Wednesday, January 5, 2011

My Winter Herbs

Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis)

While basil, cilantro (annual), garlic chives, sage, and oregano (perennial) have surrendered to the effects of winter, some of them are still growing and providing us with the needed aromatics for the season.   

Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) is growing beautifully - it is hardy in temperatures that are way below temperatures in our area.     My rosemary plans are planted in pots.  Every year I transfer them to a bigger pot allowing them to get bigger.   When trimmed properly they make great topiaries and landscape plants.   The good thing about rosemary is that it is very easy to propagate.  Early in the fall, my fifteen-year-old son cut some branches and propagated them.  With his "high-neglect" technology he was still able to get a good survival rate.

Surviving rosemary cutttings.

The scientific name Rosmarinus comes from the Latin words: ros meaning dew and marinus meaning sea.  In other words dew of the sea.  Rosemary, a Mediterranean plant, is drought tolerant.  It is believed that the dew of the sea is enough to supply its water requirement.  The word officinalis indicates that it is a plant with a medicinal value.

Peppermint (Mentha piperata)

These mint hills are planted in hollow blocks that I used as border for my vegetable plots.  It turned out to be a great container for this ever-spreading plant.   They were planted last spring and have been trimmed twice - once in the summer and once in late fall.  Regular cutting-back prevents the stems from touching the ground - which is to be avoided at all times.  Mint is roots so easily and sends out stolons that spread underground.  Stolons are modified stems that grow underground.  They emerge out of the ground, to function and become regular stems.  By the time the stolons appear above-ground it's usually be too late.  An invasive plant has established itself in your territory.
Thyme (Thymus vulgaris) and Onions (Allium cepa)

The tiny-leafed thyme is maintaining its foliage.  In the vegetable garden, I plant it as ground cover in between rows of vegetables.  It is shallow-rooted which means that it is not a potential danger to other plants.  Last spring I tucked thyme under zucchini and tomato plants.  In the shade, thyme produces longer internodes and softer leaves which I prefer for kitchen use.   As an ornamental plant, it is best to plant thyme in full sun.   

In early November I planted some small onions (too small for consumption) from the previous crop.  Now they are almost ready to be harvested as green onions (see picture above).   

Chives (Allium schoenoprasum)

Chives which were divided at the end of summer are doing well in 4" x 4" pots.   Rain and wind have caused the plants to lodge but they look great.   I am waiting till we get closer to warmer temperatures before I trim them down.  This is to discourage new growths from coming out (and allow the old ones to just die down.  
Herbs make a plant-choice for beginning gardeners.  My first advice is to plant the ones that you think are useful in your kitchen or those that would be beautiful in your garden.   Then learn about the growth habits of your herbs.  Some of them are invasive and self-seeding - they can cover your yard if left alone

They look somewhat sad now but it won't be long till they get revived again.  See how some of the herbs looked during the spring and summer of last year: Sage and Rosemary; Chives; Mint; Garlic Chives; and Oregano

Horseradish (Armoracia rusticana) has been named as the herb of the year 2011.  It might be a good time to try it in my garden.   

What plant are you going to add to your herb collection this year?


p3chandan said...

Helen you have a healthy growth of herbs in your garden especially rosmary. Indian borage, bay leaves, mint, thai basil are in my kitchen garden, though rosmary is growing so slowly. Will add thyme, oregano and dill this year. They are great for salads and spicy dishes.

Patty said...

I brought in my rosemary to winter indoors and it got me wondering if there is a connection between it and lavender. There some similarities such as leaf structure and the pleasant way it leaves its scent on your fingers when you touch them. Perhaps you know something about this? As to your question, I am going to try basil in pots this year. I will have to move it around to follow the sun, being a shady garden.

Anonymous said...

I knew when I saw the title I would be a bit jealous. My poor, pathetic herbs grow on my kitchen windowsill. Yours look lovely.

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