New Hampshire's northeastern climate presents some challenges for the herb gardener. A short growing season combined with cold winters limits the choices, but with persistence and creativity, gardeners can enjoy a well-stocked herb garden. A mix of in-ground perennials combined with containerized annuals and tender perennials will yield the largest harvest.
Herbs are most commonly used in cooking, and many popular types can be grown in the New Hampshire area. Oregano (Origanum vulgare), a small, shrubby herb, thrives throughout the region. Put out a pot of basil (Ocimum basilicum) after all danger of frost is passed and you will have the classic Italian cooking combination.
If French dishes are on your menu, consider planting tarragon (Artemisia dracunculus) in a large container. Tarragon will thrive outdoors in the mild New Hampshire summers and can be brought indoors for year-round use.
Plant sage (Salvia), thyme (Thymus) and parsley (Petroselinum crispum) near your kitchen door for fast, fresh additions to chicken, fish and vegetable dishes. Ornamental as well as edible, these herbs can improve your landscape and your cooking.
Often overlooked as an old-fashioned condiment, horseradish (Armoracia rusticana) is a pest-resistant garden plant that adds bite to recipes. Plant horseradish in a container; it can be invasive.
Herbs for Tea
A cup of chamomile (Matricaria recutita) or peppermint (Mentha piperita) tea is delicious, but when you've grown the leaves yourself, it might taste even better. Chamomile and mint teas are often taken after dinner to sooth an over-full stomach. Use caution when planting mint; it can be invasive. It is best grown in a plastic container sunk into the dirt.
Catnip (Nepeta) may make your cat crazy, but it has the opposite effect on humans. Taken as a tea, catnip is mild and soothing. Related to mint, catnip can be grown in buried containers. Bring a small pot indoors in winter, but keep it out of reach of the cat.
Hyssop (Hysoppus officinalis) sends up long flower spikes in red, blue and pink. Its leaves can be eaten fresh or preserved by drying or freezing. Hyssop leaves can be made into a throat-soothing tea. Leaves can be boiled and used as a compress for bruises. Hyssop is a perennial in all parts of New Hampshire.
Horehound (Marrubium vulgare) is a common ingredient in many herbal cough drops. Fresh leaves can be boiled and steeped to brew a tea that relieves coughs.
Insect Repelling Herbs
Rue (Ruta) repels fleas and grows to a height of 18 inches in New Hampshire gardens. Fine, bluish-green leaves can be crushed and rubbed on your dog's fur to repel fleas. Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) is hardy to USDA zone 5 (southern New Hampshire) but can be grown with protection in areas further north. Cut and dried, the flowers and stems of this aromatic plant are believed to repel clothing moths.