10 Herbs to Plant in Fall for Gardens & Containers

10 Herbs to Plant in Fall for Gardens & Containers

Autumn is fast approaching, and you know what that means: put your white wardrobe in the attic! And, for some gardeners, it may signal something else: the end of the growing season. Truth be told, however, fall is an excellent season to plant herbs in the garden or containers. What do you need to know about planting in the fall? Which herbs should you choose?

What You Need To Know

If you’re a “fallscaping” rookie, here are a few things you need to keep in mind:

What is fall?

This probably sounds like a pretty basic question, right? There might be more to it than you think! Your fall season depends greatly on your hardiness zone. So, what are some basic “requirements”?

  • The Fall Season is between Labor Day and the “Fall Back” Daylight Saving Time.
  • Your temperatures should maintain a daytime high below 80 degrees.
  • Your first frost should be at least 10-6 weeks away.

What’s the latest I can plant?

Our advice: don’t drag your feet! Go ahead and preorder your herbs so that they arrive right on time. What are the dangers of procrastination? 

Young herbs (especially perennials) need to “harden off” before the first frost, which basically means they need to acclimate and toughen up to lowering temperatures! If they aren’t given enough time for this process, let’s just say… you’ll be left with a pretty sorry-looking plant.

How long do herbs need to harden off?

  • Perennials (especially woody varieties) require 8-10 weeks.
  • Annuals and biennials require 6 weeks.

Will planting Perennials in the fall hurt them in the long run?

Nope! It turns out Kelly Clarkson is right: What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Facts show that perennials that are hardened off and experience their first winter as a youngster emerge stronger, healthier, generally hardier, and are more productive in the spring when compared to Spring-planted plants.

10 Herbs to Plant for Fall for Gardens & Containers

Sage

Hardy to zone 5, this perennial herb has you covered in all aspects: It’s a winner in the kitchen (say hello to this stuffing and fettuccine recipe) and is renowned for its health benefits. Whether you have a common cold, are suffering from stress or menopausal symptoms, Sage can come to the rescue! 

Another perk: Even if you have a slight “black thumb,” Sage varieties are forgiving and resilient. Plant your Sage in well-draining soil, keeping it in partial to full sun. If your Sage is in an outdoor container, water it 2-3 times weekly when the soil dries out.

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Echinacea

Are you prepping for the cold and flu season? Do you want some beautiful springtime blossoms? That means that Echinacea (aka the coneflower) is perfect for you. Attractive pink petals complement the rusty red centers, attracting all kinds of pollinators in the spring. Oh, and the best part? A cup or two of Echinacea tea weekly can ward off infection.

These perennial herbs can survive in several different soil types, even rocky areas! The most important thing to keep in mind? They hate “wet feet.” Keep these beauties on the drier side in partial to full sun. If you’ve opted to confine your Echinacea to a container, make sure there’s enough room to accommodate the taproot (usually a 2-3 gallon pot).

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Chives

If you live in a chilly region, Chives are for you! This perennial is hardy all the way to zone 3. As one of the most popular herbs, Chives probably don’t require much of an introduction: they taste great on everything, have alluring springtime pom-pom flowers, and are a nutrient-rich food (okay, that one might be a little surprising, right?).

Place your Chives in a location that receives full to partial sun and provide them with fertile, moist, well-draining soil. These plants can be grown in containers both inside and out; just make sure you place them on your sunniest windowsill!

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Lilac Jelly

Use Lilac flowers, or any other type of strong-smelling edible blossom (like the Lavender shown here), to make this jelly! Its lightly floral taste pairs nicely with many things: add it to your cream cheese and bagel routine in the morning, or include it in a lemon drop martini at night. Either way, you won’t be disappointed.

If you’re looking for an overflowing container plant, this one’s for you. Lemon Balm tends to be invasive in the garden, so it’s perfect for pots! Plant your herb in well-draining, sandy loam, place it in your sunniest location, and allow the first inch or two to dry out between waterings.

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Thyme

Thyme is a low-growing, shrubby herb that makes excellent garden edging. In the kitchen, thyme is an easy flavor-filled addition to just about anything: omelets, soups, chicken… you name it! Medicinally, the leaves, flowers, and oil are used to treat bronchitis and other conditions.

This perennial is hardy to zone 5 and should be planted in well-draining soil, placed in your sunniest spot, and watered when the first 2 inches of soil have dried.

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Lavender

While you can’t expect any blossoms until the Spring, get a head start on next season by planting hardy Lavender varieties in the Fall! In the meantime, you can use Lavender leaves to make delicious treats (like these Lavender Lemon Bars) or make a simple Lavender tea to fight stress, anxiety, and insomnia.

These herbs are perennials and are hardy to zone 5. Plant your Lavendar in well-draining soil, keep it in your sunniest spot, and allow the soil of mature plants to dry out before rewatering. If you keep your Lavender in a container, make sure it’s large enough for its root system (2-3 gallons).

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Greek Oregano

Similar to Thyme, Oregano is another low-grower that makes a beautiful frame for your taller plants. While blossoms are understated, Oregano’s flavor is impactful! Use this herb to flavor a fantastic marinara or create a Pistachio-Oregano pesto. Medicinally, Oregano is used to fight viral infections and can be used as a natural insecticide.

Oregano is hardy to zone 5. Like other Mediterranean herbs, they should be planted in well-draining soil in bright light; mature specimens should dry out before rewatering.

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Marjoram

It’s not just Oregano’s cousin… we believe Marjoram has real value in the garden and pantry! Marjoram pairs beautifully with grilled beef and fish (nobody said to retire the grill after Labor Day!). In the medicine cabinet, the oil and leaves of Marjoram can fight muscle pain: simply add a few tablespoons of dried Marjoram to your bathwater. 

Marjoram is a perennial in warmer climates (to zone 7). Even if you live in a chillier area, Marjoram is a worthwhile annual herb to start in the Fall. Plant it in the container with well-draining soil and bring it to a sunny indoor location when temperatures spiral downward.

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Parsley

The potential is endless with Parsley. As a wispy biennial, it’s fast-growing and makes a perfect container plant to have in a sunny location near the kitchen door. Whether you’re adding pizzazz to potatoes, sprucing up squash, or flavoring focaccia, Parsley is the herb for you!

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Cilantro

You either love it, or you hate it… our vote is in Cilantro’s favor! The beginning of fall does not mean you have to give up delicious guacamole, chimichurri, and easy taco toppings. Your Cilantro plant will grow perfectly in a pot filled with well-draining soil that’s kept in a sunny spot.

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Harvesting Herbs in the Fall

Harvesting Herbs in the Fall

Herbs can add a whole new depth to your garden that you may not have had before. You can see how growing herbs can help you make your own herb blends and also how they can help you create new combinations that may have otherwise never come into your mind.

With fall right around the corner, far too many gardeners panic and make mistakes. Are you interested in learning how to harvest herbs in the fall without making common mistakes? Read our tips below to learn more about how you should handle the season when harvesting herbs in the fall.herbs-harvesting-fall

What Herbs To Harvest in the Fall

Before you dive in and start plucking herbs, you should pay attention to your selection. The timing for harvesting herbs is dependent on what type of plant they are, and other factors. For example, certain culinary herbs such as oregano may be more sensitive to dropping temperatures.

Many herbs will last up to four weeks, some up to six. As fall approaches, you should focus on harvesting the less-thirsty herbs first.

If you are looking for extra-long-lasting herbs, it is best to harvest in the fall, because they will last until spring. It is also important to note that herbs will not last as long if they are picked wet.

You must harvest herbs in the appropriate season to ensure that they are harvested at their peak. Keep in mind the fact that herbs that are starting to lose their flavor before harvest will take on a bitter taste when you cook them. Retain these herbs on your herbs table and harvest them as they dry out. You can also cut these herbs when they are already overgrown.

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Tips for Harvesting & Preserving Your Herbs

  • When harvesting herbs for immediate use there are a few rules to keep in mind. For single-stemmed herb plants such as basil and savory, only pick the center tip. This encourages bushy growth. Use the tops and flower buds of chervil, thyme, and mint. Use the outside leaves and stalks of your parsley plant and leave the center alone.
  • A major harvest requires a bit of work, but the rewards throughout the year are well worth the effort. You can get 2-3 major cuts from both annual and perennial herbs before the end of the season. The last harvest should be in early fall in order to give the new growth a chance to harden off before the first frost.
  • Choose a bright, sunny morning just after the dew has evaporated but before the sun gets hot enough to affect the oil content in the leaves and flowers. Take care in picking and use only healthy plants. Perennial herbs can be cut back by a third, while annuals can be cut to within three inches of the soil surface.
  • Rinse the fresh-cut herbs in cool water and use towels to absorb excess moisture. Tie the stems together (dental floss works well) in bundles of five or six and hang in a dry, well-ventilated spot, away from direct sun and moisture. The temperature should be no more than 85 degrees. Since herbs should not be stored until they are completely dry it is important to test them by placing a stem in an airtight container overnight. If condensation forms, more drying is needed.
  • Once the plants are dry, store them in clean, airtight containers (glass containers are best) and keep away from direct sunlight. Herbs lose their potency over time, so we suggest keeping them for a maximum period of one year. 

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Get Ready for Winter

Many herbs will bloom during the summer months, but when the temperatures start to drop, the majority of them will begin to die. During the fall months, herbs should all be harvested and dried if you want to preserve them. Check the weather forecast and get the herbs dried off as soon as you can. This will help prevent them from freezing and dying in the cold.

Make sure you’ve harvested your herbs before they’re dried out. Just because the leaves are wilted, don’t just leave them on the plants. Harvesting herbs is much quicker if they’re dried completely.

So be sure to harvest the herbs and store them away as soon as possible. Herb gardening experts say green herbs such as basil, chives, and parsley should not be harvested until they’re completely dry. Similar to preparing your soil, choosing which herbs to harvest can impact the rest of your garden and the season as a whole.

Protect Your Herb Plants for Winter

Keep in mind that there’s only so much protection a pot of herbs can receive before the fall weather creeps in, leading to frosty conditions. Make sure to cover your plants up well before the temperature drops below 40 degrees.

It’s also good to keep a close eye on them when possible. See if they are drooping a lot, and protect the plants from your pets or kids by pinching off any extra stems. When cooking with herbs, there is usually a tight window where flavors are optimal.

The leaves on most herbs will be poisonous, but if you cut them off, then all you’re doing is removing the bitter end. Harvest in the right way when fall approaches. A lot of people will overlook how to harvest their herbs, especially when it’s time to bring them inside for the winter. There are some tricks to taking care of your herbs, though.

Harvest Herbs for Their Seeds

When you are planning to harvest your herbs for seeds, there are some considerations to keep in mind. Harvest herbs close to the time they will be harvested. If the herb has fallen off its seedhead by the time you harvest it, you will need to wait for it to fall over before harvesting the seeds.

Start by selecting and gathering your herbs. Remember, you will be collecting the seeds of your herbs for further propagation.

What type of herbs should you start collecting seeds from? When it comes to bushes, we like harvesting herbs such as oregano, mint, lemon balm, cilantro, and rosemary for their seeds.​​

A Few More Tips for Harvesting Herbs in the Fall

There are a few technical approaches you can use to harvest your herbs. Many people harvest their herbs by the stems. If you want to harvest herbs by the stem, you will want to use your garden shears or small snips. Snipping off the branches that are stem tips will produce smaller amounts of herbs. By using shears, the stems should be fully clipped, and you will be left with lots of leaves on the stems.

If you want to harvest herbs for their flowers, you can do the same as above, but you’ll need a few different types of tools to do it. Of course, if you want to go the organic route, you can always use your hands.

When using herb snips or shears, you will want to go around the entire plant first. Try to do it in sections. If you do it this way, you’ll be left with lots of leaves on the plant. With this approach, the leaves will be healthy, and they will continue to provide you with a full, vibrant, harvest for the rest of your autumn gardening.

Enjoy the Fall With Your Herbs

That does it for this piece. We hope that we have helped you learn a bit more about harvesting herbs in the fall. As you can see, you do not need to fear new seasons in the garden, as they present new opportunities for your herbs and plants.

To learn more about our approach to our herbs and our business, check out our FAQ page.

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How to Help Your Herbs Beat the Heat

How to Help Your Herbs Beat the Heat

The “dog days of summer” are upon us! Grab the pool noodles, sangria popsicles, and floppy hats. Even on the hottest days, it’s not too difficult for us to find relief (if all else fails, retreat to the A/C!), but what about your outdoor garden? The sun is beating down on your herbs harder than ever! How can you help them beat the heat?

All Herbs Love the Heat, Right?

Wrong. Not all herbs are natural summer lovers. In fact, several types enjoy cooler temperatures, such as:

  • Cilantro
  • Parsley
  • Chives
  • Chervil
  • Sorrel

So, which herbs enjoy the heat?

  • Lemongrass
  • Basil (Everyone’s favorite!)
  • Rosemary
  • Tarragon
  • Thyme
  • Dill
  • Borage
  • Bay
  • Mint
  • Oregano

It’s important to note that even summer-loving herbs will need extra TLC to get them through the hottest months. Without the proper care, your herbs could be left sunburnt, taste-deficient, and withering. How can you make a success of it?

A Pre-Summer Precaution

Your goal: Keep the roots cool. So, avoid planting your precious herbs in dark or metal containers. Why? Dark colors absorb the sun’s rays, heating up the soil. And, if you’ve ever leaned against a hot car while in your “Daisy Duke’s,” you can guess what damage a metal pot can do!

Watering Your Herbs in the Summer

Adjusting your watering routine to fit warmer temperatures can be an adventure. You may think hotter temperatures = a thirstier plant. And, while that may be the case, keeping that theory too close in mind can also contribute to overwatering. Two rules for summer watering: Always check the soil’s moisture level and water deep.

If you frequently give your herbs a quick, daily spray-down (surface watering), you’re encouraging them to develop shallow roots. What’s the problem with that? When the heat of summer comes, a plant needs deep roots to keep cool and remain hydrated. How do you “water deep”?

  • Container gardens: Drench the soil until water drains from the bottom for 2 minutes.
  • In-ground gardens: Drench for 15 minutes.

While watering deeply takes more time, you don’t have to water as frequently and achieve healthier (tastier) herbs. What’s not to love?

When to Water

We love taking a midday dip in the pool, right? So our plants must love a mid-day spray-down! Nope, think again. Water droplets on your herb’s leaves act as mini magnifying glasses, amplifying the sun’s rays (making your wilty plant even “wilty-er”). Solution? Do your deep watering at the end of the day, when the sun is setting, and temperatures are cooler.

Preparing for a Heatwave

Sudden, shockingly hot temperatures can send some plants into a type of survival-mode-hibernation, where they temporarily stop absorbing moisture and nutrients through their roots. What can you do?

Watch the weather and thoroughly water your garden before the heatwave hits. This will give your herbs what they need to see them through! (Who wants to hibernate on an ‘empty stomach,’ right?) Rewater your plant friend when the soil exhibits the proper signs, remembering that this could happen more slowly than you expect.

Ways to Keep it Cool!

Container Gardens

One of the many perks of container gardens: If a location proves to be too hot or sunny, you can quickly relocate your herbs! Are some of your cool-weather herbs suffering? You can

opt to bring them indoors for the hottest part of the summer. How? Taking plants directly from the midday sun to an air-conditioned house is shocking, to say the least! So, prepare your plant by first placing it in a shady location. In a few days, when temperatures have cooled at night, bring your herb indoors.

One of the downsides: if your container is too small, your plant’s root system isn’t very well insulated from the heat. What can you do? Before the hottest days of summer arrive, make sure your plant isn’t rootbound. If it is, give it a pot upgrade!

In-Ground Gardens

The bad news: your herbs are pretty much stuck with their location. But, there are a few things you can do to help your plants thrive in the heat. Give your herbs a thick layer of mulch to provide added insulation to the soil. Remember, cool roots contribute to a happy plant!

Consider providing your herbs with some much-needed shade, especially from the afternoon sun! How can you do this? There are several ways, ranging from “bootleg” ideas to more polished looks. You can simply move your patio umbrella to the garden. You could rig up one of those (million) Amazon boxes you have. Or you can invest in some shade cloth.

If you’re opting for shade cloth, here are a few things to keep in mind: (1) You need 30% to 40% shade, (2) Dark colors absorb heat, so you’ll need to keep black shade cloths several inches from your herb’s foliage.

Keep Pruning

Warm temperatures give many herbs the “green-light” to flower and bolt. What’s the big deal about that? Bolting negatively impacts the flavor and texture of some herbs. And, let’s admit it, bolted Cilantro is just sad. Prevent your plant from bolting by regularly pruning new growth and removing any flowers ASAP.

Are you at a loss about what to do with all these extra herbs? Keep your eyes peeled for more of our articles with herb-ilicious recipes. And save some of this summer-freshness for the upcoming winter months by making “herbal ice cubes.” Simply fill the bottom of an ice cube tray with your minced herb of choice, top with some olive oil, and stick it in the freezer!

Whatever temperatures this summer brings, by using these helpful tips, we trust that you and your herbs will be able to “beat the heat!” Happy Growing!

25 Best Herbs to Grow in Your Kitchen Garden

25 Best Herbs to Grow in Your Kitchen Garden

Whether you want to grow a kitchen herb garden as a hobby or to save money or just for healthier eating, there are plenty of herbs you can grow in your backyard, on your patio, or even on your windowsill. Fresh herbs make recipes taste even better and are great to have around for soups, stews, and salads.

In picking a place to grow your herbs, keep in mind that they need a good four to six hours of sun daily. There are many herbs that you can grow to enhance your cooking. When you plant a kitchen garden, don’t only plant the herbs you know, take a chance on something else. You might just be surprised.

Here are fresh herbs and plants you can grow that are great to have handy in the kitchen.

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PARSLEY

Parsley is a mild bitter herb that can enhance the flavor of your foods. Many consider parsley just to be a curly green garnish for food, but it actually helps things like stews achieve a more balanced flavor. As an added benefit, parsley can aid in digestion. By reading articles such as unify health labs reviews and other digestion related discussions, many supplements and herbs are uncovered as great helpers for the digestive system. Parsley is often grown as an annual, but in milder climates, it will stay evergreen all winter long. Parsley plants will grow to be large and bushy. Parsley is a good source of Vitamins A and C.

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MINT

There are several varieties of mint. You can use it in drinks like mojitos or mint juleps. Or add some mint to your summer iced tea. Mint freshens the breath and will help to calm your stomach. But if you grow mint, remember that it’s considered an invasive plant. Mint will spread and take over your garden. It’s best grown in containers.

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DILL

Dill is a great flavoring for fish, lamb, potatoes, and peas. It also aids in digestion, helps to fight bad breath and has the added benefits of reducing swelling and cramps. Dill is easy to grow. It will also attract helpful insects to your garden such as wasps and other predatory insects.

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BASIL

Whether you choose large leaf Italian basil or large purple sweet basil, this plant is popular in many cuisines but is a feature in Italian cooking like pizzas, salads, sauces, and pesto. Some people think basil is great for planting alongside your tomatoes but there’s no real evidence that it makes your tomatoes taste sweeter. Basil has health benefits of antioxidants and is a defense against low blood sugar.

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SAGE

Sage is an aromatic herb that is great for seasoning meats, sauces, and vegetables. But be careful because sage will have a tendency to overpower other flavors. Sage also helps to relieve cuts, inflammation and helps with memory issues. It was once thought to be a medicinal cure-all. Sage is an easy herb to grow and is relatively easy to care for. It’s great in your garden for attracting bees.

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ROSEMARY

Rosemary is one of the most flavorful herbs and is great for adding to things like poultry, meats, and vegetables. Around Christmastime, you’ll see tree-shaped rosemary bushes for sale. You can bring them home and keep them for planting in the spring. The fragrant plant is a delightful scent and is sometimes used in floral arrangements. Rosemary likes its soil a bit on the dry side, so be careful not to overwater. Allowed to flourish, a rosemary plant will grow into a full-sized bush.

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THYME

Thyme is a delicate looking plant. It is often used for flavoring egg, bean and vegetable dishes. Thyme is frequently used in the Mediterranean, Italian and Provençal French cuisines. Pair it with lamb, poultry, and tomatoes. Thyme is often added to soups and stews. Thyme is part of the mint family. The most common variety is garden thyme which has gray-green leaves and a minty, somewhat lemony smell.

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CILANTRO / CORIANDER

Cilantro is also known as coriander leaf or Chinese parsley. Cilantro is perfect for adding into spicy foods like chills, and Mexican, Chinese, Southeast Asian and Indian cuisines. The seeds of cilantro are known as coriander. The plant grows early in the season and doesn’t like it when the ground becomes too warm.

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FENNEL

Fennel is very flavorful and aromatic, and along with anise is a primary ingredient in absinthe. Fennel is native to the Mediterranean region and does best in dry soils near the ocean or on river banks. The strongly flavored leaves of fennel are similar in shape to dill. The bulb can be sautéed or grilled, or eaten raw. Fennel bulbs are used for garnishes or sometimes added to salads.

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CHAMOMILE

In the United States and Europe, chamomile is most often used as an ingredient in herbal tea. It is one of the world’s most widely consumed herbal teas. But it has also been used for thousands of years as a traditional medicine for settling stomachs and calming the nerves. Chamomile also helps reduce inflammation and treat fevers. You can grow either German chamomile or Roman chamomile. The two are interchangeable when it comes to making tea, but they are grown very differently. German chamomile is an annual plant that grows up to three feet tall. Roman chamomile is a perennial but only grows to about a foot high. German chamomile is more commonly known for its blossoms.

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FRESH TARRAGON

French tarragon is the traditional ingredient of ‘Fines Herbes’ and is the aristocrat of fresh herbs. A must-have for any Culinary Herb Garden! It will transform an ordinary dish into a work of art with it’s spicy anise flavor. A little tarragon in a chicken salad makes a profound difference. It is wonderful in sauces, soups and meat dishes. Try it with vegetables. It is the choice for any hearty dish.

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LAVENDER

Grown as a condiment and for use in salads and dressings, lavender will give most dishes a slightly sweet flavor. Lavender syrup and dried lavender buds are used in the United States for making lavender scones and marshmallows. Health benefits include the soothing of insect bites and headaches when used with herbs and aromatherapy. Lavender plants will survive in many growing conditions but do best in full sun in warm, well-drained soil.

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CHIVES

Chives are a member of the garlic family and can be the perfect complement to sour cream. Chives are mostly used for flavoring and are considered one of the “fine herbs” of French cuisine. Chives are native to Asia but have been used as an additive to food for almost 5,000 years. Chives work well with eggs, fish, potatoes, salads, shellfish, and soups. Chives are an excellent source of beta carotene and Vitamin C.

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ARUGULA

A member of the Mustard family, Arugula is a leafy green that packs a peppery punch! Similar to Watercress in flavor, Arugula has edible, aromatic leaves and a spicier flavor than most greens. Often eaten raw in salads, Arugula also tastes great when cooked. If you’re adding it to a pizza, pasta, or pesto, make sure to add it last or just after the meal is done cooking to prevent the leaves from withering.

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BAY LEAVES

The smell of bay’s noble leaves reminds you of balsam, clove, mint, and some say even honey! Well known for its use in hearty stews and other long-simmering dishes with a slightly sharp, peppery, almost bitter taste. Add the whole leaves at the beginning of the cooking process and remember to remove them before serving. Sweet bay is native to the Mediterranean.

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LEMON VERBENA

Lemon Verbena is a useful culinary herb, used in teas, salads, dressings, and desserts. A wonderful herb plant that will do very well when potted for container gardening or in an indoor herb garden. Made popular as a perfume centuries ago when introduced by Spanish conquistadors who had found the aromatic herb in South America. Since that time Lemon Verbena has been used in everything from recipes to soaps. Because Lemon Verbena holds its citric fragrance long after being dried, it makes a great addition to potpourris and herb pillows and can be used in closets and drawers to freshen laundry.

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CHERVIL

Chervil produces flat, light-green, lacy leaves with a hint of anise, and enhances the flavor of chicken, fish, vegetables, eggs, and salads. It is an heirloom herb that was most likely introduced to European herb gardening by the Romans. Closely related to Parsley, chervil has become an indispensable herb plant in the kitchen, and a classic among herb plants in French cuisine.

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WINTER SAVORY

A deliciously spicy culinary herb, Winter Savory adds an aromatic flavor to many dishes. Also used medicinally for its antibacterial and anti-fungal properties. Winter Savory, like its Summer counterpart, is a spicy culinary herb from the Mint family that compliments fish, beans, and poultry with its intense flavor. Though it loses some of this intensity during the cooking process, Winter Savory remains aromatic and is often used to flavor liqueurs and makes a beautiful garnish to any salad.

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PEPPERMINT

Like other mints, peppermint is known for aiding digestion and freshening the breath. But peppermint is also a good source of calcium, potassium and Vitamin B. Peppermint is a hybrid mint, being a cross between water mint and spearmint. Peppermint oil can be used for flavoring but is also useful as a natural pesticide. It has been shown to reduce the effects of irritable bowel syndrome. Peppermint prefers rich soil and partial shade. Like other mints, it spreads quickly, so consider planting it in containers.

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STEVIA

Stevia is an attractive looking plant and a natural sweetener. The added benefit is that there are no calories. Stevia is part of the sunflower family and is native to subtropical and tropical regions in the Western hemisphere. While it’s a perennial plant it will only survive in the milder climates in North America. Still, you can add stevia to your garden for the summer. It is also known as sweetleaf or sugarleaf and is grown for its sweet leaves. Stevia can be used as a natural sweetener and as a sugar substitute.

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LEMONGRASS

Lemongrass stalks can provide antioxidants such as beta-carotene and a defense against cancer and eye inflammation. Lemongrass has a strong lemon flavor. You can brew it in tea as well as use it as an herb seasoning. To grow this outdoors, you need to live in at least Zone 9. Outside it can grow up to six feet high but will be notably smaller if you grow it indoors.

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BERGAMOT (BEE BALM)

Gaining renewed popularity as a culinary herb, Bee Balm makes a wonderful addition to pizzas, salads, breads and any dishes that are complemented by the herb’s unique flavor. Minty and slightly spicy, Bergamot makes a great substitute for Oregano. Bergamot has a long history of use as a medicinal plant by many Native Americans, including the Blackfeet. The Blackfeet Indians used this hardy perennial in poultices to treat minor cuts and wounds. A tea made from the plant was also used to treat mouth and throat infections caused by gingivitis, as the plant contains high levels of a naturally occurring antiseptic, Thymol, which is found in many brand name mouthwashes.

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OREGANO

Oregano is also part of the mint family and is native to the warm climates of Eurasia and the Mediterranean. Oregano is a perennial plant but in colder climates can be grown as an annual. It is sometimes called wild marjoram and is closely related to sweet marjoram. Oregano is used for flavoring and is a staple herb of Italian American cuisine. In the United States, it gained popularity following World War II as soldiers returned home with a desire for the “pizza herb.”

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CUTTING CELERY

A more flavorful choice than its crunchier cousin, Cutting Celery is a leafy, aromatic herb that can be substituted for celery in dishes if you want to add flavor without the stringy fibers. Often mistaken for flat-leafed Parsley, Cutting Celery has a dark, glossy leaf with a serrated edge and small sprig-like stalks. The leaves and stems can be used to add flavor to salads, vegetables, stews, and soups.

If you grow your herbs indoors you can enjoy them fresh year-round. But if that’s not an option, consider freezing or drying some of your own herbs to have available for cooking year-round. When you’re ready to buy herb plants, please check out our online store.

The Secret Life of Basil: Forlorn Love, Holy Water, and Scorpions?

The Secret Life of Basil: Forlorn Love, Holy Water, and Scorpions?

Basil: We love it. It’s become a household staple and a beloved friend. It tastes great and enhances everything. No wonder the word “basil” comes from the Greek word for “King.” But, when you stop to think, how much do you really know about that Basil sitting on your windowsill? This “King of the Kitchen” has a fascinating secret past, and surprising origins! Learning the facts will give you some mind-tingling trivia to use at the dinner table, and just might put a smile on your face next time you make your grandma’s marinara recipe.

Basil Basics

What do Basil, Mint, Rosemary, and Sage have in common? Hold onto your chair! They’re all related. Is your mind blown?

These plant-cousins seem vastly different in looks and tastes, but they are all part of the Lamiaceae plant family, which has about 3,500 species! In fact, the genus we know as Basil (ocimum basilicum) has 150 varieties.

That classic variety you’re probably thinking of right now is Basil ‘Genovese,’ aka: Sweet Basil. But, there are plenty other types of this royal herb that deserve attention. Tulsi, or Holy Green Basil, is revered for its religious significance and health benefits. Then, of course, there’s the dark and glossy Basil ‘Amethyst,’ and the ‘Thai Siam Queen,’ who graces us with her sweet licorice twist. And that’s just to name a few!

Care

The good news is, all of these Basil plants require the same type of care. So, if you want to experiment this growing season and try out a new variety, don’t despair! Just follow these basic care tips:

  • Soil: Select a nutrient rich, well-draining soil.
  • Water: Basil hates soggy roots. The soil should be kept slightly damp, rewatering before it has dried out in its entirety. If you’ve opted for container gardening, check your soil an inch or two down with a chopstick or your finger. If you used a traditional potting mix instead of the recommended well-draining soil, water less frequently. Tip: The best time to water is in the mornings or evenings. This will help prevent the foliage from getting sunburned from the harsh afternoon sun!
  • Light: These herbs love the morning and early afternoon sun. They require 6-8 hours of natural light per day.

If you are growing your Basil indoors, they still have the same natural light requirement. Put them near your sunniest window, and supplement with a grow light. If you opt to use a grow light-only, Basil requires 10 hours of artificial light.

  • Harvesting: You should do this frequently to encourage your Basil to become a mighty bush! Check the stem and locate an area where two pairs of leaves are growing; cut the stem just above. This means the two stems will continue to grow, amplifying your plant’s productivity.

Fast fact: If harvested properly, twelve Basil plants can yield 4-6 cups of leaves per week! Having trouble using that much basil? You can always freeze it. Simply pulse the washed leaves in your food processor with some olive oil (to prevent the leaves from turning black in the freezer) and put it in an ice cube tray. Viola! Fresh Basil whenever you need it.

The Origins of Basil

When you hear “Basil,” what country comes to mind? Italy, no doubt! And for a good reason: Pesto, Pasta Sauce, and Caprese Salad are some of our favorite Basil-forward dishes. The cruel irony, however, is that Italy’s favorite herb is not a native of the Mediterranean.

Basil was a transplant during the spice trade from India and Asia. No one is entirely sure who gets dibs on its origin. The first historical record of Sweet Basil was in 807 AD in the region of Hunan, China. However, Basil’s roots run deep in India, where Hindus revere it and use it in the ancient worship of the god Vishnu.

The confusion about the exact origins of Basil is a testament to its hardiness! Wherever this plant goes, it can grow and propagate. This also highlights the rich history of container gardening, which aided in Basil’s transport.

Historical Significance

People in ancient times were fascinated by our favorite herb. Basil became an integral part of religious traditions and the topic of some intriguing folklore. Perhaps funniest of all: Many of the concepts are in stark contrast to each other. So, will we never know all of the secrets Basil has to hold? Read on and draw your own conclusion!

Basil is a central part of Hinduism. Holy Green Basil is offered to Vishnu, when worshipping her, making it a common feature in Indian gardens. During the British occupation, Indian citizens were permitted to swear on Basil rather than the Bible when in court, highlighting just how esteemed this herb is in Hindu culture!

The religious significance of Basil transcends belief-systems, as the Greek Orthodox Church uses the same type of Basil to prepare their holy water.

Jewish tradition says that Basil can give you strength when fasting. While Italians say that Basil helps you have a restful “abbiocco” (after-lunch nap).

Many cultures also revered Basil as a way to gain favorable passage into the afterlife. Ancient Egyptians used it in their mummifying procedures. Other cultures would place the herb in the hand or mouth of the deceased.

John Keats famously wrote a tragic love-poem surrounding Basil Folklore, entitled “Isabella, or the Pot of Basil.” While we will save you from some of the grisly details (this story makes Romeo and Juliet sound like a kid’s cartoon): A forlorn girl uses a pot of Basil to preserve her dead beau, only to “die forlorn, imploring for her Basil to the last” after her brothers steal her beloved herb. (Don’t get this attached to your container garden, please!)

Meanwhile, in Africa, Basil was used to ward off scorpions. While in European cultures, just one whiff of Basil could apparently infest your brain with them!

Italians saw Basil as a signal of love. Portugal too, uses Basil as a gift to your sweetheart during certain religious holidays. While ancient Rome and Greece felt that Basil symbolized hatred, abuse, poverty, and misfortune.

 

Who would’ve thought that we had such a world-traveler on our hands! Next time you pick up some fresh Basil, take a couple of seconds to reflect on how far this ‘King of the Kitchen’ has come. (But smell it at your own risk!)

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Tips For Growing Herb Plants Indoors

Tips For Growing Herb Plants Indoors

LIGHT:

Light is the most crucial element for their success ~ even direct light is a challenge in the winter when intensity is reduced.  Your herbs will need at least 6 to 8 hours of indirect sun a day (for the most light needy herbs, the ones that say ‘bright light’ or ‘full sun’).  There are those that recommend acclimating your plants to lower light by gradually adjusting them to lower light conditions.  Great idea, but ‘ain’t going to happen’ in my case.  My space gets morning and afternoon sun, so I am lucky in that we are talking 8 hours per day.  You can use grow lights, but since I have no experience with them, a Google search is advised.  You are going to see a few changes in the plants due to this decrease in light:  your herbs may drop a few leaves.  The plant is actually shedding its more inefficient leaves by producing more efficient leaves higher up, closer to the light source.  The plant may get a big leggier as it reaches for the light.  I recommend that you turn the plant periodically so that it receives light on all sides;   you’ll know it is time as the plant will ‘lean toward the light’.

WATER:

‘Not too much, not too little, just right’.  That is hard when they come indoors.  The really trick is to find that balance.  In general, begin to water LESS often and MORE thoroughly.  Make sure that the soil is dry to the touch before watering, and when you water, make sure that the water runs out of the pot.  Drainage is key, so make sure that you use a well-draining pot.  My favorite pots are your run of the mill, red clay pot.  If you plants are small, a 6” pot will be perfect.  And, make sure that you are using a quality potting soil.  Not making a ‘plug’ for one soil over another, but Miracle Grow makes a good indoor mix that we’ve used for a few years.

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FOOD:

Although we aren’t big promoters of fertilizer ‘in the field’, we do recommend a nice supplementary feeding when your plants are confined to a pot, growing indoors.  Again, just our recommendation ~ a top quality fish emulsion every 2 weeks when the plants are in their ‘grow phase’.  Stinky but effective!

PESTS AND DISEASES:

No one wants to think that they are harboring these ‘nasties’ but you’ll never know what can be lurking inside.  Actually, some of these pests may just piggyback on your plants as they come home to roost.  Bottom line:  be vigilant.  I used to wait to act, but now I’m encouraging everyone to ‘be proactive, not reactive’.  Herbs are more susceptible to common pests when growing indoors, so keep your eyes open for whiteflies, spider mites, aphids, mealy bugs and the WORST of all – scale insects!  I’ve begun a routine of regular spraying with an insecticidal soap.  If it works in the greenhouse, it should work on my sun porch.  There are a number of safe and effective products out there, so take a look.

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ACCEPTING THE INDOOR CHALLENGE:

I’ll be the first to admit it:  growing herbs indoors is not as easy as growing them outdoors.  But, rest assured, it can be done.  Since I have a lot of greenhouse space, plenty of light and water and 24/7 attention, I never felt the need to grow them indoors, at home.  But, over the years, as your questions about indoor growing became more numerous and specific, I began to grow more and more of them in our bright little ‘life of it’ room (named by my then 6 year old son, who on a cold wintery day, proclaimed that our warm sunny haven was ‘the life of it’) – not sure where that came from, but it stuck.  Twenty -three years later, it’s still bright and sunny and filled with herbs ferns, gardenias and a lot of citrus trees and bushes.

Our room is glass, on three sides, and has an east, south and west exposure;  basically we have a lot of light all day.  We have an old fashioned radiator backed up by a small baseboard electric heater.  I am always out there, watering, cleaning, trimming and keeping a sharp eye out for any potential pests.  So, the basics: lightheatwater and lots of attention.  I do a weekly spraying with a ‘safe’ pesticide made from … herbs!

The second vital component is knowing which herbs do best indoors.  We try to be specific on our site, and try to provide information on why some herbs do well indoors and why others should not be grown indoors.  Do yourself a favor and take our advice.  

Start small and try to pick three or four of your favorites – the ones you will use.  I’d suggest mintparsleyoregano and thyme.  Rosemary and lavender are a bit trickier but they can be successfully grown indoors remembering that lavenders must dry out well between waterings.  A note of cautions – make sure that you don’t crowd out your plants, as good air flow between plants is a must.

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