Growing Requirements for Selected Culinary Herbs

All herbs grow best where they receive 6 or more hours of uninterrupted sunlight daily.  Amend heavy clay soils with compost to provide a deep, loamy soil suitable for good plant growth. One inch of water per week, precipitation and irrigation combined, is best.

basil

 

Basil

This is an annual plant easily grown from seed.  Seeds can be direct sown in the garden or can be started indoors around March 15 for transplants into the garden around May 15. Besides the common basil, there are licorice, lemon and cinnamon-scented basils.  The leaves are harvested. Be aware of basil downy mildew, a fungal disease that causes distorted fuzzy white growth on leaves.  Rogue out these plants as soon as the downy mildew is noticed to keep it from spreading to other basil plants.

 

 

 

celery

 

Celery, Cutting

Cutting celery is an easily grown annual herb, unlike the celery we can grow here, which tends to be tough and stringy.  With cutting celery, the gardener gets lots of leaves, which are flavorful and prolific.  Plan to start plants from seeds indoors in February and March for transplanting into the garden after Mother’s Day.

 

 

 

 

chives Chives and Garlic Chives

These are perennial herbs of the onion family and are most commonly planted in the garden as established potted plants.  Flowers can and do produce lots of viable seed, so be sure to deadhead the flowers to prevent these herbs from spreading rampantly through the garden.  Leaves are harvested and flowers make a beautiful edible garnish too.

 

 

cilantro Cilantro

This annual plant has two culinary uses.  The leaves are used fresh in salsas and salads while the seeds can be dried and ground as coriander.  Seed can be direct sown into the garden.  Keep in mind cilantro is a short season annual, meaning it will set seed and die relatively quickly. It does self-sow, so expect new plants to arise in the current season as well as next year.

 

dill Dill

This annual plant can be direct sown into the garden. One planting tends to be all that is necessary as once it goes to seed, the dill patch will perpetuate itself.  The leaves are used in salads and meat dishes while the seed is used in pickling.  Swallowtail butterfly caterpillars will eat dill, so plant extra for them.

 

 

garlic

 

Garlic

While not an herb, the bulbs are used as flavoring in many dishes.  Individual cloves should be planted in November.  Bulbs are harvested the following growing season when the green tops have died back by one-third to one-half.  Save back the biggest cloves for re-planting the following November as the biggest cloves produce the biggest heads.  There are two types of garlic—stiff neck (sometimes called hard neck) and soft neck.  The stiff neck has longer storage capabilities while the soft neck should be used fairly quickly.

 

lavender

 

Lavender

This perennial herb is planted in the garden primarily as established potted plants, though with patience, they can be grown from seed.  Lavender should be located in full sun where the soil stays relatively dry and snow does not accumulate around the crown over winter, under a roof overhang is a good place. The ‘Munstead’ and ‘Hidcote’ varieties are more likely to survive the winters here; in spring, cut back any dead stems. The flower buds are used primarily for baked goods.

 

lemon balm Lemon Balm

This hardy perennial herb has leaves harvested for salads, fish, teas and desserts.  Set out established plants after Mother’s Day in a lightly shaded area.  Sheer back the plant in mid-summer to encourage compact re-growth.

 

lovage Lovage

This hardy perennial herb is planted in the garden primarily as established potted plants, though it will self-seed.  This plant looks like celery, which it is related to, reaching a height of 5 feet!  Leaves are harvested for soups, stews and salads and have a strong celery flavor.  The flowers are pollinator magnets for bees and butterflies.

 

marjoram Marjoram

Marjoram is a hardy perennial herb closely related to oregano. It is planted into the garden from established potted plants. Leaves are harvested and can be used in salad dressings and Italian dishes.

 

 

mint Mint

This perennial herb is planted in the garden primarily as established potted plants.  It spreads aggressively by underground structures called rhizomes. Containment can be attained by planting it in areas that are surrounded by concrete.  The flowers are used as edible garnishes but the leaves are the primary interest, used for teas, baked goods and lamb dishes. There are many mint types to choose from, including chocolate, lemon and peppermint.

 

 

oregano Oregano

This perennial is planted in the garden primarily as established potted plants, though it can be started from seeds.  Oregano will colonize an area, spreading by both seeds and rhizomes. Greek oregano is considered the most fragrant of the oreganos for culinary purposes.  While it is primarily grown for its leaves, flowers can be used for edible garnishes.

 

 

parsley Parsley

This herb is a biennial, lasting for two growing seasons before it goes to seed and then dies.  Parsley is planted in the garden primarily as established potted plants but may also be grown from seed.  Once allowed to go to seed, parsley will continue in the garden for many years.  There are two types—flat leaf Italian and curly-leaf. The leaves are harvested for salads, garnishes, and pesto. Swallowtail butterfly caterpillars will eat parsley, so plant extra for them.

rosemary Rosemary

While perennial, it is hardy to southern locations and not the Midwest.  For this reason, planting rosemary in a large pot for bringing indoors in fall is best.  Soil must be kept evenly moist—not bone dry and not soggy wet.  Leaves are harvested for soups, stews, meat dishes, and potatoes. The twigs can be placed on the coals in the grille for a smoky-rosemary flavor.

 

 

sage Sage

This perennial herb is planted in the garden primarily as established potted plants, though it can be started from seed. Leaves are used fresh or dried and the flowers for edible garnishes. The plant retains some of its leaves throughout the winter, so don’t be afraid to kick the snow off the plant to harvest leaves in the middle of winter.

 

thyme Thyme

This perennial herb is planted in the garden primarily as established potted plants.  Thyme tends to be a short-lived perennial, lasting for 3 to 4 years.  Like lavender, thyme should be planted in well-drained soils where snow does not accumulate around the crown during the winter months.  Leaves are harvested for soups, stews and Italian dishes.

 

KPC byline

Kathleen Cue
Horticulture Program Coordinator at Nebraska Extension
Kathleen serves as a Horticulture Program Coordinator. She educates people on making smart plant choices to reduce use of fertilizers and pesticides in their landscape which has a positive impact on air, water, soil and environmental quality, property values and people’s pocketbooks. She provides leadership and coordination of the NE Extension in Douglas-Sarpy Counties Master Gardener volunteer programs: the Master Gardener Speakers Bureau, and "Ask the Master Gardener" Consultations.

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