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Herb Gardening

Herbs are a special group of plants used for flavoring and scents. Many herbs used in flavoring foods and teas (culinary herbs) can be grown in Mississippi gardens. Most herbs should be grown in full sun, but a few tolerate light shade. They prefer a well-drained soil of medium fertility with a pH of 6.0 to 7.0. An organic mulch in summer benefits the plants.

Herbs that can be grown in Mississippi are annuals that are planted every year, biennials that are planted in the fall and flower the following year, hardy perennials that come back year after year, and tender perennials that may survive a mild winter but often need to be treated as annuals or protected from freezing temperatures.

You can start most popular herbs from seeds. Many of the perennial herbs are propagated by stem cutting, layering, or crown divisions. Annual, and some perennial, herb plants are sold at nursery and garden centers, and seeds and plants are offered by many mail-order catalog companies.

Because herbs are used in very small amounts, just a few plants of each type may be enough. If you want a large quantity of a particular herb, such as sweet basil for making pesto, plant the herb in the vegetable garden. Otherwise, prepare a small area especially for herbs so that they can be enjoyed for their appearance as well as fragrance.

Herbs have few pests, which is good because there are few if any pesticides approved for use on these plants. When planting herbs in the vegetable garden, protect them from pesticides used on vegetables.

Grow herbs started from containers so they can be set in the garden without disturbing the roots. Borage and dill are two herbs that do not transplant well if bare-root. Either scatter seeds in the garden where these herbs are to grow, or start plants in containers.
The flavors and scents of herbs are caused by oils in the plant tissue. High fertilization, excess moisture, and shade result in low oil content and weak flavor. The oil content in many herbs is at its highest just before the plants begin to flower.

Herbs and Their Characteristics

Anise—annual grown for its licorice-flavored leaves and seeds; slow growing; difficult to transplant bare-root.

Basil—annual grown for its leaves; available in several different flavors and plant types; easily gown from seed; purple leaf types make attractive vinegar.

Sweet Bay—tender perennial, evergreen shrub; source of bay leaf; requires cool greenhouse protection in winter; frequently grown as a container plant; start with a nursery-grown plant.

Bergamont—perennial, also known as bee balm; grown for minty leaves; attractive flowers attract bees and hummingbirds; start from crown division or seeds.

Borage—annual grown for cucumber-flavored leaves and attractive small, blue flowers; attracts bees; makes a large, unruly plant; difficult to transplant bare-root.

Salad Burnet—perennial grown for cucumber-flavored leaves; grow from seed or crown division.

Catnip—perennial grown for leaves; a mint; grow from seed, cuttings, or division.

Chamomile—perennial grown as annual; flowers used for tea; grow from seed.

Garlic Chives—grown for leaves with light garlic flavor and scent; grow from seed or division; attractive white flowers sew many seed; self-seeds prolifically.

Onion Chives—perennial grown for onion-flavored leaves; attractive purple flowers; grow from seed or division.

Coriander—annual; grow from seed; fresh green leaves known as cilantro and Chinese parsley; also grown for seeds.

Costmary—perennial; known as bible leaf; grown for minty scented leaves; grow from seed or division.

Dill—annual grown for seed heads and leaves; prefers cool weather; grow in spring and fall; doesn’t transplant well bare-root; scatter seeds where plants are to grow or use container-grown plants.

Garlic—perennial grown for dry bulb; plant garlic cloves in October and harvest bulbs in May and June.

Scented Geraniums—tender perennials; available in many different scents: rose, peppermint, lemon, lime, orange, strawberry, apple, almond, mint; variety of foliage forms available; excellent pot plant; propagate by cuttings.

Ginger—tender perennial grown for pungent root; treat as annual (plant in spring and harvest in fall); propagate by root cuttings; prefers moist, rich soil.

Anise Hyssop—perennial grown for licorice-flavored leaves for teas; attractive purple flowers attract bees; a mint; propagate by seed or division.

Lemon Balm—perennial mint grown for lemon-scented leaves; grow from seed, division, or cuttings.

Lemongrass—tender perennial grown for lemon-flavored leaves used in Asian cooking; attractive as ornamental grass with blue-green color; leaves have sharp edges.

Lemon Thyme—perennial; low-growing attractive plant for sunny area; leaves have strong lemon fragrance.

Marjoram—perennial grown as annual; grown for leaves; grow from seed, cuttings, or by layering.

Mint—perennial; many different flavors and leaf and plant types; spreads rapidly; prefers moist soil, tolerates shade; keep cut for tender growth.

Oregano—perennial grown for leaves; grow from seed, cuttings, or division.

Parsley—biennial grown as annual; grown for leaves; grow from seed; prefers moist soil.

Rosemary—perennial, evergreen shrub but reliably hardy; grown for leaves; available in different plant types, upright and creeping; adapted to pot culture; prefers moist, well-drained soil.

Sage—perennial grown as annual, not reliably hardy; available as common, golden, and variegated; grown for leaves; grow from seed, cuttings, or layering; prefers well-drained soil.

Pineapple Sage—tender perennial; pineapple-scented leaves; large plant; attractive red flowers grow from cuttings.

Summer Savory—annual grown for leaves; grow from seed; unruly plant.

Winter Savory—perennial grown for leaves; grow by layering; a neater plant with better flavor than summer savory.

Tarragon—perennial grown for licorice-flavored leaves; French Tarragon the only type to grow and only grows from stem and root cuttings; suffers with summer heat.

Winter Tarragon—tender perennial, not reliably hardy; also known as mint marigold; licorice-flavored leaves; propagate by cuttings and division; small single, orange, marigold-type flower in fall.

Thyme—perennial, but not reliably hardy; variety of flavors and plant types; grown for leaves; propagate by seed, cuttings, or divisions; prefers well-drained soil.

Lemon Verbena—tender perennial, shrubby, grown for leaves; propagate by cuttings; grow in container and provide winter protection

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Publications

Publication Number: P3076
Publication Number: P2364
Publication Number: P1782

News

Rich, wide, dark-green leaves with white veins rise from an unfurling center.
Filed Under: Vegetable Gardens January 18, 2019

If there’s one vegetable that could be considered the ultimate home-grown vegetable in Mississippi, it has to be collards.

Collards were chosen as a 2019 Mississippi Medallion winner because they are considered absolutely necessary for true Southern cuisine. As a bonus, they’re really easy for home gardeners to grow.

A man with a white goatee and dark-framed glasses leans on a table behind a small LED table lamp and a tray of seedlings. He wears a blue floral Hawaiian shirt and brown hat.
Filed Under: Vegetable Gardens January 18, 2019

For people who love gardening, the long, dark, cold winter months can be torture. Gardening catalogs are fine, but their allure can only last so long before we want to get our hands back in the soil! (Photo by Jonathan Parrish/Cindy Callahan)

Bright red and green ornamental peppers stand out against a background of green leaves and a small Christmas tree with multicolored lights.
Filed Under: Cut Flowers and Houseplants, Vegetable Gardens December 4, 2018

If you want to spice up your Christmas décor this year, add some ornamental peppers to your indoor and outdoor displays. (Photo by Jonathan Parrish/Cindy Callahan)

A group of people stand behind a waist-high, elevated raised gardening bed full of green potato foliage.
Filed Under: Flower Gardens, Herb Gardens, Vegetable Gardens November 16, 2018

Not into conventional gardening? A salad table just may be for you.

With these elevated gardening beds, you can grow fresh vegetables and herbs throughout the year right at your fingertips. These tables work well in small spaces and eliminate the physical demands of an in-ground garden. (Photo courtesy of Carla Moore)

Fingers steady an upside-down flower pot as a drill bit pierces the bottom to make drainage holes.
Filed Under: Cut Flowers and Houseplants, Flower Gardens, Herb Gardens, Vegetable Gardens, Youth Gardening November 6, 2018

You’ve got a lovely container, and you want to put a plant in it. But if that container doesn’t have drainage holes, you’ll end up with a dead plant. (Photo by Jonathan Parrish/Cindy Callahan)

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