Monday, April 13, 2009

Garden Tips: Buying and Caring for Herbs

Today I have some tips on buying and caring for herbs. I grow herbs for culinary use and many ornamentals as well. They are one of my favorite things to grow.

When buying herbs examine the plants for wilted, yellow or curling or mutated foliage. All of these could be signs of a problem. Be sure to also turn over the leaves and check for pests. Look for plants that aren't overgrown--either in the root area or otherwise. They are most likely stressed out and won't do as well. My only exception to this is if they are marked WAY down in price to where it is worth taking a chance. Also remember that though it's tempting to buy that lovely big plant with the flowers in full bloom, it is better to buy the one that has the most BUDS--it will last longer and do better for you.

How do you do pinch your herbs? You can either pinch off the foliage with your fingernails or snip with a garden shears. What you are doing is removing the ends of stems that have grown longer/higher than the other stems. Try to follow the shape of the plant--snipping off in various areas, not only the top. If the plant has become very tall you can take 4 or 5 inches off and harvest it. Otherwise take smaller inch to two inch pieces off. Do not let your herb plants bloom! Exceptions are nasturtiums, borage, calendula, chives etc. These are herbs which you use the blooms as well as the leaves to add to recipes. BUT do harvest all of the flowers-which is harvesting and deadheading at the same time.

Some herbs can be dug up in the early spring or fall and divided as you would many perennial flowers. Some are chives, oregano, yarrow, mints and lemon balm. Also, if you are growing mint in the ground, go out after a good rain and pull up the runners. They can spread VERY quickly, so you want to pull it now! I just did this with my chocolate mint I'd brought from our other house and it's really easy to pull up and the scent is lovely too!

Tips on growing herbs in your vegetable garden:

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