CO-Horts Blog

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Culinary Herbs for the Spring Garden

Posted by Mark J. Platten, Teller County Extension Director

Herbs are some of my favorite plants to grow. I just love being able to cook with them and rub them between my fingers to smell their wonderful aroma. Generally speaking, most herbs love lots of sun and well-drained soils. Aphids and white flies love these plants too, so be sure to keep a good watch and don’t overwater.

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash
Basil (Ocimum basilicum) ~ Don’t let basil go to flower, pinch it back and you will promote a thicker fuller plant. If you let it go to flower, it will stop or slow down the leaf production. Basil requires moist but well drained soil, and requires 5 hours of full sun. A nice compost tea will help the plant to grow lush and full. Basil is very tender, so keep it sheltered when chilly weather is imminent.

Peppermint (Mentha piperita) ~ Peppermint can be invasive, to keep it under control keep it in a container or in a separate box. Soil can be moist, but never soggy and several hours of full sun per day are needed. Pep­permint comes in many varieties, so explore multiple species and discover which you enjoy the most!

Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) ~ Rosemary can produce for quite some time but it can also become woody. Cut it back regularly and remember when cooking, a little goes a long way. Seed germination is low so starter plants are a great way to go. I always keep my rosemary in pots and overwinter them indoors. Rosemary loves full sun and slightly damp soil. Allow it to dry out completely between watering.

Chives (Allium schoenoprasum) ~ Seeds may be started indoors six (6) weeks before planting outdoors. Chives prefer full sun and minimal water. Onion chives have purple flowers, while white flowers sprout from garlic chives. Chives will self-sow and over-winter in most parts of the state.

Thyme (Thymus vulgaris) ~ Thyme requires full sun and loves well-drained, dry soil. Pinch back flowers (deadheading) after flow­ering for a bushy plant. Seeds are slow to germinate. Some varieties are deer-resistant and will overwinter in much of the state.

Photo by Calum Lewis on Unsplash

Oregano (Lippia graveolens) ~ Harvest oregano when the plant is at least 5- 6 inches tall. This herb has a more robust flavor if you pinch back leaves before flowering occurs, which happens after about five or six weeks. Aggres­sively pinching back leaves from the top encourages fuller, bushier plants.

Sage (Salvia officinalis) ~ Seeds are slow to germinate. Sage requires 4-5 hours of full sun and well-drained soil. When the plant becomes overgrown or root bound, you can divide it. They are very tender so keep them covered when frost is likely.

Cilantro (Corlandrum sativum) ~ Cilantro is one of my favorite plants for my windowsill in the winter months. The aphids love it too, so be sure to give it a good spray of water every week. It loves the full sun of a southern facing window. Harvest cilantro regularly to keep the plant producing.

Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) ~ Lavender absolutely needs well-drained, dry, sandy soil. Clay soil will smother the roots and it will rot. Lavender requires 6-8 hours of full sun. It does not overwinter well in the mountainous regions of the state, although if you have an optimal microclimate and you mulch this plant, it may have a fighting chance. If you really love this plant, keep it in a pot and bring it in over the winter months. You may need to constantly watch for aphids and spray it with a strong flow of water.

I love to overwinter these herbs in pots and they live on my kitchen table in a warm southern window - they grow just wonderfully and they go back outside in late spring. These are just a few of the basics, try a few and experiment with other varieties - you will be hooked!

Photo by Alyson McPhee on Unsplash
Special thanks to the Teller County Master Gardeners and CSU Horticulture for information for this post.

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