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Victory Garden herbs


Herbs to include in your Victory Garden

The beds are made and veggies are planted. Here's what herbs to include.

If you're following along on my Victory Garden posts, let me apologize for being a little late sharing this info with you.

I intended to post this on Monday evening, but the weather was beautiful, my husband grilled dinner and the dogs were being good so the evening got away from me. And Tuesday? Well, I don't know where Tuesday went.

If you're not following along, you can catch up by reading my post Start a Victory Garden which tells you about getting your planting space ready and Plant a Victory Garden which talks about the plants I recommend and whether I think you should start them from seeds or plants.

What herbs do you need?

If you cooked at home pretty often before COVID-19, go to your spice rack and think about the things you're pulling out all the time. Start with those.

If that wasn't you, don't fret. I cook at home a lot - food allergies - and I know which ones are the most common.

I also grow quite a few herbs in my garden. You're in good hands.

These are the herbs that I think you should grow:

  • Basil

  • Chives

  • Cilantro

  • Dill

  • Garlic

  • Lemon balm

  • Mint

  • Oregano

  • Parsley

  • Rosemary

  • Sage

Two herb categories

I break herbs into two categories - Container-only and season.

Some herbs will try to take over your entire garden. These I categorize as container-only.

Annual herbs tend to have a season they prefer - just like vegetables. These are easier to control because they die at the end of the season so they don't need to be planted in a container.

The evergreen herbs I've recommended are well behaved and can be planted in the garden or in the flowerbed along with flowers and shrubs. Just don't plant them close to your sidewalk. You don't want dogs peeing or pooping on your herbs. It's gross and dangerous since dog waste could contain pathogens.

The invading herbs

These are - chives, lemon balm, mint, and oregano

To keep these from taking over, plant them in large, freeze-resistant containers because, not only will they try to take over every inch of your garden, they will come back next year.

They won't be green all year and won't grow until spring, but they still need the rainfall and changing temperatures during winter to know when to sprout.

Winter freezes could ruin terracotta and glazed pottery so just be sure to use a flower pot that won't crack or be damaged by winter weather.

Some annual herbs are moody about weather

Just like some vegetables, annual herbs do better when they're grown in the right season.

Cilantro and parsley both prefer cooler weather and cilantro will bolt (flower and make seeds) if a warm day is in the forecast. That's a bit of an exaggeration but hardly.

The way to combat this problem is to pick cilantro frequently and plant more seeds anytime you pick it. At some point though, it will be too hot. You'll know because it will seem to flower as soon as it comes out of the ground.

Another way I battle this problem with cilantro is to save the seeds from the plants that flower last. That means they tolerated the heat better and by saving seeds from those, I'm more likely to have future plants that can also take a little more heat.

While parsley prefers cool weather, it's not as temperamental as cilantro. I plant seeds in the fall and it usually stays alive but grows very slowly all winter. Then it grows very fast once spring arrives.

Parsley will sometimes die back to the ground if it's especially cold, but for me, it's always started putting on new leaves when spring returns.

Dill won't tolerate a frost but doesn't like high heat either. Don't worry though, it's actually super easy to grow. In fact, it grows so easily from seed that if you let it flower, you'll plant it once and never plant it again. It will plant itself.

To grow dill, just sprinkle seeds in the garden a week or two before the average last frost date in your area.

A late freeze will kill dill plants that have sprouted, but some of the other seeds will sprout in their place. To be safe you could always sprinkle a few more seeds just after a late freeze.

Dill also gives us a bonus... it is the host plant for the Black Swallowtail Butterfly. That means dill, along with parsley and two or three others, is one of the only plants the caterpillars can eat. If you grow it, you'll see the butterflies and get to watch their caterpillars grow.

Basil likes it hot and just like dill, grows easily from seeds. Just sprinkle basil seeds in the garden about the same time you plant peppers, that's usually late April or early May for me, and it will grow like crazy.

If you see flower buds form on basil, pinch them off to keep your basil growing like crazy.

Or you can let it bloom which will draw tons of bees to your garden and produce seeds. If you let basil flower and seed in your garden you won't ever have to plant it again!

I've read that basil changes flavor when it flowers. I've never noticed it.

Evergreen herbs

Rosemary and culinary sage can be grown as small shrubs and they're also both a little bit drought tolerant.

In other words, they're super durable and easy to grow, both reaching about three feet tall.

They're nearly impossible to start from seed - or so I've read - and I've never tried it. Buy these plants from the local nursery.

In Zone 7, Rosemary can be considered a tender perennial, which means that a hard winter will kill it, so I recommend growing it close to the house which usually helps keep it warm. Also, keep a large bucket or sheet to throw over it.

Some people choose to grow rosemary in a container so they can move it into a garage, shed, or greenhouse when extremely cold weather arrives.

Sage is a bit slow growing and it typically lives for 3-5 years but it adds gorgeous bluish-gray foliage to the garden and makes a thanksgiving turkey to die for!

Sage requires virtually no care other than being watered occasionally if it hasn't rained at least 1 inch in the last two weeks.

It doesn't even blink at the cold in our area. I grew sage in a pot on the patio for several years when I lived in St. Louis (Zone 6a) and it was fine there year-round.


Mosquito repelling herbs

Several of the herbs on this list are said to repel mosquitoes from the garden. I've not had that experience with any of them. My daughter is like mosquito bait and nothing I grow keeps them away from her or my yard.

I've asked nurserymen about this and they agreed with my experience. Some have mentioned that rubbing the leaves all over you, which releases the oil, might repel mosquitoes but the jury is out.

While there are several plant and herb-based bug repellants available, those are highly concentrated, more than you would get from rubbing the plant leaves all over yourself.

Synthetic chemicals are a last choice in my home but insect repellent is one of those exceptions. I prefer to use IR3535 or Picaridin instead of DEET because I feel a little more confident in the testing but do what is right for you. Just remember, it's unlikely an herb growing in your garden will offer much mosquito protection.


Next week

I'm super excited about next Monday! I'll talk about getting started with compost for your Victory Garden, AND it will be International Compost Awareness Week.

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