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John Coykendall of Blackberry Farm gives us his top picks—and shares the most common herb-gardening mistake.

Time Food & Wine

Herb gardening is a popular pursuit. Many gardeners and cooks have at least a few pots of herbs sitting around. What if this year, you plant a portion of the veggie garden, a new landscape bed, or several large containers with herbs?

Herbs add flavor and spice, pun intended, to our kitchens and gardens. They have many uses from the well known seasoning to infused vinegar for salads and household cleaning to tinctures and homemade incense. Some even attract butterflies. Planting and growing herbs is satisfying and productive.

The procedure for growing herbs is akin to growing vegetables. Wherever there are six to eight hours of sun and a source of water, herb gardens can be installed. For container gardens, just about any container can be used to grow herbs if it has drainage, let your imagination go. The soil should be fresh and clean and well drained. A 40-pound bag of potting soil is a quick way to set up a garden Just cut a few holes in the bottom and the bag will grow an herb garden. One full of fennel, parsley, and garlic chives is as useful to butterflies as it is to your kitchen.

For in-ground gardens, full sun and good drainage are best. The garden can be set up in traditional garden rows or employ a more intricate planting scheme such a complex herb knot garden. Check out the Herb Society of America and the University of Florida’s gardening page on herbs for more information.

Here are a few tips, tricks, and ideas about individual herbs and growing herbs to get you started and thinking.

A low-volume irrigation or a “drip system” is a good choice for Florida gardens. Drip irrigation is efficient for herb gardens and containers, they use less water to produce beautiful plants and reduce runoff. Easy to install kits are available at local nurseries and garden centers.

Group herbs by water needs in pots and in the garden. Water-loving herbs include lemongrass, basil, cilantro, tarragon, and parsley. Herbs which prefer well-drained and drier soils include chives, oregano, sage, rosemary, thyme, bay, marjoram, borage, fennel, feverfew, germander, and lemon balm.

Use creeping thyme as a filler plant between stepping stones, in pavers and around the edge of containers. It is fragrant, beautiful, heat and drought tolerant, somewhat wear tolerant, and edible.

Use the whole landscape for herbs and veggies. Plant low growing herbs in annual beds, they are beautiful and provide for the table. Creeping Rosemary makes a nice low and slow growing shrub for dry, sunny spots. Violas and nasturtiums have beautiful blooms which can be harvested for salads and elegant dessert garnishes and can be used to outline borders and shrub areas.

Lemongrass is a popular herb used in Thai cuisine and makes a wonderful addition to that truly southern delight, ‘sweet tea’ and the Florida garden. Plant lemongrass in full sun to part shade in moist soil or where it receives regular irrigation, however, due to its running nature, many gardeners prefer to grow lemongrass in a pot to control its growth.

A great present for anyone is a beautiful hanging basket planted with favorite flowers and herbs. Be sure to include a container of slow release fertilizer, a drip irrigation kit or two to keep the basket healthy.

Carol Cloud Bailey is a landscape counselor and horticulturist. Send questions to [email protected] or visit yard-doc.com for more information.

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