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Thread: Growing Herbs--What Do You Do?

  1. #1
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    Growing Herbs--What Do You Do?

    My daughter wanted to plant herbs in her garden. I've had gardens but never planted herbs. So we planted basil, rosemary, and thyme at the end of the vegetable garden. Now what do we do? Do you pick them like vegetables? How do you know when they are ready?

  2. #2
    Super Member sweet's Avatar
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    Hi Ellie, Each herb has it's own characteristics.
    Basil must have it's top pinched to bush out. It can be planted a little deep if you like. Basil leaves can be harvested as needed once your plant gets enough leaves to share. Keep the flower buds pinched off all the time. Once basil goes to seed, as an annual, it's only function is to produce seed then naturally die. I like to wash my basil very gently when I water it, and before picking a few leaves so I know that it's clean. Basil bruises very easily. If you bend a leaf in half you will see the fold darken alot. I love watching basil seeds when planting because after they get wet, they form a gel coat all around, amazing!
    Rosemary, now here's a good one. It hates to be wet, but cannot dry out. Rosemary will tell you when it needs water bad when the tips of the stems turn downward. If this happens too often, you may see some stems dying back. If that happens cut the stem back till all the bad parts are removed. Rosemary is a perennial so you can enjoy the beautiful flowers. Some lore goes that The Virgin Mary placed her cloak over a rosemary bush and ever since the flowers remain blue. (Now there are lots of colors). Rosemary needs to be pinched some also to remain bushy. It can get quite large if you are in a good zone for it and it is happy. Rosemary is pretty hard to grow from seed, so a plant is a great way to start.
    Thyme, oh it's such a darling plant with all of those tiny leaves. Thyme also should be pinched a little to encourage growth. Thyme does not too much water. Once thyme starts spreading (if it's a creeping variety) you can cover a little part of a stem with soil and it will eventually root. If it's an upright variety, give it a haircut now and then so it can bush out.
    I use 14-14-14 Osmocote, about a teaspoon which should last almost a season, depending on conditions. Rain and heat will shorten the life of the time release fertilizer.
    Now to the question at hand. I'll give you my answer, ok. I do not like to cut and eat the herbs too soon after purchase. I like to give them a little time to bush out and also wash the leaves when you water so that you can rinse away any possible chemical residue that may be residual. The herbs will start to mature and then you can decide to harvest some and use immediately (as basil in pesto and freeze) or you could tie a few sprigs together and hand to dry. Then again, you could chop up some and put them in ice cube trays to use through another season. If you'd like to try making vinegar with the herbs, there are many recipes online. If you decide to try infusing the hers in oil (use recipe), I suggest that you use within a few weeks and keep refrigerated. If you'd like to craft with the herbs, you could dip them in a paint then press onto a t-shirt, tablecloth, etc. Herbs can always be used as a garnish. I have also made wreaths with fresh herbs that looked so pretty. Some herbs you can make into a living wreath using 2 wreath molds, sphangum moss, etc. Same with topiary and such. Now they all need sun a good part of the day. How much depends on your latitude and zone. More information can be harvested by contacting your local extension service that every county has and ask for information that will be great info for your locale.
    I'll be happy to answer any other questions. If I don't answer quickly here, feel free to pm me,ok. Enjoy those little buggers. BTW, they are not usually bothered by pests, but if they are, it's an easy fix for most. I like the natural products with pyrethrium, a flower. It's pretty safe but watching and washing them usually keeps them healthy.
    Oh, I could go on and on....... like getting some oregano and call it your italian garden or pizza pots, or........
    Good Luck!!!!

  3. #3
    Super Member Prism99's Avatar
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    Once the plant is a decent size you simply harvest a few stems at a time, leaving the rest of the plant to continue growing. For basil it's a good idea to trim several stems at a time to encourage branching. You can put the stems in water in the frig to keep the leaves fresh longer. Same with rosemary and thyme. Do not use the stems for cooking; just strip off the leaves.
    Last edited by Prism99; 05-07-2013 at 07:07 PM.

  4. #4
    Super Member sweet's Avatar
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    Oh, I just looked and you are in KY. That means that the rosemary most likely will need extra special precautions for the winter to remain alive, might be a challenge. The thyme should overwinter fine. Of course the basil will be done in one season....... hope this helps a little.

  5. #5
    Senior Member petthefabric's Avatar
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    I've just started experimenting with herbs. Oregano spreds, so I planted it between a concrete walk and the garage, to contain it. I love the spicy Mexican variety. It smells good along the walk. Also, I'm hoping it will serve as aground cover to keep roots of clematis cool.

    We're at 3100 ft elevation, it snows, rarely below 20'F and gets to 100'F in summer. Rosemary loves it here and it's a favorite because deer don't like it. Nice evergreen in the garden.

    Actually I've heard deer don't like most herbs, except, alas, basil-one of my favorites. Basil has been touch and go here but I keep trying.

    Last year, thyme did well. So this year it's planted as a ground cover. The delecate flavor is so nice. My daughter tells me to mow it down in the winter and it'll come back fine in the spring.

    This year I'm trying chives, fennel and dill. Oh yes, I've planted pepperment which the dogs have trashed by digging-going to put more rocks there to discourage them. It also makes a good ground cover below the camelia.

    Due to poor soil, poor drainage, deer and dogs, a vege garden will take some serious preparation. So for now, they're in pots or landscape plants. I'm picking my favorites one at a time. I'd like to try taragon, sage, lemon balm.

  6. #6
    Super Member Tink's Mom's Avatar
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    Just a note...if you are going to plant mint or even dill...they probably should be planted in pots. They spread like crazy! The pots can be planted in the garden, but this just helps to contain them.
    Tink's Mom (My name is really Susie)

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by Prism99 View Post
    Once the plant is a decent size you simply harvest a few stems at a time, leaving the rest of the plant to continue growing. For basil it's a good idea to trim several stems at a time to encourage branching. You can put the stems in water in the frig to keep the leaves fresh longer. Same with rosemary and thyme. Do not use the stems for cooking; just strip off the leaves.
    You can use the tender stems of thyme but not the tough ones. Rosemary is great; once it's stalks get big enough, you strip the leaves off of them and use them as shish kabob sticks; talk about flavor. My rosemary goes all winter long and its about 4 feet tall and about the same around; only because I just did a major cutting back on the bush. My sage also now has a thick tree like stalk since it's lasted for over 3 yrs now, year round. Herbs are great, I even make my own herb de province because I don't like what is sold, mine has lots more in it and so much more flavor.
    Judy

  8. #8
    Super Member ptquilts's Avatar
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    My BIL gave me a thyme plant and boy did it spread. And I don't even use thyme for much of anything. Smells nice though, and the bees love it.

  9. #9
    Senior Member puck116's Avatar
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    I love planting herbs. I plant in pots or my window boxes that are on top of the railing. This is my 3rd yr. Last year my oregano and mint came back. This year the sage and thyme came back. I have 10 different herbs; mint, stevia, oregano, basil, spicy basil, rosemary, dill, parsley and sage & thyme that came back. My husband makes pizza at least once a week and I like to chop up a variety to sprinkle on my side of the pizza. He only likes Stevia on his side. I'll add herbs to just about anything I'm cooking; soups, chili or on steak and chicken. Loving the info from Sweet as I'm really not literate about care of the herbs. We go to FL for the winter and there is no one here to take care of my herb plants.

  10. #10
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    I live in Illinois west of Chgo........here I have chives and oregano that come up yearly......use chives for baked potatoes and oregano all year long for lots of things......I will dry the oregano before the frost hits.....I just use the chives as they grow during the summer.......

    yearly I will plant (just did actually) in old wash tubs one with parsley-flat leafed and the other with sweet basil...use both during the summer fresh as I need, then in fall before frost will cut down and dry for winter use. I do a lot of scratch cooking so herbs are necessary in my kitchen..........this year I also planted (in a large pot) mint for my sun tea........hopefully it will winter over and come up again next year.......I usually buy a rosemary plant and a thyme plant during the summer and use that herb as I have it..............then we also plant lots of veggies too..........

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