Gardening Herbs Laidback Gardener Tip of the Day

Happy Herbs Have Varying Needs

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A single herb garden where all your herbs grow happily together may seem like a great idea… but isn’t really possible.

If you plan to create a beautiful herb garden with all your favorite herbs growing happily side by side, think again. Culinary and medicinal herbs are very much a mixed bag: they don’t all share the same needs when it comes to growing conditions.

Some like blazing heat, full sun and soil that dries out thoroughly between waterings; others prefer partial shade, cool temperature and soil that is always moist; some do best in rich soil, many taste better if the soil is actually rather poor; some are perennials, others are annuals, biennials, even shrubs or trees. Some can live outdoors all year even in cold climates, others are tropical or subtropical plants and need to be carefully coddled indoors over the winter… or simply replaced with new purchases each spring.

How can you possibly satisfy the needs of the plants that so different? The solution is actually simple: don’t plant herbs with different needs together, that’s all!

A Herb Garden… With Offshoots

If you’re planning a herb garden that would suit the majority of herbs, aim for full sun and soil that is very drained and not too rich: perhaps a raised bed. That will correspond to the needs of many herbs, as so many come from the Mediterranean region where intense sun and at least occasional drought are the norms. Then plant the numerous “exceptions” elsewhere on your property, according to their needs.

When you give all your herb plants the conditions they want, you can be sure you’ll be truly getting a bumper crop!

What Do Herbs Like?

It is not easy to put all the growing needs of a group of plants as variable as herbs in a single chart, but here at least are some guidelines that may help put you on the right track.

Angelica (Angelica archangelica)     Biennial          Sun/Part shade         Moist soil

Anise (Pimpinella anisum)   Annual            Sun     Slightly moist soil

Anise hyssop (Agastache foeniculum)        Perennial (zone 4)    Sun/Part shade                     Moist soil

Basil (Ocimum basilicum and others)        Annual            Sun     Slightly moist soil

Bay leaf (Laurus nobilis)      Tree (zone 8)            Sun/Part shade         Slightly moist soil

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Borage

Borage (Borago officinalis)  Annual            Sun     Slightly moist soil

Caraway (Carum carvi)        Annual            Sun/Part shade         Dry soil

Catnip (Nepeta cataria)        Perennial (zone 3)    Sun     Part shade     Slightly moist soil à sec

Chervil (Anthriscus cerefolium)       Annual            Sun/Part shade         Slightly moist soil

Chives (Allium schoenoprasum)      Perennial (zone 2)       Sun/Part shade         Slightly moist soil

Coriander/cilantro (Coriandrum sativum)          Annual            Sun/Part shade         Slightly moist soil

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The so-called curry plant (Helichrysum angustifolium): the leaves smell like curry… but the taste doesn’t carry over when you’re cooking. Real curry is a blend of spices.

Curry plant   (Helichrysum angustifolium)            Shrub (zone 8)          Dry to slightly moist soil

Dill (Anethum graveolens)    Annual            Sun     Slightly moist soil

Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare)           Perennial (zone 7)    Sun     Slightly moist soil

French tarragon (Artemisia dracunculus sativa)  Perennial (zone 5)    Sun     Slightly moist soil

Garlic chives (Allium tuberosum)  Perennial (zone 3)    Sun/Part shade         Slightly moist soil

Hyssop (Hyssopus officinalis)         Perennial (zone 3)    Sun/Part shade         Dry soil

Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis)   Perennial (zone 4)    Sun/Part shade         Slightly moist soil

Lemon verbena (Aloysia triphylla)            Shrub (zone 8)          Sun     Slightly moist soil

Lovage (Levisticum officinale)         Perennial (zone 3)    Sun/Part shade         Slightly moist soil

Majorum (Origanum majorana)     Perennial (zone 7)    Sun     Dry to slightly moist soil

Mint (Mentha spp.)   Perennial (zone 2 à 4)         Sun/Shade     Moist soil

Oregano (Origanum vulgare)           Perennial (zone 3)    Sun     Dry soil

Parsley (Petroselinum crispum)      Biennial          Sun/Part shade         Slightly moist soil

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Purple perilla is a self-sowing annual.

Perilla (Perilla frutescens)   Annual            Sun/Part shade         Slightly moist soil

Pineapple sage (Salvia elegans)      Perennial (zone 8)    Sun/Part shade         Slightly moist soil

Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis)            Shrub (zone 7)          Sun     Slightly moist soil

Sage (Salvia officinalis)         Perennial (zone 5)    Sun     Dry soil

Sorrel (Rumex acetosa)        Perennial (zone 3)    Sun/Part shade         Slightly moist soil

Summer savory (Satureja hortensis)         Annual            Sun     Dry soil

Sweet cicely (Myrrhis odorata)      Perennial (zone 4)    Part shade     Moist soil

Thyme (Thymus spp.)          Perennial (zone 3)    Sun     Dry soil

Winter savory (Satureja montana)            Perennial (zone 3)    Sun     Dry soil

 

Larry Hodgson is one of Canada’s best-known garden communicators. He has notably been editor-in-chief of HousePlant Magazine, Fleurs, Plantes et Jardins, À Fleur de Pot and Houseplant Forum magazines and is currently the garden correspondent for Le Soleil and radio garden commentator for CKIA-FM Radio. He has written for many garden publications in both the United States and Canada, including Canadian Gardening, Harrowsmith, Horticulture, Fine Gardening and Organic Gardening. He also speaks frequently to horticultural groups throughout Canada and the U.S. His book credits include The Garden Lover’s Guide to Canada, Complete Guide to Houseplants, Making the Most of Shade, Perennials for Every Purpose, Annuals for Every Purpose, and Houseplants for Dummies, as well as nearly 60 other titles in English and French. He is a past president of the Garden Writers Association (now Garden Communicators International) and the winner of the prestigious 2006 Garden Media Promoter Award offered by the Perennial Plant Association. He resides in Quebec City, Quebec, Canada.

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