Kentuckians have it lucky when it comes to plant variety, particularly herbs. The state's temperate climate, with its humid summers and cold winters, provides good growing opportunities. The U.S.D.A. Forest Service explains the Commonwealth enjoys four seasons and steady rainfall throughout each year. The Appalachian Mountains also offer protection and varying degrees of topography, most of which lie in U.S.D.A. hardiness Zone 6, with some isolated regions in Zone 5. Kentuckians, therefore, have their pick when it comes to herb cultivation.
The Kentucky Herb Association says dill, with its eye-catching feathery plumage, is easy to grow and good for beginners. Dill is a Kentucky annual that is best planted as seed in cool weather, before the last hard frost. Plants can reach up to three feet tall and like full sun. Fresh dill and seeds can be used to flavor dips, soups, fish and salads.
Sweet basil is an annual that can be brought indoors during cold months for continuous harvesting. The University of Kentucky Horticulture Department describes it as a good culinary herb for flavoring tomato sauces and meat, to make pesto and as a salad ingredient. It can grow up to 2 feet and varies in color according to variety. It can also serve as an ornamental plant.
Beautiful in dried flower arrangements and bouquets, lavender is a perennial that is also used in sachets for its pleasing fragrance. It is even used in the preparation of some meals, particularly desserts. This somewhat woody plant grows best in full sun and well-drained soil. Rocky places with lots of lime in the soil are good lavender-growing locations, according to West Virginia University Extension service.
An aggressive perennial, mint grows so well that it can become invasive. But its aromatic foliage and flavor are favored for teas, salads and soups. The leaves also make good garnish because they do not easily wilt, the University of Kentucky Horticulture Department explains. Control mint by planting it in containers in the ground or by cutting back frequently.
This hardy perennial, considered an herb, grows prolifically in Kentucky. Also known as Echinacea, its daisy-like flowers can also come in white, yellow and pink hues. This herb tolerates long dry periods well. The plants also make good additions to wildflower gardens and as tall border flowers, growing up to 3 feet tall, according to Texas A&M University’s Horticulture Department.
Wooly and creeping thyme, both woody-stemmed perennials, enjoy Kentucky’s climate. Wooly thyme, which features soft, furry leaves, grows less than an inch tall but can spread nearly 1 ½ feet wide. It is not ideal for culinary use, but it makes a good cover plant in rock gardens. Creeping thyme is edible and is often used as a seasoning, West Virginia University Extension states. It grows up to 6 inches tall.