DARREL KOEHLER: The Prairie Gardener — Enjoying Herbs

Herbs have been used for cooking, medicine and pest control since pre-bibical times. And while not food, they do bring bring simple enjoyment to our lives in so many other ways.

According to information provided by the North Dakota State University Extension Service, anyone can grow herbs. From a windowsill to a garden plot, you can grow many herbs in our cold climate. All herbs need is adequate light, water and some soil nutrients for success.

Some herbs can be invasive, such as mints and chives. So you may want to put up a barrier in those cases.

Herbs can be simply seeded directly into the garden or you can purchase transplants such as basil or parsley.

There are annual,  biennial and perennial herbs. Some perennial herbs such as rosemary can be grown as an annual even though it will come back year after year in a more moderate climate.

While the list of herbs we can grow is long, here are eight you may want to begin:

  • Basil: Better known by some as sweet basil, this herb is very sensitive to cold. It comes from the tropics, so don’t plant it out in the garden until the soil has warmed to at least 68 degrees at the 3-inch depth. Water carefully as you would tomatoes. Pinch the center of the plant to discourage flowering and harvest tender young shoots for the table. There are 160 species of basil, so you have a lot of choices.
  • Chives: This hardy herb can be sown directly into the garden or you can put it in pots. Flowers range from pink to bright purple and attract bees. Chives self-seed, so dead-head to avoid volunteers. Chives require full sun for best growth. It also can be grown on the windsill as can parsley.
  • Coriander, cilantro and Chinese parsley are the same plant, despite their different names and uses. It requires full sun and regular watering.
  • Dill: This is the most common herb grown in the Midwest. All parts of the plant can be used. Dill is seeded as an annual, although it will volunteer in your garden.
  • Garlic: This fall-planted perennial herb is growing in popularity. Plant cloves 3 inches deep around the middle of October.
  • Oregano: Best known as the pizza herb, this species can survive winter around here although only hardy to Zone 5. Oregano is normally started from seed and transplanted after frost danger.
  • Tarragon: French tarragon, not Russian, is the seed herb. It is hardy around here with winter protection. Started or divided plants are recommended. Tarragon requires well-drained soil with careful watering.

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