You don’t have to have a green thumb to grow herbs. In fact, some herbs can be overly happy in the garden and so a little neglect may actually keep them in check.
Keeping them in check can be a challenge. Some herbs, especially the mints, should only be planted in a container or they will take over the garden. With that said, every plant has its place, and every garden should have some herbs.
Historically, extensive herb gardens were found at every homestead. Each family would have herbs that they would use for making soaps, teas, cooking, and for medicinal use. Lambs ear (Stachys byzantina) for example, was used as toilet paper.
Every gardener and every cook needs a fresh and ready supply of herbs. Many herbs are cold hardy and will withstand our moderate winters. Though not every herb will survive, herbs can be harvested, collected, and dried so that they are available year round.
Herb wheels are a fun way of growing a large diversity of herbs in a small, contained space. Since most herbs need good drainage and are very vigorous, they are an excellent choice for a container garden. Select a large round and shallow container and fill it with good potting soil. Then follow the next few steps.
1. Take string and tape and evenly divide the container into eight quadrants.
2. Plant each quadrant with a single type of herb—basil, thyme, sage, oregano, mint, chives, tarragon, and parsley.
3. Remove the string and plant the center of the wheel with another single plant such as rosemary. If you are adventurous and you have a large enough container, you can place a second smaller container in that center spot and plant a second miniature wheel.
4. Water regularly.
Herb wheels can be fun additions to the garden and don’t require a lot of space. For more information about gardening with herbs, go to www.ces.ncsu.edu. To contact a Durham Extension Master Gardener Volunteer, call 919-560-0526 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Illustration by Michelle Wallace
Michelle Wallace is the Consumer Horticulture Agent for the N.C. Cooperative Extension Service in Durham Co.