It is my intention every single spring to start a gardening journal.  Actually, these past couple of years, I’ve considered writing a gardening blog rather than putting pen to paper but alas, nothing has come to fruition yet.  But this year, since our yard is a complete blank slate, I figured this is the perfect time to get started, informally here.

So let’s talk about herbs today.  I have my staples that go in every year…some succeed year after year…and some don’t.  I plant most of my herbs in pots so I can keep them on the deck, making it easy to run out and snip a few while I cook.

  • Chives:  Oh my glorious chives that I had to leave behind in my last garden.  A mid-winter move is never good for transplanting plants in this part of the country.  Anyway, chives are perennial herbs – they come back every year and proliferate each year.  Plant them in a contained space or in pots because they will begin to take over after a few years.  I pluck them off to munch on as I water in the mornings before work – the feeling of growing something so fresh and flavorful is exhilarating.
  • Thyme: I posted the above photo on instagram earlier today with the caption: “I will survive.”  My English thyme survived the winter in that pot and I was floored.  It grew beautifully outside through November and when it started to go dormant, we moved the pot to the garage where it stayed until the end of February when we moved.  So up until now, it’s been outside…and due to the unseasonably mild New England winter we had, the thyme came back with a vengeance.
  • Cilantro:  Major fail.  I just learned this year that it actually needs cool weather to grow.  So yeah, that summer heat that we assume helps everything grow will kill off your cilantro.  It’s a major bummer too since I use so much of it all summer long.

  • Oregano: Added to tzatziki for gyros, a marinade for Greek grilled chicken, or sprinkled on pizza, this is one of my favorite fresh herbs.  My oregano also survived the winter in its pot but I’m planting some extra with the old stuff because it didn’t come back as prolifically as the thyme did.
  • Parsley: Another herb in my “fail” category.  For the life of me, I cannot grow parsley as it gets stringy and seeds quickly, much like my cilantro usually does.  Have any of you had luck with parsley?  What’s your trick?
  • Mint: Perfect for iced tea, mojitos, tabblouleh, or David Lebovitz’s mint chocolate ice cream.  This is another invasive plant so I highly recommend that you plant it in its own pot unless you want it taking over your garden and yard.
  • Rosemary: Give me a handful of rosemary, thyme, and chopped garlic, and the possibilities are endless, especially as the weather cools down and the roast chickens start to appear on our menu.  Rosemary grows well for me and the more I snip off, the better it grows.
  • Basil: Basil is always touch and go for me.  I know a ton of people whose basil grows by the bushel-full (I’m always crazy-jealous) but even with being vigilant about not letting it go to seed (when white flowers start to form on the tops of the plants), it doesn’t usually grow in plentiful amounts for us.  But nevertheless, we grow it every year and this year, I’m planting 12 plants just to ensure that we have a enough to last us a while.  This pesto is one of my favorite ways to use fresh basil (though Kyle can’t eat that version) and we also love it in caprese bruschetta, on all kinds of pizza, and in tomato and goat/feta cheese tarts.

A few tips:

  1. As far as watering potted herbs, I find that they are pretty resilient to heat (except the cilantro and parsley).  Water them every couple of days and water them deeply at the roots – not the entire plant.
  2. When growing herbs in pots, you have the ability to move them around for good sun exposure (especially if you’re new to growing them), can pull them inside during bad weather (like hurricanes), and can extend their life span in the fall as it begins to frost at night by again, pulling them inside or quickly covering them up.

I’d love to hear what herbs you guys are planting this year!  Tell me about what works, what doesn’t, and any tips you’d like to share with the rest of us.  Looking forward to hearing from you!

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  • June 3, 2012 at 12:03 PM

    I am a total gardening novice, but decided a few months back that we really should do something with our garden as it was just grass. We’ve now planted lots of things and some seeds and I find myself checking most days for those first signs of a shoot! I’m so looking forward to having a beautiful garden and just hope that I can manage to look after everything OK. We have raspberries, strawberries, redcurrants, blackberries, tomatoes, peppers, lettuce and many more!! So I also can’t wait to be able to eat and cook with fruit and veg from my own garden! We also have coriander and basil so I’m crossing everything that these grow well. I have two shoots on my basil, but I’m still a little apprehensive that it might not be an amazing bushel!

  • June 3, 2012 at 4:47 PM

    Ohhhhh how I wish I could grow herbs. I kill them by just looking at them

  • June 4, 2012 at 11:56 AM

    I found an old pottery strawberry planter in our garden shed and decided to try planting herbs in it this year…(2 kinds of mint on top with chives and lemon balm, then down the sides are cilantro, basil, rosemary and dill). I have it sitting on the table in the back terrace and everything seems to be doing very well … except that the cilantro is getting brown around the edges (your post has explained my problem so I think I will take the cilantro out and plant it in a separate pot which I’ll keep in the shade of the clematis that grows all over our back porch railing – a perfect little shady cool spot in which, hopefully, a pot of cilantro will thrive!). I have already been snipping off mint leaves like crazy for Mojitos – I’m thinking I need to transplant the mint into a larger pot the way I am going through it! I also have two tall metal planters that I have put a larger rosemary in one and basil in the other. I’m thinking that the strawberry planter might be just a wee bit too small for my herbal requirements! Oh well, it was worth a try 🙂

    • June 4, 2012 at 11:56 PM

      Cathy: A strawberry planter is a GREAT idea for herb gardening, especially when space is limited!

  • June 6, 2012 at 10:07 AM

    Great post!!! I love summer herbs, I think it makes cooking so much more fun to use products from your garden! My cilantro also is not doing well and it goes to seed so fast!

  • Mayura
    June 14, 2012 at 11:35 PM

    This information is very helpful!! I have tried a couple of your recepies and love them. I just bought a few herbs for my kitchen garden ion my apt in Bangalore, India and these tips are great. I cant wait for my herbs to grow and use them in cooking
    … 🙂

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