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Many gardeners like the idea of having an herb garden, but many of them are hard to grow from seed, and it can be costly to buy them all as transplants. In this episode we discuss strategies for building a good herb garden without spending too much money.
Perennial herbs, like any perennial, will come back every year, so they are great value for the money. All of my perennial herbs were bought as transplants. I just don’t see the point in starting these from seed given that once they are established, they come back bigger and stronger each year. As long as the herb is rated for your hardiness zone, it’s a one-time purchase that you will not regret.
Here are some Perennials that I would recommend buying as transplants:
Oregano, Marjoram, Rosemary, Thyme
Tarragon, Savoury (winter), Sage, Chives
Lovage, Mint (beware!!!) Lavender (why) Lemon balm
Honorable mention: Bay is a perennial, and something I use all the time in the kitchen, but I have yet to find a variety that is hardy to zone 6. Growing bay involves moving the plant inside each fall, and then back outside in late spring. For me that’s too annoying, but for others that’s fun, so hey, chacun à son goût!
A short note on mint: do not plant this herb anywhere near your actual garden unless you want the whole thing to be mint. The rhizomes of this plant travel underground and then pop as new plants everywhere, and once it’s establish in your soil is virtually impossible to get out. Plant your mint in a container, or somewhere far from your vegetable garden, like a ditch.
Annual and Biennial Herbs
Annual herbs that I sow from seed are dill, cilantro and parsley. Dill can be seeded very early, as soon as the soil can be working in fact. Cilantro can also be sown before the last frost date, but not quite as early as dill and parsley in my opinion. I wait until early May typically to plant these. Parsley can also be seeded early, but it’s a little different because it is in fact a biennial plant, meaning that it grows its best foliage in the first year, but then is far more focused on producing seeds in the second year; that is to say, if you want really good parley leaves, you need to plant every year. That’s not to say that it does not produce decent foliage in the second year, the foliage is just not as leafy in the second year, and does not taste as good. On the bright side, you can harvest the roots in the fall of the second year and the roots can add incredible flavor to soups, and can also be roasted in much the same way as carrots and parsnips.
Annuals that I tend to buy as transplants are Vietnamese coriander and basil. Vietnamese coriander is a great buy, because (unlike actual cilantro) it grows and can be continually harvested right up until October – so you get a season’s worth of cilantro for only $2.99. I buy basil transplants simply because they take considerable time and energy to raise as transplants, and since I buy so few transplants anyway, I often just find it easier to buy a couple plants. Of course they can be started from seeds, but they cannot be planted outside until after the last frost date.
A broad selection of herbs in your garden will add incredible flavor to your cooking, a lot of very healthy vitamins and minerals to your diet, and will save you money if you tend to use a lot of them in your cooking. My advice is to start by buying the ones that you are most likely to use in your cooking/tea/etc., and then build up your selection from there. Before you know it, you’ll have the most flavorful pasta dishes you’ve ever eaten, and in many cases, a lifetime supply of these crucial culinary ingredients.
Special thanks to our podcast Partner, McKenzie Seeds.