Friday, April 8, 2011

Herb Gardening, Companion Planting, and the Easiest Herb to Grow!

Growing herbs is a great way to start growing your own food.  Herbs don't take up much space, and they are wonderfully versatile.  Herbs can be grown in a traditional garden, but they can also be grown in pots or even on a sunny windowsill. In my kitchen, herbs are essential to adding variety to our meals.  

Companion Plant with Herbs
As described in the Extreme Gardening book, companion planting is "putting plants together that help one another to grow and thrive". Many herbs are great as companion plants for other plants in your garden.  Some herbs that can be used as companion plants (from the Extreme Gardening book) are :
  • Basil attracts beneficial pollinators and repels pests.  Basil is especially beneficial to plant near cauliflower, tomatoes, and apricot and peach trees. 
  • Bay leaves repel ants, caterpillars, grubs, and moths
  • Chives benefit carrots, parsley, roses, and stone fruit trees. Chives also deter aphids, crickets, and grasshoppers.
  • Coriander (cilantro) is a general insect deterrent that attracts beneficial pollinators and predaceous insects.
  • Dill attracts beneficial pollinators and predaceous insects, and it also helps produce bigger ears of corn.
  • Fennel attracts beneficial pollinators and predaceous insects.
  • Lavender is a general insect repellent that attracts bees and butterflies. It is especially beneficial to plant lavender near eggplant and swiss chard.
  • Mint is a general insect repellent that attracts predaceous insects.  It is especially beneficial to plant mint near cabbage. 
  • Parsley attracts beneficial pollinators and predaceous insects.  It is especially beneficial to plant parsley near asparagus, chives, tomatoes, carrots, and roses.
  • Rosemary attracts beneficial pollinators and disrupts the sensory mechanisms of most insects.  It is especially beneficial to plant rosemary near brussel sprouts, melons, squash, and any other fruits and vegetables that need pollinating.
  • Sage repels many insects and especially benefits cabbage, carrots, and tomatoes. (Sage should not be planted near cucumbers as it makes them bitter.)
  • Tarragon benefits eggplant and peppers.
  • Thyme attracts beneficial pollinators and deters caterpillars, flies, and moths.  It is especially beneficial to plant thyme near eggplant and cabbage.

My Herbs
My first homegrown herbs were some parsley plants that grew wonderfully with a great bounty.  Even better, I allowed them to go to seed and now I have volunteer parsley plants popping up throughout my garden and near one of my apple trees.  Parsley is wonderful in soups and broths, plus I use plenty of it in my homemade ranch dressing.

I also grow basil both outdoors and on a windowsill.  Growing some indoors means I have access to fresh basil even in the winter.  Basil is of course great in marinara sauce, but it is also wonderful in soups and stews.  Fresh basil gives homemade pizza a great taste.

Dill is another herb that has many uses in the kitchen. It is great on roasted root vegetables. I especially like to add some fresh dill to veggie ferments as it lends the finished products a wonderful fresh flavor.

And the homegrown herb that I use the most is thyme!

Thyme: the Easiest to Grow
In my experience, thyme is the absolute easiest herb to grow.  Thyme is a perennial, so while most other outdoor herbs die back every winter, thyme keeps growing year-round!  It also has a profusion of tiny pink flowers and will reseed easily.  This means you'll always have plenty of thyme.  I've had some thyme growing both in my vegetable garden and in a pot for a few years. Thyme will grow well in a wide variety of climates: it is regularly over 100 degrees here in the summer and this past winter we had a freak cold snap with temperatures below -10 degrees; the thyme is still growing strong!

It's great to have access to fresh thyme all winter long as it pairs so wonderfully with meats and is so tasty in soups and stews. Try it in my Creamy Chicken and Thyme Soup or Braised Short Ribs

Do you grown your own herbs?  What types? 

This post is part of Fight Back Friday at Food Renegade, Pennywise Platter at The Nourishing Gourmet, Monday Mania at The Healthy Home Economist and Fight Back Friday at Food Renegade!


Laura said...

This is a great post. I am going to forward it to my sister and her boyfriend who are just starting a new garden!

Sarah Smith said...

Great! I hope they have fun with their new garden.

Shelley said...

I live at 5500 feet and my herb garden has thyme, rosemary, tarragon, sage and mint. They all survive occasional -30 temps.

Megan said...

Loved your list of herbs and their beneficial properties. I grow tons of herbs for culinary and medicinal purposes, but you've helped encourage me to add on a third element- to nourish other plants.


Laura McElfresh said...

I love my fresh herbs soo much. My favorties are lemon balm, and fresh mint for tea, and lemon thyme, sage, parsely, and fresh basil. This year I'll be adding tarragon and whatever else I can. I also have chives, chamomile, horseradish, borage, calendula, oregano, marjoram, and regular thyme. I usually buy mint and rosemary plants every year-they freeze here. And I always succomb and buy a lavendar plant allthough it never survives. :( great garden companions is one of my favorite books.. tons of good info!

Sarah Smith said...

Thanks for the link, Laura. That looks like a great book! And I am inspired by the large number of herbs you grow! I'm meaning to add mint and oregano to my garden this year (mint will be in a pot since I hear it can be invasive). We are lucky that we can grow quite a few things year-round. I've had lavender growing in my yard for about 5 years (but I've never really used it as an herb, and would like to start doing something with it).