personally …

  4. […] Herbs A Round Rock Garden source […]

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