The Garden Buzz: Growing Strategies for Beginning Herb Gardeners

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You can check out Rhonda Hayes at her blog

My beginning experiences with herb gardening are merely “misty watercolor memories” by now.

However I do remember my first efforts at actually growing and propagating herbs, because I quickly wanted more of these delightful plants, and in greater quantities.

One of my biggest questions was which way to propagate each herb; by seed, cutting or division? It’s possible to grow just about every herb from seed, but is it the best way? Standing before the herb seed packets in the rack at the garden center, they would have you to believe it’s a simple matter. Yet your time, energy, patience, growing conditions and money all figure big in the decision.

Back then I read all the information in books, but still I wish there had been one of those wizened and wise herb ladies who would have condensed it all for me into something simple and sweet…

This list is short but includes some of the most popular culinary herbs. These tasty herbs are also great as landscape plants and attractants of pollinators and beneficial insects. After all, herbs are the original multi-taskers!

Dill is quite possibly the easiest herb to grow from seed. 

Herbs Easily Grown from Seed

• Dill is possibly the easiest herb to grow from seed. Direct-sow this cool-season in early spring. Use the foliage first and then the mature seed heads; any seeds left will fall to the ground and germinate the following season, guaranteeing dill for many years to come. While they are tiny it’s possible to transplant these volunteers to other desired beds.

• Parsley is another cool-season herb that can be started before the last frost. To hasten the usual 21-day germination period, soak this seed in water for several days. Each day dump out and refresh the water to remove the germination-inhibiting compounds. Sowing this herb outdoors in place keeps it from bolting, or flowering too soon.

• Basil is a heat-loving herb that can be started indoors and transplanted outside when soil warms. Basil sulks in air temperatures below 65 degrees. Plant outside at the same time when you would plant beans.

Divide your chives into smaller clumps and re-plant to increase your supply.

Herbs Easily Propagated by Division

• Chives can be grown from seed but it is a slow process. Increase your supply by dividing 2 to 3 year plants into smaller clumps and re-planting.

• Thyme can be divided and re-planted much like a groundcover from little sprigs that will eventually join together to form a fragrant carpet. Do this in spring or fall and water well afterwards.

• Oregano is often mislabeled in the garden center. For the truly tasty varieties, go for Greek or Italian oregano. Smell it before you buy it! Common oregano lacks the pungent flavor that is characteristic of delicious Mediterranean food. Divide this plant to insure having more of the correct variety.

Herbs Easily Grown from Cuttings

• Rosemary grows in milder climates as a semi-woody perennial. This growth habit lends itself to propagation by cutting. Snip off the pliable tips; dip in rooting hormone and pot up to grow baby plants. As these root and mature they can be planted out in the garden.

• Lavender looks better when pruned and shaped occasionally. Use these trimmings to root more plants. Always keep the cuttings moist but not wet.

• French Tarragon seldom flowers and is usually propagated by cuttings or layering. Make cuttings in the spring. Layering involves pinning a section of a stem under the soil to root. After these nodes root they are separated from the mother plant.

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