“To dig and delve in nice clean dirt can do a mortal little hurt.” ~ John Kendrick Bangs
Growing herbs is one of the amazing gifts of living in FresYes. Gardening in the San Joaquin Valley is similar to that of the Mediterranean where many culinary herbs first found their way into kitchens. Herbs blend beautifully into landscapes when mixed with flowering perennials and annuals. They also do well in pots and tubs, and can be added to informal or formal gardens. Herbs need full sun, well drained but not rich soil, and a regular, moderate water supply. I prefer to do most of my own herbs in pots for this reason. It is much easier to control the amount of water they are getting when they are contained to one spot.
Many herbs require little water once established, making them a perfect addition to your yard while we are trying to conserve. Their foliage can supply dramatic landscape color and texture. A surprising number are bountiful bloomers. As a group, they tend to be disease resistant, satisfying the new gardener and seasoned pro alike. They add fragrance to the garden and, of course, many of them are edible. My first attempt at adding herbs to my own garden years ago, was with mint. Not knowing the invasive character of the herb, I planted it in the middle of perennial bed. It was EVERYWHERE the next season. To this day, if I see mint in someone’s wagon at a garden center, I always ask them if they intend to plant it in the ground or in a pot. It’s a lovely plant to have around. If you decide to plant it in the ground, don’t say I didn’t warn you.
Try some new varieties of old favorites. A few basil varieties I would recommend are: Thai, Spicy Globe, Red Rubin, and Lemon. Oregano is also grown in different varieties. Look for Mexican, Italian, and (most common) Greek. Rosemary can be grown upright or as a groundcover. “Tuscan Blue” is a tall, stately variety that can reach 48 inches. Thyme is a low growing plant and my favorite, lemon thyme, is really a ground cover. It is perfect for edging beds or placing in the front of a mixed container planting.
As with so many other plant materials, herbs behave somewhat differently in our climate. To delay bolting, plant seeds or seedlings of basil, cilantro, dill, fennel, and parsley in early March (NOW). Pinch off blossom buds as soon as they appear. Plant chive, oregano, rosemary, sage, and thyme in spring or in early fall to winter over.
Grow them, eat them, pot them, smell them, arrange them in bouquets, or use them to fill in the dead space in your yard. Any way you use them, herbs are guaranteed to please all of the senses! Happy gardening!