Growing Herbs

Growing Herbs

Source(s): Wayne McLaurin, Professor Emeritus of Horticulture, The University of Georgia, College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences


Growing herbs in southern gardens is simple and rewarding. Herbs provide seasonings for food, pleasant fragrances and interest to landscapes. A wide variety of herbs grow well in Georgia with its hot, humid summers and fluctuating winter temperatures.

What Are Herbs?

In the broadest sense, soft-stemmed green plants are termed herbs. Herbs are non-tropical plants of which leaves or stems are used primarily as flavoring, medicine or fragrance. They are distinguished from spices, which are usually the products of roots, seeds, bark, or fruits of tropical plants. Yet a number of commonly-grown herbs also yield seeds or roots that are harvested. Some herbs develop woody stems, such as lemon verbena, and are grown primarily today as landscaping plants – salvia and artemisia, for example. Potherbs are familiar greens, such as mustard and chicory; and some plants, such as garlic and hot peppers, are vegetables commonly grown in herb gardens.

Herb Culture

Herbs do well in average soil. Like many garden plants, herbs prefer well-drained, loamy to sandy soil in good tilth. A soil pH range of about 6 to 7.5 is appropriate for most herbs, though some such as rosemary and lavender, actually prefer slightly more alkaline soil (7.5). Southern soils may require the addition of dolomitic lime (10-20 lbs. per 100 sq. ft) for herbs to grow well. Herbs require only moderate fertilizing; a soil test will give recommended amounts of lime and fertilizer. Herbs such as basil, chives, and parsley require more fertilization because they are heavily harvested. Because many herbs are perennials, prepare the soil well before initial planting by tilling in well-rotted manure and/or compost. Before planting the herb bed, work the soil to a depth of 1 foot or more, breaking up clods and adding organic matter if the soil is heavy clay or sandy. Like most vegetables, herbs generally require at least six hours of sunlight. (Some herbs grow under other conditions — see box, “Special Conditions.”)

Herb gardeners generally agree that raised beds help herbs to flourish. They provide good drainage and warmer soil temperatures, as well as workable options for the gardener with poor soil or difficult landscaping problems. Raised beds can be contained in rock walls, landscape timbers, railroad ties or other borders.

Mulching is a must in the Deep South. Consider a mulch of shredded bark, wood chips, or pine straw to discourage weeds and retain an even supply of moisture in the soil.

Special Conditions

While the following herbs tolerate these conditions, they will generally not tolerate extremes:

Semi- Shade

  • bay
  • comfrey
  • costmary
  • lemon balm
  • mints
  • parsley
  • sweet woodruff

Moist Soil

  • monarda
  • comfrey
  • mints
  • parsley

Dry Soil

  • artemisia
  • borage
  • fennel
  • scented geraniums
  • germander
  • sage
  • santolina
  • winter savory
  • soapwort
  • thyme
  • yarrow

Resource(s): Herbs in Southern Gardens

Center Publication Number: 259

Harvesting and Preserving Herbs

Source(s): Wayne McLaurin, Professor Emeritus of Horticulture, The University of Georgia, College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences


Herbs grown for foliage may be harvested at any time, though the essential oils are most concentrated just prior to blooming. The seedheads of herbs grown for their seeds, such as fennel and dill, may be collected soon after seeds have reached maturity. Herbs are best collected in the late morning, rinsed quickly, and air dried. Drying or freezing will preserve them.

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Drying

The ideal conditions for drying herbs is a warm, dry, dark, well-ventilated place. An attic or similar room with good air circulation meets all these conditions. The simplest method is to tie herb stems together in small bunches and hang the bunches upside down from a rod or rafter. The bunches should not touch so that air can freely circulate around them. Herbs to be dried for seed collection can be enclosed in large paper bags with holes cut into the sides for air circulation.

It is difficult to recognize dried herb leaves, so label the bunches.

Herbs may be dried in a gas oven at very low temperature, about 100 degrees F (electric ovens cannot usually be set at this temperature). Strip the leaves from the stems and place them in a single layer on a wide, flat sheet or pan. With the door of the oven ajar, the herbs should dry sufficiently in about three to five hours. Stir herbs gently every 30 minutes during the drying period.

Herbs can be dried in a microwave oven. The preferred method is to put the herb leaves in between paper towels. Microwave about one minute on low. If herbs are not dry, microwave several more seconds. Herbs will burn quickly in a microwave and volatile oils may spark. Sparking, like browning of the leaves, indicates overprocessing. Herbs dried in the microwave should retain a green color.

Store herbs away from heat out of direct light. If moisture forms on the inside of the storage container, redry the herbs.

Freezing

Herbs are prepared for freezing by a quick rinsing, then by shaking off the excess moisture and patting the leaves dry. Remove the leaves from the stems, put in labeled freezer bags, and store in the freezer. An alternate method is to drop the leaves into ice trays, fill with water, and freeze. The quality of frozen herbs will usually begin to deteriorate after about three to six months. Strong-flavored herbs, such as chives and rosemary, may affect other foods in the freezer and should be stored in freezer jars.

Special Uses of Herbs

Herbs have been grown for centuries for artistic, culinary, and medicinal uses. There is a great resurgence of interest in herbal treatments for human illness. Many traditional uses have not been sufficiently documented, however, and scientists have not identified nearly all of the compounds present in various parts of herb plants. They do not know for certain the effect on the individual of medicinal herbs, either in single use or use in combination. It is important to know the margins of safety in using herbs. Use caution with unfamiliar herbs.

A growing body of literature exists about herbs and herb uses. Explore herbal medication and cosmetic use carefully through reputable sources. There is a growing body of literature on herbs and herb uses, including cosmetic and medicinal.

Herbs can be enjoyed many ways; dried in bundles, used in flower arrangements, or made into potpourris, they add to interior decor and scent the air. Herbs are also incorporated with other garden materials into wreaths, “tussie-mussies,” bath accouterments, herbal pillows and hot pads, as well as cosmetic products.

Potpourris

While a successful moist potpourri is somewhat difficult to concoct, a dry potpourri can be made from almost any combination of herbs, dried flowers and spices as long as some basic rules are observed. The plant parts must be thoroughly dry and a fixative should be used for longevity. The mixture should be made, stored, and used in a non-metallic container; it should season for six to eight weeks.7307558960_b24317875b_o

Fixatives absorb and release the essential oils in herbs that otherwise would evaporate and be lost. The most common fixatives are orris root (or calamus), gum benzoin, and vetiver. Add prepared essential oils to the fixative and then combine into the mixture. The oils can also be used later to restore scent to potpourris.

A Basic “Recipe” for Potpourri

1 quart dried herb leaves, e.g., lemon verbena, scented geranium)
1 quart dried flowers or flower parts (e.g., rose, marigold)
1 ounce fixative
5-10 drops essential oil
Mix in a non-metallic container; cover tightly; store in a dark, cool place; allow to season about two months. Stir or shake the mixture periodically. Put the mixture in a decorative container that can be covered when not being used to preserve the scent.


Resource(s): Herbs in Southern Gardens

Center Publication Number: 261

Herbs in the Landscape

Source(s): Wayne McLaurin, Professor Emeritus of Horticulture, The University of Georgia, College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences


Herbs aren’t just for the garden; many are attractive in perennial borders or even among foundation plantings. Pots of herbs add to the appearance of a porch or patio. They can provide traditional materials for landscaping that are both useful and ornamental.

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Herbs offer bloom, color variation or texture in beds or perennial gardens. In early summer, yarrows lift dense flower heads while, in fall, pineapple sage displays showy, bright red inflorescence. Lavenders, artemisias, and lamb’s ears proffer gray-green or white mounds of foliage much of the year.

Herbs, such as germander, santolina, winter savory and chives can be used effectively as edging plants; various thymes (including woolly, creeping, and lemon thyme) are both fragrant and attractive growing between stones in the patio or sidewalk, or in niches in a retaining wall.

As with other landscaping plants, select herbs according to their foliage colors, size, cultivation needs and growth habits.

Herb Size

  • Tall/large herbs — anise, hyssop, yarrow, lemon verbena, fennel, mountain mint, bay
  • Medium/upright or mounding — basil, sage, lavender, artemisia, scented geranium
  • Small/upright or prostrate — thyme, stachys, germander, santolina

Container Plantings

Herbs grow well in urns, hanging baskets, strawberry pots, and other containers as long as the light, moisture, and fertility requirements are met. Use a good lightweight, well-drained artificial soil mix, not garden soil, for container-grown herbs. Container-grown herbs do not have access to surrounding soils, are more likely to dry out quickly, and must be watered regularly, even daily. Containers should have drainage holes so excess water can escape. Regularly empty any water in the saucers under containers to prevent roots from deteriorating. Uniform monthly fertilizing keeps herbs lush, but be careful to avoid fertilizer salts build-up. Water containers sufficiently so the water runs through the holes in the bottom of the container.

Note: Some herbs — French tarragon, chervil, cilantro, cumin, and chamomile — are particularly susceptible to humid southern springs and summers and may grow best in containers under more carefully controlled conditions.13853083_1f43661419

Indoor Plantings

Herbs can be grown indoors if the right amounts of sun and moisture are provided. Herbs need to receive at least four to six hours of sunlight each day. Do not assume that herbs near windows automatically receive enough light for growth. An average south-facing window should provide adequate light. Herbs will grow tall and spindly in inadequate light. Rotate the plants periodically so that all sides receive enough light and pinch them back to promote bushiness. Plants grown indoors will generally not grow as fast as those grown outdoors and there will not be as many leaves to harvest.

Herbs such as scented geraniums, patchouli, and bay are sensitive to cold temperatures; if they are planted in containers, they can be easily moved indoors during cooler weather.

Water herbs only when they are dry. If the soil feels at all moist 1 inch below the surface, do not water the plant. Over-watering increases the chance of disease and may eventually block necessary oxygen to the roots.


Resource(s): Herbs in Southern Gardens

Center Publication Number: 262

Mulching Vegetables

Source(s): Wayne McLaurin


Few jobs in the vegetable garden are as rewarding as mulching. Time spent applying mulch to pepper, tomatoes, squash, eggplant and other vegetables will mean extra dividends at harvest time. Mulch prevents loss of moisture from the soil, suppresses weed growth, reduces fertilizer leaching, cools the soil and keeps vegetables off the ground. Fruit rots sometimes occur when vegetables touch the ground.

Mulching Advantages

  • Serves as a barrier between the plant and soil and helps prevent fruit rots.
  • Reduces labor since less cultivation is required. Emerging and small weeds perish under their bark barrier. Therefore, it reduces the need for tillage and the use of weed-control chemicals.
  • Conserves water by reducing evaporation of soil moisture, in turn lowering the soil temperature. Water absorption by a mulched soil is greater than that of unmulched soil. Mulch also prevents the formation of soil crusts. Soil loss from heavy rain and wind is decreased. In effect, mulches are excellent conservation agents.
  • Improves root growth by acting as an excellent insulator and preventing drastic fluctuations in soil temperature. Mulch keeps the soil cooler in summer and warmer in winter, improving both root growth and nutrient availability. At the end of the growing season, organic mulches can be tilled into the soil to further increase the organic-matter content and the water holding capacity of the soil.
  • Makes the garden neater and reduces the incidence of mud-splashed flowers and vegetables after heavy rains.

Choosing the Right Mulch

A practical mulch should be easily obtained, inexpensive and simple to apply. Availability and cost vary from region to region. Mulching materials may be available from materials in your own yard such as leaves, bought from garden centers and obtained from tree service firms. A suggested depth is 3 to 4 inches, bearing in mind that too little will give limited weed control and too much will prevent air from reaching roots.

Bark

Small pieces of bark are preferred over large chunks. Bark mulches vary, but all are attractive, durable and suitable for foundation shrub plantings. Contact with wood framing is to be avoided, since bark can be a termite vector. The high carbon- to-nitrogen ratio of bark requires prior application of nitrogen fertilizer.

Coffee grounds

Coffee grounds cake badly; a depth of 1 inch is recommended. Coffee grounds contain some nitrogen.

Compost

An especially good mulch, compost has fertilizer value and soil-like appearance. It is also a good organic amendment for tilling into the soil after the growing season ends.

Leaves

Leaves are free, readily available in many areas, release some nutrients upon decomposition and spread easily. However, they have a tendency to from a soggy, impenetrable mat. This problem can be overcome by mixing leaves with fluffy materials, such as hay or straw, or by shredding the leaves.

Newspaper

This is certainly readily available and economical, but somewhat difficult to apply. The high carbon-to-nitrogen ratio necessitates the prior application of nitrogen fertilizer. A good use for newspaper is as an under-mulch; that is place 2 to 3 sheets under a thin layer of attractive, more expensive mulch.

Peanut shells (NOT RECOMMENDED)

Peanut shells are carriers of Sclerotium rotfsii, also known by the common names of Southern blight and white mold which can be a major problem in the garden. Peanut hulls may also be infested with nematodes and nut sedge seeds and/or tubers.


Resource(s):

Pests of Herbs

Source(s): Wayne McLaurin, Professor Emeritus of Horticulture, The University of Georgia, College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences


Herbs are generally resistant to garden pests and diseases. As with growing any plant, thorough soil preparation, good cultivation practices, adequate watering, and good drainage keeps most herbs growing well and trouble free. A few pests occur, however.

Because the leaves of herbs are used throughout the season, chemical sprays and dusts generally should not be used. Organic materials, such as Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis), insecticidal soaps, herb/spice decoctions, and soapy water may also be used, but a simple spray of water is enough to wash away many pests. A few herbs do succumb more than others to garden problems.

Caterpillars — Identify caterpillars as harmful before trying to eradicate them. Black Swallowtail caterpillars are found on dill, fennel, parsley and related plants. In many gardens dill and parsley are planted especially to attract this butterfly.

Leaf Hoppers — Because they “hop” to various parts of the plant or to other plants, leaf hoppers can spread plant diseases as well as inflict damage from their own sucking feeding habits. They may infest almost any plant but often can be controlled by water sprays.

Leaf Miners — These burrowing insects that leave white “trails” all over the leaves of parsley and lovage can be persistent. While commercial growers use floating row covers to prevent this pest, the herb gardener will more likely clip back or replant when miners attack established plants.

Aphids; whiteflies — Good air circulation helps prevent these insects on more susceptible plants, such as germander and monarda; once discovered, they can usually be washed away with a spray of water.

Rust — A fungal disease found on mint, lemon balm, and similar plants, rust is usually not destructive of the entire plant. Because mints are so persistent and propagate through underground runners (stolons), rust-infected plants can be cut back to the ground and allowed to resprout.

Mildew — Lemon balm, monarda, and yarrow may show signs of powdery mildew. Thinning, clipping off the infected parts, and clipping adjacent plants back to increase air circulation are usually effective.

Companion Plantings

Further research is needed to verify claims of the effects of companion plantings. Plants said to repel pests or otherwise appear beneficial to other plants include chives, nasturtiums, mints, pennyroyal, garlic, tansy and French marigolds. Other herbs may affect some plantings negatively.


Resource(s): Herbs in Southern Gardens

Center Publication Number: 260

Propagating Herbs for Food, Fragrance, and Fun

Source(s): Wayne McLaurin, Professor Emeritus of Horticulture, The University of Georgia, College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences


Growing Herbs

Growing herbs in southern gardens is simple and rewarding. Herbs provide seasonings for food, pleasant fragrances and interest to landscapes. Herbs are easy to propagate.

Herbs are propagated from seed, stem cuttings, division and layering. They are available from nurseries, garden centers, speciality shops, as well as in the traditional manner from friends and fellow gardeners who are thinning their herb gardens.

Seeding Herbs

A number of herbs, particularly annuals, can be grown from seed in much the same way as vegetables and flowers.

Direct seeding in the spring can be successful, but seeding is more successful if begun indoors in late winter. Use clean flats which are deep enough to give the root area a proper amount of space for growth.

Fill the container with moistened mix and firm the surface. Make shallow indentations, and sow the seed evenly at the same depth given on the package; most seeds are planted at a depth approximately twice their diameter. Very small seeds should be simply pressed gently into the surface of the soil and barely covered. Lightly water the surface, and place the container in a warm, well-lighted area or under fluorescent lights, not in direct sunlight. The container can be covered with plastic wrap or placed in a plastic bag, but remove the bag as soon as germination occurs. When the seedlings have two or three leaves, they may be transplanted into small pots or, if the frost-free date has passed, into the garden. “Harden-off” transplants by putting them in their pots outside in light shade for a few days before planting them in the garden. Water the transplants well initially and for the first week after planting.

Cutting Herbs

Many herbs such as lavender, rosemary, scented geraniums, and lemon balm can be propagated through cuttings. Some, such as French tarragon, cannot be propagated any other way. In spring or summer, cut about 3 to 5 inches of new growth containing two or more nodes. Make the cut just below a node where a leaf joins a stem, remove the lower leaves, and dip the cut end in rooting compound. The cuttings should be inserted past the first leaf node into the potting medium. The medium should be kept slightly warm and moist until cuttings have rooted, usually about three to six weeks. Root cuttings are done similarly, except the cutting is made from the budded root of the established plant and buried in the medium.

Dividing and Layering Herbs

Herbs that form clumps with many fibrous roots can be divided. Slice through a section of the mass with a shovel or dig up the entire plant, split the mass, and replant the divisions. Water the division well after transplanting to promote root-soil contact for quick re-establishment. Herbs propagated by division generally benefit from being dug up and divided every few years.

Another method of propagation is layering, bending a portion of a stem to contact the soil, pinning it in place until rooted, then removing and planting the rooted portion. Layering can be done in the spring or summer. If done in late summer, the plant can be left over the winter and transplanted the following spring.

Annual and Perennial Herbs

Most Common Methods of Propagation:

Annuals (seed)

  • basil,
  • borage,
  • caraway,
  • chervil,
  • cilantro/coriander,
  • dill,
  • parsley (biennial)

Perennials (seed)

  • hyssop,
  • lovage,
  • marjoram,
  • summer savory,
  • thyme,
  • fennel

Perennials (cuttings)

  • artemisia,
  • bay,
  • scented geraniums,
  • germander,
  • lavender,
  • lemon verbena,
  • rosemary,
  • rue,
  • sage,
  • santolina,
  • French tarragon,
  • winter savory

Perennials (divisions)

  • chives,
  • lemon balm,
  • mints,
  • monarda,
  • sorrel,
  • tansy

Resource(s): Herbs in Southern Gardens

Center Publication Number: 258

Scent and Decorative Herbs

Source(s): Wayne McLaurin, Professor Emeritus of Horticulture, The University of Georgia, College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences


Herbs that can be grown in the South provide numerous ways to decorate and scent homes, yards, and places of business. Some of the following herbs are also edible.

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Anise Hyssop (Agastache foeniculum)

A tall perennial with small purple flowers, anise hyssop (neither true anise nor hyssop) blooms in the South throughout the summer. An excellent bee plant, it grows best in a sunny area and may be propagated through seed or root division.

Artemisia (Artemisia abrotanum – Southernwood; Artemisia absinthium – Wormwood)

Artemisias are noted for their grey-green or silver foliage, either ferny or slightly cut leaves. Of the numerous species, southernwood and wormwood are most popularly grown in the Southern herb garden. Artemisias favor full sun, tolerate light shade and soil with some clay. As perennials, artemisias grow woody and leggy. They should be trimmed back in spring and divided every two to three years. Strong-scented artemisias are said to be useful for repelling moths and fleas. They are particularly decorative in the garden as a contrast plant among colors and greens of other plants.

Comfrey (Symphytum officinale)

Though once used as a wound dressing, comfrey in today’s herb garden or landscape is a striking, expansive plant with large leaves and pink flowers sent up on stalks in early summer. It is a perennial that reappears each spring. The plant should be watched for slug infestations. A light mulch will keep its leaves off the ground and create a less desirable habitat for pests. It is propagated primarily by division or root cuttings.
Costmary (Chrysanthemum balsamita). A midsummer bloomer with small yellow flowers, costmary produces large, oblong, fragrant leaves which tend to look scraggly as the season progresses. It is a hardy perennial and is related to

Chrysanthemum parthenium, daisy-like feverfew.

It will spread, though not invasively, through underground rhizomes and should be divided after two or three years.

Hyssop (Hyssopus officinalis)

An attractive perennial border plant with small, dark green leaves, hyssop bears pink, white, or blue flowers in the spring. Hyssop prefers a sandy soil or at least very well-drained soil and plenty of sun. It is propagated through division, cuttings, or seed. The spicy scent of both its flowers and its leaves contributes to potpourris.

Lavender (Lavandula spp.)

From the Latin lavare meaning to wash, lavender is still used today to perfume bath and cosmetic products. Grown from seed (slow to germinate) or cuttings, lavender is one of the most popular plants for the herb garden. The tallest species and probably the best known English lavender (L. angustifolia) is only one of many species including Spanish lavender (L. stoechas) and French lavender (L. dentata). Lavenders require full sun and very well-drained soil. Some herb growers recommend growing lavenders on mounds to ensure drainage. Winter hardy in milder climates, lavender produces white or pale purple to blue-purple flowers and strongly scented needle-like, grey-green leaves. Even the woody stems are fragrant.

Lemon Verbena (Aloysia triphylla)

As it is perhaps the strongest of the lemon-scented herbs, merely brushing by lemon verbena will release a delightful scent. All parts of the plant are scented lemon. Hardy in milder winters, lemon verbena is one of the last of the perennial herbs to leaf out in spring. It grows with abandon, up to 5 feet, and benefits from light pruning. Edible as well as decorative, lemon verbena is also an ideal potpourri plant. It is propagated through cuttings and prefers full sun.

Monarda (Monarda didyma)

Native to America, this tall-growing member of the mint family goes by many names including bergamot, Oswego tea, and bee balm, because it attracts bees. ‘Cambridge Scarlet’ is a cultivar offering bright red flowers in early summer that attract hummingbirds. Monarda leaves have an indefinable, almost lemon scent. Like other members of the mint family, it is a perennial that should be divided about every three years. It may be trimmed back to improve its appearance in late summer.

Mountain Mint (Pycnanthemum pilosum)

A perennial found in abundance in the Appalachian area, mountain mint is a fragrant plant that tolerates shade. About 2 to 3 feet tall, mountain mint develops grey-green leaves at the end of its branches with tiny greenish flowers at the very tip. The plant appears from a distance to have branches ending in white blooms. A popular bee plant, mountain mint needs pruning at least once per summer to control its tendency to grow leggy. Also, mountain mint attracts and provides food for beneficial wasps.

Patchouli (Pogostemon patchouli)

A tropical perennial, patchouli with its exotic Far Eastern fragrance is now available at nursery centers. Patchouli may be grown successfully outdoors in full sun, adequately watered, in fertile soil. When temperatures begin to drop regularly below 65 degrees, it must be brought indoors. An excellent fragrance plant, it may be propagated by seeds, though cuttings are generally used.

Perilla (Perilla frutescens)

This Asian herb, also known as Shisho, is a highly decorative annual garden plant. Direct seeded or transplanted, perilla adapts to full sun or partial shade. The green-leaved variety is a salad herb, but the tall, purple-leaved variety is a striking landscape plant as well. This herb tends to spread from dropped seeds.
Grown by seeding, cuttings, or division, rue has a rich historical tradition. Also known as “Herb of Grace” because it symbolized repentance, rue is today a beautiful ornamental addition to the herb garden. However, its blue-green leaves and yellow flowers in late summer may cause dermatitis in some people. The plant will grow woody with lanky stems if not pruned at least once per summer.

Santolina (Santolina chamaecyparissus)

Santolina is an excellent perennial border plant as it grows between 1 and 2 feet high and is often used in knot gardens. Both gray and green cultivars exist. Santolina produces a strong, perhaps spicy scent when its hard, narrow leaves are crushed. The herb will succumb to heat and overwatering and should be planted in very well drained soil. It is also known as “lavender cotton” and may be used in dried arrangements and in wreathmaking.

Scented Geranium (Pelargonium spp.)

Numerous cultivars are found within this genus, commonly named by their scents — coconut, rose, peppermint, nutmeg, apple, cinnamon, and combinations such as lemon-rose, and others. Most varieties produce small, attractive flowers and leaves that are fragrant when touched. While most are compact, some can grow 2 feet around. They are excellent container plants, and since they are not cold hardy, plants in containers can be moved easily indoors. They will grow in sun or partial shade and prefer sandy soil and minimal watering. Pinched to discourage legginess, they are generally propagated through cuttings.

Soapwort (Saponaria officinalis)

Soapwort, or “bouncing Bet,” is an easy perennial to grow and, unlike most herbs, tolerates moist or dry, poor soil and some shade. It produces white blooms in the summer. Its name comes from the use of its leaves as a mild, sudsing soap-like solution used even in these times for cleaning fine tapestries and other old fabrics (the term “wort” is from the Old English wyrt, meaning root, plant, or herb). It can be propagated from either divisions or seed, and will self-sow.

Stachys (Stachys byzantina)

Perennial stachys, commonly known as “lamb’s ears” for its large, velvety, silvery green leaves, is a beautiful low-growing garden plant producing purple flowers in the early summer. In the same genus as betony, stachys requires minimum water once established; overwatering will cause the plant to “melt” out with deterioration of the leaves, as will shading by other plants. The thick growth also encourages insects on the underside of the leaves. Stachys spreads, though not invasively.

Sweet Woodruff (Galium odoratum)

Sweet woodruff is a favorite herb for shade and makes an attractive ground cover. It may be readily recognized by its narrow, bright-green leaves growing in successive, star-like whorls. The plant is a perennial herb about 6 inches to 8 inches tall.

Tansy (Tanacetum vulgare)

A tall perennial with fern-like foliage, tansy produces yellow button flowers in summer. It grows in full sun and will spread by means of underground rhizomes. Because of its pungent scent, it is sometimes used as an insect repellent. Both leaves and flowers are useful in either fresh or dry arrangements. Formerly used medicinally, tansy is now known to be toxic if ingested.

Yarrow (Achillea millefolium)

Each of the several varieties of yarrow has special characteristics in the landscape, from the fern-like leaves and tall habit of filipendulina to argentea, a smaller, silver-leaved variety. Yarrows are hardy in almost any growing condition, but do best in full sun. They can be propagated by seeding or root division. Yarrows may need to be divided periodically. Remove flowerheads to promote reblooming. The flowers, which include reds, pinks, yellows, and whites, can be cut for their long stalks and dried in bundles for winter arrangements.

Literary Herbs

Poets have used plants to express their thoughts for centuries. Shakespeare wrote of rosemary for remembrance in Hamlet, and about rue, herb of grace, in The Winter’s Tale.

Milton spoke of “sweetest fennel” in Paradise Lost.

The Bible refers to cleansing with hyssop, words bitter as wormwood (artemisia), and fragrance of balm.

Costmary, while not a Biblical herb, was used as a marker in Bibles and as a fragrant herb in churches in colonial time; hence, its name, “Bible Leaf.”


Resource(s):

Herbs in Southern Gardens

Center Publication Number: 263

Control Garden Weeds by Controlling Weed Seeds

Source(s): Wayne McLaurin, Professor Emeritus of Horticulture, The University of Georgia, College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences


Control of weed seed production and spread will provide effective control of weeds in the garden. A wise gardener once told me, “One year of seeds and you can count on seven years of weeds”. He was telling me that if I let the weeds in my garden mature and produce seeds, weeds would return and haunt me for the next seven years! (He was right!).

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Weeds are your garden’s enemies. They rob precious water and nutrients from your garden plants. They harbor insects and diseases. They compete for light. And most of all, they cause you untold work trying to keep them under control.

Actually, the best method of garden weed control is the easiest – don’t let them grow! Garden weeds are going to seed, so now is a crucial time to remove weeds from your garden. Pull them, hoe them, mow them, or whatever; but just make sure weeds don’t remain in the garden area to produce seeds.

Three other controls of weed seed that might be helpful:

  • Weed seed can come in when you incorporate manure in the garden. Many weeds’ seeds pass through the animal without being digested and will be in the manure. Composting the manure will reduce the problem.
  • Mulch materials can harbor weed seed, too. Try to use sterile-free mulch materials, which don’t contain weed seeds.
  • Many of the books you read say to dig the garden deep. Well, this is good in one way – it buries the weed seed deep. But at the same time, deep digging brings up weed seeds that haven’t seen the light for many years. Many can live 10 to 12 years and then germinate when conditions are right.

The best thing, though, is to remove the weeds. Pull, hoe, chop, rototill, mulch, bury, burn, eat (yes, purslane is eaten by many groups) or destroy them in some manner.

And that same wise man also said, “Friends come and go, but enemies accumulate.” For the gardener, the enemies are the weeds. For that perfect garden next year, get the weeds out this year.


Resource(s): Mulching Vegetables

Center Publication Number: 252

Common Herbs – Herbs In Southern Gardens

Source(s): Wayne J. McLaurin


HerbPlanting SeasonSpacingPropagationGrowth PatternLight Requirement
Anise (a)Spring6-8″Seed18-24″ UprightFull sun
Anise (a)Spring6-8″Seed18-24″ UprightFull sun
Anise Hyssop (p)Spring1′Seed/division1′ UprightFull sun
Artemisia (p)Spring/fall2-3′Seed/cutting/division2-4′ UprightFull sun/light shade
Basil (a)Spring1-2′Seed1-3′ UprightFull sun
Bay (p)Fall (protected)ContainerCutting3-10′ Woody, uprightPartial shade
Borage (a)Spring/late summer18″Seed1-2′ UprightFull sun/partial shade
Caraway (b)Spring/fall8-12″Seed2-3′ UprightFull sun/light shade
Catnip (p)Spring18″Seed/cutting/division1-3′ UprightSun/partial shade
Cayenne (a)Late spring2′Seed1-2′ UprightFull sun
Chamomile (p)Spring8-12″Seed/division12-14″ MattingFull sun/light shade
Chervil (a)Early spring/late summer9-12″Seed1-2′ BranchingLight shade
Chives (p)Spring/fall8-12″Seed/division8-24″ ClumpsFull sun/partial shade
Cilantro/Coriander (a)Spring/late summer4″Seed1-2′ BranchingFull sun/partial shade
Comfrey (p)Spring/fall3′Seed/cutting/division3-5′ ClumpsFull sun/partial shade
Costmary (p)Spring2′Seed/division1-3′ ClumpsFull sun/partial shade
Cumin (a)Spring12-18″Seed1′ UprightFull sun
Dill (a)Spring/summer/fall12-18″Seed2-3′ UprightFull sun
Fennel (b,p)Spring18″Seed4-5′ UprightFull sun
Garlic (p)Spring/fall6-8″Sets2′ UprightFull sun
Ginger (p)Late spring/summer2′ or containerRoot division2-4′ UprightPartial shade
Horehound (p)Early spring1′Seed/division2-3′ UprightFull sun
Hyssop (p)Early spring/fall1′Seed/cutting/division1-2′ UprightFull sun/partial shade
Lavender (p)Spring/fall18-24″Seed/cutting18-36″ Upright, shrubbyFull sun
Lemon Balm (p)Spring/fall1′Seed/cutting/division2-3′ BranchingFull sun/partial shade
Lemon Grass (p)Late spring3′Division2-3′ ClumpingFull sun/partial shade
Lemon Verbena (p)Spring3-4′Seed/cutting3-5′ Branching/woodyFull sun/partial shade
Lovage (p)Fall2-3′Seed/division3-4′ UprightFull sun/partial shade
Marjoram (p)Spring/fall6-12″Seed/cutting/division6-24″ Upright, shrubbyFull sun
Mint (p)Spring/fall1′Cutting/division2-3′ UprightFull sun/partial shade
Monarda (p)Spring/fall1′Seed/cutting/division3-4′ ClumpsFull sun/partial shade
Mountain Mint (p)Spring/fall3′Seed/division2-3′ ClumpsPartial shade
Oregano (p)Spring/fall1′Seed/cutting/division12-30″ Matting, shrubbyFull sun
Parsley (b)Early spring/late summer6-8″Seed12-18″ UprightFull sun/partial shade
Patchouli (p)Spring2′Seed/cutting/division1-2′ Branching, woodyFull sun
Pennyroyal (p)Early spring/fall6-12″Seed/cutting/division1′ MattingFull sun
Perilla (a)Spring2′Seed2-3′ UprightFull sun/partial shade
Rosemary (p)Spring/fall2-3′Cutting/division/layering2-3′ UprightFull sun
Rue (p)Spring/fall18-24″Seed/cutting/division2-3′ Branching, woodyFull sun/partial shade
Sage (p)Spring/fall18″Seed/cutting2-3′ Branching, woodyFull sun
Santolina (p)Spring2-3′Seed/cutting/division18-24″ UprightFull sun
Savory (a/p)Spring6-10″Seed/cutting/division8-18″ UprightFull sun
Scented Geranium (p)Spring1-2′Cutting1-3′ BranchingFull sun/partial shade
Sesame (a)Spring8-12″Seed2-3′ UprightFull sun
Soapwort (p)Spring/fall18″Seed/division1-2′ BranchingFull sun/partial shade
Sorrel (p)Spring/fall18″Seed/division1-2′ ClumpingFull sun
Stachys (p)Spring18″Seed/cutting/division12-18″ Clumping/mattingFull sun/partial shade
Sweet Cicely (p)Spring2′Seed/division2-3′ UprightPartial shade
Sweet Woodruff (p)Fall1′Seed/division8-12″ ClumpingShade
Tansy (p)Spring/fall2-4′Seed/cutting/division3-4′ UprightFull sun
Tarragon, French (p)Spring1-2′Cutting/division1-2′ UprightPartial shade
Thyme (p)Fall/spring1′Seed/cutting/division/layering3-12″ Matting, bushyFull sun
Yarrow (p)Spring/fall1-2′Seed/division1-5′ ClumpingFull sun
(a) = annual; (b) = biennial; (p) = perennial

Resource(s): Herbs in Southern Gardens

Center Publication Number: 265

An Herbal Glossary

Source(s): Wayne J. McLaurin


An Herbal Glossary
Herbs In Southern Gardens 
Common terms used in the culture of herbs:
Absorption: A method of extracting plant oil by laying herbs on tallow or lard, as in the making of pomade.
Annual: Plant that completes its life cycle in one growing season.
Biennial: Plant that requires 18 to 24 months to complete its life cycle.
Blanch: To process quickly in boiling water to help prevent deterioration.
Bouquet garni: A bundle of herbs tied with string and added to soups and stews and other dishes; the classical bouquet garni consists of two stalks each parsley and thyme, one sprig of marjoram or chervil, and one-half bay leaf.
Composite: A flower head made up of smaller complete flowers.
Cultivar: A cultivated variety of a plant.
Decoction: A method of extracting juice and oil from roots, bark, or seeds by soaking the plant material in water that is slowly heated to boiling and left to cool before use.
Dentate: Toothed or jagged, as a leaf edge.
Distillation: A purification process through which liquid is vaporized, condensed, and collected.
Essential Oils: Concentrated plant extracts responsible for flavor and fragrance, often derived through distillation.
Fixative: A material, such as gum benzoin or orris root, that preserves the scent of potpourri by absorbing the plant oils and slowly releasing them.
Fines herbes: A mix of several herbs used to flavor food during cooking; herbs traditionally used include parsley, chervil, tarragon, chives.
Floret: The smaller flower that in combination makes up the larger flower head.
Herb: From the Latin herba; usually, though not always, a green, succulent, temperate- zoned plant; generally used today to indicate a plant with culinary, fragrance, cosmetic, or medicinal use.
Herbaceous: Non-woody, generally dying back to the ground each winter.
Herbal: A book describing the appearance and use of plants.
Hybrid: Plant produced by a cross between two cultivars, usually within the same species.
Inflorescence: The characteristic arrangement of flowers on a stalk or in a cluster.
Infusion: An herbal liquid made by steeping leaves and stems in boiling hot water, covering for several minutes, then straining.
Knot garden: A garden design involving plantings in intricate, interwoven geometric patterns.
Maceration: Extraction of plant oils by soaking herbs in water or oil.
Perennial: A plant that continues its growth cycle year after year.
Pharmacognosy: A body of information about the history and medicinal uses of herbs and plants in their natural state.
Pharmacopoeia: The reference compendium of medicine used by physicians.
Phytotherapy: The use of plants for medicine.
Potherb: A plant that furnishes edible flowers, leaves, or stems usually prepared by boiling or steaming.
Potpourri: A mixture of dried fragrant plant materials combined with a fixative.
Poultice: A moist medicinal pack made by filling a small sack of thin material with an herbal paste.
Ravigote: A sauce made of various herbs mixed with vinegar.
Remoulade: An oil or mayonnaise-based sauce with mixed spices and herbs.
Rhizome: An underground stem that produces new plants at nodes.
Sachet: A small cloth packet containing dried herbs or herb mixture and used to scent drawers and closets.
Simple: A term used in colonial America for a medicinal herb used to cure a single disease or ailment; use reflected in the word “officinalis” in the scientific name of the plant.
Spice: From the Latin species, a term usually applied to a substance made from roots, bark, seed, or fruit of a tropical plant and used for culinary, fragrance, or medicinal purposes.
Stolon: A stem growing along the surface of the ground from which new plants grow at nodes.
Umbel: A flower head in the shape of an inverted umbrella, often a cluster of smaller flowers.
Tea: An infusion made by pouring boiling water over dried herb stems or leaves.
Tilth: Soil condition indicating degree of soil particulation or friability.
Tisane: A delicately flavored herbal drink made by pouring boiling water over fresh or dried herb leaves or flowers, steeping for several minutes, and straining out the plant material.
Toilet Waters: Mixtures of herbs and/or plant oils with water or isopropyl alcohol.
Topiary: A horticultural art by which shrubby plants are clipped into shapes or vining plants are trained over a form.
Tussie-mussie: A small herbal bouquet originally carried in Medieval times to ward off odors.

Resource(s): Herbs in Southern Gardens

Center Publication Number: 264