[Herbalist] Beginning an herb garden

Kathleen H. Keeler kkeeler at unlserve.unl.edu
Mon Feb 23 06:23:11 PST 2004

Sunset publishes excellent garden books, but they are directed at a
California audience.  In California, it does not rain for 6 months--you
have to water or things die. (I killed things my first year in
California because I didn't appreciate that.)  Gardeners outside
California should apply the instructions with care.
 I like the Rodale Press's Herb book.  The Reader's Digest introduction
to herbs is also well illustrated and very helpful.

Heather Lea Merenda wrote:

> Sunset has a great starter book on herbs, even garden plans, but it
> depends on if you want culinary herbs, tea herbs, dyeing herbs, etc.,
> and if you want more formal gardens, or kitchen garden or cottage
> style garden.   The Sunset Herbs has descriptions of the standard
> herbs and what they need to grow (temp, soil, etc.) and a little
> history and use.  If you are looking for medieval references, I don't
> know of any that are good beginner books, but I am no expert on these
> references and others on this list I'm sure will have
> recommendations.  I find the Brother Cadfael book a good reference for
> knowing what was in period, but is a secondary source.
> Be careful of the mints (catnip included) as they will completely take
> over an herb garden.  Best to keep mints in pots intermingled
> thorughout the garden so they don't crowd out everything else.  I
> really like sages, they are pretty, have a lot of variety and are very
> useful.  Thymes have a lot of variety as well, but need pretty well
> drained conditions to thrive, so you might have to amend small areas
> to improve the drainage.  Basil is good and comes in a lot of green
> and purple varieties, and are good for cooking, but is annual so you
> have to constantly sow to have enough to cook with.   Parsely is easy
> to grow and useful in cooking.  I've not had  a lot of luck, but
> bergamot is a beautiful herb, mostly for tea, that might grow well
> there.  Lemon balm is good for tea as well (it's a mint variety, so
> keep in a pot). Roman chamomile can grow as a lawn that smells like
> apples when you walk on it (German chamomile is most often sold, so
> get the roman variety from Richters or Nichols, don't even bother with
> a local nursery) and makes a great tea.   French marigolds and
> calendula make nice additions to herb gardens.
> We also have been given the gardener challenge of heavy clay soil.
> Clay will kill any plant through drowning from too wet roots or too
> hard during dry times. Unless there is a good selection of native
> herbs (which there might be, check with a native plant society, or
> field guide to medicinal plants in your area) that has evolved in the
> local condition and soil, you will probably have to amend your
> planting beds for the herbs to survive.  I've risen to the occaision
> three ways.  Firstly, my husbands made raised beds for me, and we
> purchased good planting soil to fill them (6 cubic yards worth).
> Second, I started a lot of herb in containers.  Containers are great
> because you can move them if there isn't enough light  certain times
> of year, move them indoors during cold weather, etc.  Drawback in hot
> dry climates is that they need daily (sometimes twice a day) watering
> during warm weather.  We don't hardly any rain in the summer here.
> The third thing that I'm trying now is digging out about a foot of
> clay in small planting areas (husband put flagstone walkways
> throughout the back yard, the planting areas between), then getting
> Claybuster and some sand and amending the small areas.  It takes five
> years of active management to convert clay into loam, but we're giving
> it a try.
> I love herbs - they are beautiful and useful!  I've had good luck and
> bad luck with growing conditions.    A local nursery (not the Home
> Depot kind)  will have good advice on your climate zone and what will
> grow, and what will grow with extra care.
> Good luck!
> Fiametta
> on 2/16/04 6:44 AM, Diane at scadians3 at yahoo.com wrote:
>      Hello All,
>      Thanks for the web Richters web site, I have spent the last
>      2 hours reading it!!
>      Can someone please recommend a book on how to start and
>      maintain an herb garden?  Is there such a one?  I have
>      wanted to grow herbs for years and now have the space.  I
>      live in the foothills of Tenneesse where the soil is rather
>      heavy and clay like.  Mints grow real well here.  I am ready
>      to do more! Any comments will be most appreciated, thank
>      you.
>      Dorothy
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