Spring gardening has begun, herbs are a great place to start

Published 5:30 pm Tuesday, March 28, 2017

A couple of weeks ago I wrote a column about spring flowers and planting. I indicated I always enjoy planting, but my gardens don’t always turn out as planned. However, I am never discouraged. Each spring I get the “bug” to plant, and this past weekend I began with my herb garden.

Herbs are easy and fun to raise, even for the beginning gardener. They can be kept in the house for easy access when cooking, providing adequate and appropriate space is available. A wide, deep windowsill that catches the morning sun is a perfect place for individual pots that can be kept on a tray. It is just necessary to monitor the moisture content, as there is always the possibility to over-water or forget about them and they dry up.  This can be somewhat controlled by using a potting soil specially developed for herbs, with the right nutrients and also moisture control.

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Since I don’t have an indoor area, I look forward to planting my herbs outside each spring.

I have an area on the south side of my back patio door where I place my individual pots of herbs. The ideal location would be the east side of the house, but it has too much shade for some of the plants. That is why I place them in clay pots that I can move if there is excessive heat or drought. The area is also close to the watering unit.

This year I have chosen to plant chives, basil, German thyme, Greek oregano, curly parsley, Italian flat leaf parsley, and fennel. I have mint from last year that is leafing out after wintering over.  I find it necessary to plant mint and basil in large pots as they grow and spread rapidly, especially, the mint. If you ever plant mint in the ground it will eventually take over the garden.

I find that the beautiful swallowtail butterfly larvae greatly enjoy eating my curly parsley and fennel. They will eat it right down to the stems in a day or two, so I often plant extra for them.

I have found some of the herbs are perennials in Southwest Georgia. The curly  parsley stayed fresh and green all winter this year, as did the chives. Now the mint is sending up shoots again.

Another herb I use frequently in cooking is rosemary. It is another perennial herb that grows large and takes up lots of space. Mine was planted in the ground next to the foundation three or four years ago and has become a large bush. My dog Mario must like the way it smells as he often rubs in it and comes in smelling great. He also likes to eat my parsley.

Basil is more touchy. It doesn’t like temperatures below 55 degrees so I don’t plant it until I know the warm weather is here to stay. Since I use it so often in our Italian cooking, I do keep one small plant on the kitchen table where it receives morning sun.

There are others you might wish to plant. There is sage, a chocolate mint, a hot basil, and cilantro for Mexican dishes, to name a few. Whatever you choose to plant you will find a great selection of herbs locally at Home Depot and at In the Garden.

I don’t profess to be an expert gardener by any stretch of the imagination.

I would welcome any suggestions from our readers.