Herbs have a wide variety of culinary, medicinal and cosmetic uses. They can be used fresh or dried for storage. Annual and perennial herbs beautify your garden, attract beneficial insects, and smell wonderful. Most types of herbs are easy to grow, giving you a choice of fresh flavors and scents at your fingertips.
Most herbs can grow in containers or in a garden. They require well-drained soil, and extra fertilization is usually not required for all but the poorest soils. Perennials like lavender and rosemary do well in alkaline soil and spearmint and basil prefer rich, loamy soils. Most herbs need full sun during the growing season, but some types like catnip, peppermint, and tarragon prefer partial shade from the sun's heat. Make sure your garden or container has good drainage, and plan your herb garden around your herbs' sun and soil requirements. Consider placing culinary herbs near the kitchen for easy access while cooking.
According to Jo An Gardner, author of "Herbs In Bloom: A Guide To Growing Herbs As Ornamental Plants," bushy, compact herb plants that are bush are usually the healthiest, with larger, lusher leaves. You can tend to young annuals by pinching off the top few inches from the tips of the stalks. Pinch off flower buds as soon as they appear on annual and perennial herbs to prolong the time you can harvest leaves, and the leaves will have more flavor if the plant isn't putting its energy into flowers. Spent annuals can be removed from the garden and composted or thrown away in the fall. You can leave perennials over the winter with some mulch around the base and they will grow new leaves in the spring. In the fall and spring, cut off any dead or dying material from perennial herbs. Cut back perennial herbs by one-third in the spring to encourage lush, bushy growth.
Annual herbs like borage, chamomile, and cilantro can be sown directly into the garden or in containers in spring, or you can germinate them indoors for transplanting outside when the weather warms up. Perennial herbs with woody stems like lavender are more difficult to start from seed and can be slow to establish. Perennial herbs are often propagated with cuttings or through plant division. Cuttings tend to be most successful in spring when growth is vigorous.Choose some new growth on a hardy plant and make a clean slice with a sanitized razor blade or clippers right above the joint at the main stalk. Apply rooting hormone to the cut tip, if desired. Place the cutting into a pot with a light, moist potting mix, set it out in the sun, and keep it well-watered. Plant division is usually done in the fall when plants are dormant. Choose a large plant with a tender base such as mint or catnip, and dig it up. Cut the root ball with a shovel to divide the plant into sections and replant them.