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Growing Herbs

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Tasty Kitchen Blog: Kitchen Talk (Growing Herbs)

The birds are chirping, mornings come a little bit earlier each day, and that tickle in my throat is telling me that pollen is floating around in the air, bringing with it the promise of new life. Spring is finally here!

Many winter-weary folks have started flocking to garden centers, eager to begin work on their yards and planters. I love the garden center early in the season because the racks of herb plants are still packed, and the number of varieties that you can now bring home keeps growing. Varieties like chocolate mint, Thai basil, or my personal favorite, culantro, which I like to refer to as cilantro on steroids.

So let’s talk about herbs today! Tell us:

Do you have any tips for growing herbs at home?

I am, sadly, quite the pitiful gardener. But I keep trying, hoping that one day, I’ll be among those who have lush little pots of herbs on their kitchen windowsill, who never have to run to the store every time they need some basil for pasta, or cilantro for salsa. So I’ll be eagerly reading all your comments!

Betsy says to take the leaves off the top of the basil plant rather than the lower leaves to keep the plant growing fuller and not taller. (She also said she wasn’t quite sure and not to quote her, but sometimes I don’t hear well.)

Nanci adamantly warns never to plant mint in the ground or it will take over the world. She’d also love for someone to tell her how to grow cilantro, because it always seems to get tall and leggy and go to seed on her. (I’ll pretend I know what that means. Like I said, pitiful gardener.)

How about you? What advice do you have for growing herbs? Share your tips with us below!



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NancyRing on 4.15.2014

Cilantro – it starts “getting leggy and going to seed” once the soil it is planted in reaches 75dF. You should plant it in a container so you can bring it inside when the outside temperatures get too warm. Also – I plant several plants 10 days or so apart so they will be ready at different times. Just make sure you harvest {often!} in the same order!

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Rosemary Jameson on 4.14.2014

If you have bought the pots of herbs at the supermarket – parsley for instance – and chopped what you need, keep the pot moist and it will start to shoot again. Gradually get it used to the outside temperature and then plant in your regular herb bed or pot. Two for one!

liz on 4.13.2014

Cindy, the best way to get rid of beetles is to kill the grubs. Two ways involve using beneficial nematodes or milky spores. Google those terms since there is a proper time and method to killing the grubs. If you are planting and see any of the grubs, be sure to kill them by dropping them into a jar of water or squishing them.

While checking out the web, there were a few interesting ways to kill the adult beetle. One suggestion was to check the plants and flick the beetles into a bucket of soapy water. Leave the bucket by the plants and apparently the odor of the dead beetles will deter others. This may be an old tale that continues on. A second option isto plant some geraniums, white seems to be the preferred color, a few feet away from your plants. The beetles are attracted by the flowers, but after eating them, they are paralyzed and fall off. They can recover within 24 hours, but are often eaten by other yard creatures. I think I’m going to get some geraniums this year for my garden!

Also, the trick for not having too many garlic chives is to cut the flowers off as soon as they bloom. Once they go to seed, they are everywhere and their root system does make it hard to get rid of them. But, I have been successful in limiting these plants by getting rid of the blossems.

Cathey M on 4.13.2014

I grow all my herbs in pots every year, the Japanese beetles only go after my basil as well Cindy. I have gotten it under control by doing 2 things. I replace the dirt every year in the pots (these are two huge black plastic witches kettles). Buy replacing the dirt I’m throwing out the hidden grubs and insects hiding all winter. The other is I plant 3 marigolds in the same pot, marigolds are an excellent bug repellent. Do I still get a few leaves chewed on, yes, but minimal damage.

Hopefully all you’ll have to worry about is “what to do with all your basil in the early fall”.

Tulip, that’s odd with your mint. I keep mine in pots and it’s like a weed. Try ornamental grasses, not an herb but they are pretty and they birds will seed them.

Enjoy your gardens all.

Tulip on 4.11.2014

I’m one of those people who planted mint around a bird bath where it would get sun and water and fill in a bare spot — and it all died, so I need a LOT of help. What’s foolproof?

But for Deb B, who was trying to remove thyme leave from the stem, I did learn in India just to strip them off with your thumb and fingernail.

Cindy on 4.11.2014

Does anyone have a problem with, or a cure for Japanese beetles devouring the basil every year? I can’t stand those creep things, and they seem to be attracted to the basil like a magnet! :(

I’ve tried spraying the plant with some soapy water and that helps — for one day. I would so love to get rid of them FOREVER.


Rachael G on 4.11.2014

Regarding the cilantro, I have experienced the same thing with it every year and I read that it does “go to bolt” easily and that like lettuces, you do best if you stagger planting it, a month apart or so plant more when the original plant gets too leggy. That way you have a continuous supply. In theory anyway! I’m going to try it this year.

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kay43026 on 4.11.2014

I, also, love to plant herbs. Since our inground pools takes up most of our back yard (I’m in the ‘burbs) I have to settle for planting in pots.

I learned a few years ago to forgo those cute ‘collections’ of several herbs in one pot and give each wonderful herb their own pot to grow to the maximum. They.Grow.So.Much.Better that way!

I do rosemary, basil, thyme, parsley and cilantro (but cilantro can be tricky if we’re having a very HOT summer as it goes to seed so quickly). I put mint in a hanging basket on my deck. It gets lush and lovely. I steep mint water like Sun Tea & keep it in the fridge. It is soooo refreshing on a hot summer day.

Sometimes miss the days of living in a rural area where I had a wonderfully gorgeous/huge garden with all sorts of veggies! Now I must rely on several local farmer’s markets…which is a lot less work on my part:-)

Karen on 4.10.2014

I use fresh herbs almost daily – spring, summer, fall. For the very best results, plant herbs in the ground, not tiny pots in window sills. I fill three 4’x4′ raised beds with basil, cilantro, rosemary, dill, oregano, thyme, sage, tarragon, lemon verbena (instead of lemon grass) and fennel. The swallowtails always eat the parsley, so I buy it at the store – it’s cheap ;) Plant according to mature height so everyone gets enough sunshine!

Start with transplants not seeds so you enjoy more of the growing season in your zone.

Some mature herbs must be pinched off every other day or so or they will flower and seed. When you pinch off basil, these are the most tender and fresh leaves – so use these – don’t toss them out! Cilantro (Chinese parsley) goes to seed fast – but did you know the seeds are ground and this is coriander!

Use nutrient rich soil, dig a good hole, fill with water, and let the water soak all the way in for 30 mins or so. Then add 1 T Epsom salt to the hole with a natural fertilizer, like sheep doo – only a 1/4 cup or less. Mix around with a little dry soil at the bottom of the hole and plant the herb with loosened roots. When you’re done with planting, water appropriately.

Tip: don’t over plant a raised bed. A 4′ x 4′ bed holds 8 basil plants, max, for example. 5 is even better. It looks so empty at first, but the plants will fill the space before you know it, and need air flow and sunshine. I find herbs in this environment grow bigger than normal – so give ‘em room.

Let the transplants grow into more mature plants before you start cutting bunches for cooking. I have fantastic results year after year – and an abundance of gorgeous, fragrant, fresh herbs. Enough to share! I give herb arrangements instead of flowers ;)

Ps. Mint – keep it well contained – in a separate big pot. I let mine run wild in a retaining wall. Just be warned – it spreads. Mojitos, anyone? Need I say more? You can’t have enough mint ;)

Happy gardening, friends!

deb on 4.10.2014

I am just learning to use fresh herbs and last year my husband grew some Lime Basil. It was amazing and gave a really good flavor to pesto.

Stacey on 4.10.2014

In Minnesota, I’ve found that almost all my herbs are annuals. Started my mint in a pot in the ground, which worked OK for a few years, but now each year I have to cut off the creeping tendrils. I recommend planting garlic chives in a pot – we did them in the ground, and they have spread horrendously! My husband uses the flowers for flavored vinegars. He also makes flavored vinegar with lemon verbena, which always grows well. We love basil, but it never gets as tall as we’d like (and dies at first frost). I’ve had to put netting over my parsley for the last couple of years, or the rabbits eat it. I will try rooting my basil like Gidget suggested, so we can have fresh basil in the winter!

Gidget on 4.10.2014

Basil… my favorite herb.
When the summer ends and it starts cooling off I clip several stems of basil and put them in water, they root so easy this way. After a couple weeks when the roots are abundant I plant them in pots for the winter use inside.

Deb B on 4.10.2014

I love fresh basil year round. In the summer, I grow it outside. In the winter, I utilize my hydroponic AeroGarden. I do a custom seed kit and pick the different basil varieties. I have had fresh basil for 6 winters! I also grow thyme in my raised beds. I wanted to preserve the thyme by freezing. I cut the twigs of thyme, rinsed them and put them into a plastic grocery sack and straight to the freezer. You know how difficult it can be to remove those delicate little leaves from the plant? I found after freezing the thyme the leaves would fall to the bottom of the sack. No easier way to remove from the sprig!

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Helen Brass on 4.10.2014

I love to grow my own herbs but sadly Basil doesn’t grow to well outside here in the northern UK – I put mine in my conservatory where it gets lots of warmth and sunlight and, as long as I give it plenty of water, it thrives!

Beth B on 4.10.2014

In answer to the comment about cilantro and dill, I, too, tried unsuccessfully to grow these two in the summer. Then I learned that they are spring and fall plants, like spinach. That answered my question as to why they tried to flower so quickly. I love basil, thyme, chives, parsley, rosemary, and oregano. This was a hard winter on most herbs and even my hardy thyme didn’t make it. I live in TN. Plant basil when the soil is warm. It doesn’t like cold weather.

Shelby on 4.9.2014

I ,too, love cooking with fresh herbs. I plant every year and have found that in my yard they do much better in very large containers or in the ground. The “window sill ” pots are useless. My failure has been sage. I cannot grow it! A couple of interesting herbs not commonly grown are lovage (tastes like celery) and salad burnette(tastes like cucumber). They are also pretty plants. Be sure to take care to keep the basil cut and growing so you can make pesto. It’s easy and delicious and freezes beautifully.

liz on 4.9.2014

When planting perennials remember this…first they sleep, then they creep and then thet leap! So, take care where you plant.

I also test the plants – plant some in sun, some in partial shade and some in shade. With the hot Oklahoman summers, some of the plants did great getting the afternoon shade.

Herbs do well spaced all around the garden. I have used curly parsley and oregano as a border plants.

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Patricia @ ButterYum on 4.9.2014

I don’t have much of a green thumb so I really like JoyK’s suggestions! I do however, grow a few herbs in containers. I’ve read that Basil starts to turn bitter when allowed to flower so pinch off any buds if you see them.

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Colette (Coco in the Kitchen) on 4.9.2014

I’m sure weather is your biggest challenge and maybe soil quality.
My hubby does all the gardening at our house, but if you live in a cold climate, you should be able to grow fresh herbs in pots seated at your windowsill in the kitchen.

Mint should actually be kept in pots permanently, b/c it takes over the planet and grows wild!
Basil and tarragon are probably the most delicate. Planting basil near tomato plants is good for both. Put a lil dish of cheap beer nearby to lure the snails away from your basil.

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AngAk on 4.9.2014

Up here in Alaska we can have chives and mint take over our gardens, and they are perennial and very hardy. all year long I have an Aerogarden going with basil/parsley/sage/dill/cilantro/oregano—-can’t stand thyme, tastes like dirt to me(anyone else have this aversion?). nice herbs all year long. I plant my own seeds in it using the plain “plugs”. works just fine and much cheaper than the preplanted plugs from the company.

Bethany on 4.9.2014

@ChristinaS(2) – I believe parsley is a biennial, which means it lasts for two years and then dies. :)

We grow lots of herbs here in Boise – some as perennials, some as annuals. We have chives, thyme, oregano, lavender, and sage planted in the ground because they are all cold-hardy. We grow about a dozen basil plants every year from seeds started indoors. Dill is an annual, but it re-seeds freely – our first harvests are usually the ones that start growing in the sidewalk cracks each spring. We have pots of rosemary and bay laurel that we bring inside in the winter, since they are perennials that are not cold-hardy. Our mint we grow in pots and tuck it among our vegetable plants to help ward of pests – we just keep using the same pots since it usually comes back from the roots every year.

When growing most herbs indoors, it’s important to have lots of bright sunshine and not too much humidity – it seems like if I have too much moisture in my house, my plants get bugs and powdery mildew and all sorts of problems.

JoyK on 4.9.2014

I cultivate friends who grow herbs and make myself available for extras. Black thumb!

Lynn S on 4.9.2014

I grow all kinds of herbs in my flower beds and garden. Some come back every year – others I have to replace in the Spring. Rosemary does well in the heat in North Central Texas (where I live) and so does basil (I do have to replace this every year). I also grow sage, Italian parsley, dill, chives, oregano (both Greek and Texas), French and English thyme. Cilantro is a cool weather herb so once it starts to get hot I give up and pull it up. Growing herbs is fun so just buy a few plants and get started. You will be amazed at how much you enjoy using them in your recipes.

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Sunny on 4.9.2014

I live in the Arkansas River Valley area and my herbs grow pretty well here. Basil and rosemary grow to be giant. My basil reseeds itself each year. I love plants that you can let go to seed at the end of the season and in the spring tiny seedlings pop up everywhere. My rosemary had survived three winters and was beautiful, however, our harsh winter killed it this year. So I will be replacing it. The sage and oregano need to be cut back but seem to have new growth. I will be trying dill for the first time. Hope it does well. Does anyone know the best time to divide garlic in Arkansas?

ChristinaS(2) on 4.9.2014

I lost most of my herbs during the cold snap that brought 7 degrees one morning to my area in South Carolina (which hadn’t happened since 1904!). What did surprise me is that my sage survived and is now putting off new shoots and my Italian Parsley actually is coming back – I thought that was definitely seasonal – does anyone know? My 2 year old oregano plant didn’t make it but will definitely be replanted – my marinara sauce and homemade pizza would not taste the same without it :). I did dry a lot of it last summer so we will make do until I get more. My basil starts out at a plant in the spring and literally looks like a large bush by the time August rolls around – definitely trim from both the top and the sides to keep contained. Dill weed is very similar in growing pattern as cilantro – tall and spindly and then it goes to seed really quickly and I’ve found that I need more than one or two plants to give enough to use and store.

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C. L. ( Cheryl ) "Cheffie Cooks" Wiser on 4.9.2014

Greetings to all from sunny Florida (NE (central) Coast corridor: I use planters, containers, and can grow any herbs. They are a hobby as are my plants and flowers. I fortunately have a big Lanai, screened in porch, big yard, fresh ocean air, shade, green thumb and love ever minute I spend outside…CLW

Starlyn on 4.9.2014

I am trying to grow herbs in inside window boxes – second time though. They all start out GREAT , then fade away and die – I try underwatering, watering to keep the soil wet (got gnats then), cutting them at the top – still trying but so far, only my chives and rosemary are doing well. Looking foward to any and all tips!

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treysmimi on 4.9.2014

I LOVE herbs! I just had to cut down a 4 foot tall Rosemary bush that had been growing in my yard for over 20 years. We had an extra harsh winter in Tennessee that killed it. My tip is: plant your Mint in a coffee can and then put the can in the ground.

Jana R. on 4.9.2014

I have a thyme plant that I planted last year and it is going crazy! I need to trim it way back and dry it. I LOVE thyme…in everything!!! My thyme is flowering. It looks lovely, so I’m going to wait till the blossoms fade before I cut it back and dry it. Is that bad? Rosemary and mint grows huge here in Southern California. After reading the comments, I’ll have to try planting dill. Sounds wonderful. I have planted basil from seed this year, so we’ll see how that goes.

Sue In FLA on 4.9.2014

I live in southeast FL, so the growing season is different. I grow basil, oregano, dill, sage, rosemary, chives, and flatleaf parsley. I buy all of the plants at Publix (our grocery), and can usually get through most of the year with only replacing the basil. All of it dies off in late August except the rosemary- it is just too hot for much to survive. All of my herbs are in clay pots, large ones, and i do water liberally. I use a liquid fertilizer. I, too, have no luck with cilantro, and my thyme dies off regularly. I think thyme is water sensitive, and I forget to move it in when we have rainy spells. I love using fresh herbs in my cooking.

Patty Paulsen on 4.9.2014

I too keep trying. Last year I found out that my basil could not take blistering sun/heat., so I have to figure out how to give a little shade in the hottest part of the day. Taragon is a little-known herb, but oh my, if you have fresh tarragon you can rule the world, so I would advise planting a pot or two. Ina Garten says fresh oregano is too strong, but I plant it anyway, as I have never been shy about strong flavors. I cannot make my mint take hold, wish I had the problem of it taking over the world, but I suspect my clay, er soil, is the culprit. Gosh, now I have to stop at the garden center on my way home from work…

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mikell on 4.9.2014

I love growing fresh herbs. Most are pretty easy to grow. My sage is now a huge bush that I have to wack back aggressively to keep it in check. Plus even in the freezing mid-west, I can harvest it well into November. My chives com back every year. They are easy to grow and are up already. After they flower, cut the entire thing way back, and you will have tender chives that don’t flower and produce those tough stems. Basil hates cold, and I usually start with a plant, then sow some seeds. They also respond well to cutting back a good bit to keep from flowering. Forward the end of summer, I buy a freash plant and put it in a good size pot in a sunny place in my yard. When it starts to get chilly, I bring it in and place it in a sunny window. I’m still harvesting it from last years pot. My thyme also is perennial, and seems to survive in freezing weather it always surprises me when everything else is dead, but I can still find thyme to pick. Rosemary, and tarragon need to be replanted every year. Can’t wait to get all those great things thriving in this years garden.

Nancy Beckham on 4.9.2014

Cilantro is a cool season plant, so you plant it early and cover it when there is a danger of frost, keep the seed sprouts clipped off, give up when it gets really hot outside, then plant again as the weather cools off. If you have any kind of relationship with a garden center, remind them to buy cilantro plants again in late summer. Always plant mint in some kind of container and move the container from time to time to keep the roots from growing into the ground. I divided my mint last year and now I have two full containers. Oregano comes back every year, so if you like it, plant it in a large container and insulate it over the winter. Chives are easy to grow, but need their seed sprouts clipped as well. I have regular Chives and Garlic Chives and love them both. Buy Basil or plant seeds several times so that you have a continual supply. If you plant it all at once, it will have to be gathered all at once. Several plants in different stages of growth will prevent that onslaught of making gallons of pesto the night before the first freeze. Grow Dill!!! Use Dill in as many recipes as you can. I eat a great many quinoa salads in summer and fresh Dill is a great addition to the dressing. It’s also wonderful for making pickles or sprinkling on fresh tomatoes. Just a few thoughts…