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Backyard Herbs that Stretch Your Budget, Look Great, and Smell Wonderful

Description of the post: Backyard herbs are an asset to any cook or kitchen gardener. Many of them are perennials that require minimal care – a big asset in those early months of planting. Annual herbs are often good companion plants, helping ward off insect pest and sometimes providing complementary flavors to the vegetables with which they are planted. As for the smell – many herbs are aromatic. Imagine as you are picking a succulent ripe tomato your hand brushes a blooming basil plant, releasing the bright, spicy aroma. Read on to learn more about Backyard Herbs and why they are a gardener’s friend.

Section 1

Backyard Herbs come in two types: perennial and annual. Perennial herbs can be planted in permanent beds around the edge of your vegetable garden or even in flower beds. Annual herbs can be interplanted with your vegetable crops to provide seasoning and spices, and to serve as companion plants to ward off aphids, bean beetles, stink bugs and more. While not one hundred percent effective, they can make a difference in curbing the unwanted bug population without adding toxic chemicals to your yard and garden. A word of caution: a few herbs are poisonous to humans or pets, so be selective with the species that you plant. In this article, only edible herbs that are reasonably safe for pets and children will be listed.

Section 2

Backyard Herbs can be grown using the same things used for vegetable gardening. Although a few herbs are picky about where and how they are planted, most grow like the weeds that they are. In fact, one of the biggest differences between vegetable gardening and herb gardening is restraining your herbs to keep them from crowding out other desirable plants. To grow herbs, you will need:

  • Rake
  • Hoe
  • Spade
  • Trowel
  • Herb seeds (for some herbs)
  • Herb plants (for some plants)
  • Soil amendments, various; optional in some cases.
  • Mulch; various, optional in some cases
  • Prepared garden soil
  • Sunlit area
  • Shaded or partial sun areas
  • Metal or plastic flashing

Section 3

Selecting and Planting Herbs. When selecting herbs for your backyard, consider what you want the herbs to do. Will they be used in cooking? Are they intended to attract butterflies? Will they be made into tea or jellies? Chances are, you might plant herbs that are a combination of these things. Keep in mind the flavors that your family enjoys as you plan your herb garden.

Perennial Herbs

1. Mint

Mints (Perennials) – mint plants are sturdy growers, and can be invasive. Some are such vigorous growers that they become invasive. To avoid this problem, plant the aggressive growers in containers or edge the bed with metal or plastic flashing.

  • Spearmint: a tall, woody plant with purple blooms in late summer. Can be grown from seed. Leave several of the blooms in the bed in late autumn, and it will reseed itself. Good for jellies, jams and tea. Flavor is similar to Wrigley’s Spearmint gum. Once it is established, requires only weeding and occasional watering. Apple Mint: a variant similar to Spearmint. Has a lighter flavor. Lemon Mint: has a distinct lemon flavor, but is still minty.
  • Peppermint: Lower growing than Spearmint, and a little more difficult to get started. It propagates primarily by sending out runners, so be careful in weeding, mulching and mowing around it. Needs to be watered regularly, especially in early summer when it is getting started. Tolerates partial shade. Contains the mentha piperita essential oil that is used in cough remedies and holiday candy. Also, is good in jellies, jams and tea. Chocolate mint: a variant of peppermint, with a distinctive chocolate flavor.

2. Sorrel

Sorrel: plant seeds or started plants in rich soil and mulch with straw. The arrow shaped leaves can be used in salads or can be made into pies or jellies. Sorrel is one of the herbs sometimes called scurvy plant because of its high vitamin C content and because it is an early spring salad plant.

Annual Herbs

1. Basil

Basil (annual): Comes in green and purple, and is an excellent companion plant to tomatoes. Can be grown from seed – just interplant in your tomato rows. Can be added to salads for an extra burst of flavor (use sparingly), or added to soups or stews that contain tomatoes. It is strongly aromatic with a distinctive spice odor, and it attracts butterflies. It can also be interplanted with beans to repel bean beetles.

2. Thyme

Thyme: Annual. Woody, herbaceous plant that can be grown from seed in ordinary garden soil. Has small purple blooms that are loved by some species of butterfly. Add to soups, stews or sauces.

3. Oregano

Oregano: Annual. Woody, herbaceous plant. Can also be grown from seed in ordinary garden soil. Good in Italian or Mexican dishes.

4. Tarragon

Tarragon: Similar to Thyme and oregano, but somewhat more difficult to grow. Beginning gardeners might want to purchase started plants. Likes=- full sun, but needs to be kept weeded and watered.

Garlic

Garlic: can be annual or perennial, depending upon cultivation method. Plant in early spring in your vegetable garden or plant around your roses to ward off aphids. Plant one clove, the attached end down, and the pointed end up in loose soil. Water well to get started, but is drought tolerant once established. Break off and use the tops to allow the bulbs to multiply underground. Once established, use the thinnings in cooking, including the bulb.

I hope this short list of useful herbs will help you to begin your backyard herb garden. These are only a few of the many herbs that can be easily grown in almost any climate or location. This short list of aromatic herbs can be used to enhance meals – including the mints. The mints, of course, can be used to make hot or cold teas for your seasonal enjoyment.

I would love to hear about your herb gardening adventures. This is my personal short list of delicious, delectable and aromatic useful herbs. Comment on these choices or add your own favorites in your comments below. I hope you have enjoyed this article.

James G. Craig
 

James G. Craig is a gardening enthusiast who splits his spare time between growing vegetables, preening his flower gardens, and blogging about his experiences at the Gardener Corner.

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