Last year I moved my herb garden right next to my front door, and just off my front walkway. This made it extremely convenient to harvest fresh herbs for cooking as I needed them. I also installed an herb spiral to allow for a wide diversity of herbs to be placed in a small area. Denise and I definitely used more herbs, just because of the convenience factor. Denise can pick herbs without having to put on any outdoor shoes. I did make one mistake when I installed my herb garden. I transplanted some St. Johns Wort very close to my front step. Last year Denise asked me if she should grab some oregano for dinner.
I said, “Sure that would be nice.”
She grabbed St. Johns Wort, which is poisonous. I told her what that was, and she said we had been eating St. Johns Wort for about a week. We are still alive, so it must not be too poisonous. Anyway, it is my fault for putting the St Johns Wort in such a easily harvestable place. I should have tucked it away somewhere out of the way.
I think everyone should start with an herb garden. There are many different herbs that are easy to grow, that are perennial or self-seeding annuals, and they look and smell wonderful. Also, if you have ever priced fresh organic herbs, you will realize that this is an easy area to save money by having a garden.
Herb Garden 2012
If you are starting an herb garden, below is a list of the herbs I tend to use the most that are easy to grow:
Basil is an annual, but you can collect the seed, or let the plant self-seed. It is not a prodigious self-seeder though. Despite the fact that you have to replant basil year after year, it is so versatile in the kitchen, that it is a must have. It is excellent in most Italian dishes, any cooked vegetables, and we even put a few leaves here and there in salads. Basil also does well preserved by drying.
Oregano is a perennial, so no worries about having to replant. Like basil it is also excellent in Italian dishes, and can be moderately used in most spicy meals. As a side benefit its’ flowers attract plenty of pollinators, and its’ strong smell can repel pests.
Thyme is a perennial herb that goes well with most meats, and in soups. Once established it can form a nice groundcover that is maintenance free.
Herb Garden 2013
Pictured: wheat, sage, oregano, onions, chives, basil, daikon radish, calendula, azalea, yarrow, lambsquarters, tomato, clover, thyme, lettuce, dill, parsnips
Sage is a perennial herb that grows to be a small shrub. Sage was one of the first herbs that I grew when I first started gardening, and I still have the same plants from that initial success. In fact they all survived a rough transplant a few months ago. Denise added some fresh sage to the top of our Thanksgiving turkey, and it made everything smell great. I also use it with honey to make sage tea.
Chives are a perennial herb that is great on potatoes, eggs, in soups, or on anything that you need an onion flavor. The other great thing about chives is that in my area, zone 6, I have fresh chives from March through the end of December.
Garlic is a perennial that good cooks everywhere rely on. It is also an herb that promotes good health, as well as excellent meals. It can also double as a pest repellant.
Cilantro is a self-seeding annual that is great in Mexican and Middle Eastern dishes. The coriander seeds can be used in vegetable dishes and in meats. Be careful where you put cilantro, as it can be invasive once established. I would suggest placing it in an area where it will have room to take over.
Mint is a perennial that is excellent in summer teas and drinks, and can be used as garnishment for summer salads and desserts. It is extremely invasive, so it is a good idea to place it in an enclosed area.
Rosemary is a perennial that is an evergreen shrub. It is excellent as an herb for meat and fish.
~ Phil Williams
Phil Williams is a permaculture consultant and designer and creator of the website foodproduction101.com. His website provides useful, timely information for the experienced or beginning gardener, landscaper, or permaculturalist. Phil's personal goals are to build soil, restore and regenerate degraded landscapes, grow and raise an abundance of healthy food of great variety, design and install resilient permaculture gardens in the most efficient manner possible, and teach others along the way.