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Fresh culinary herbs add their own special zest to any dish you use them in. The aroma of dill, basil, mint, rosemary, summer savory, tarragon, oregano and many other culinary herbs will delight the nose of any gardener or chef. Even more wonderful is the knowledge that anyone can easily grow these herbs in their garden or home.
To begin, find an area of your home or garden that gets no less than 5 hours of sunlight. A successful herb garden grows best in well drained soil that is slightly acid to neutral. Mints are an exception to this rule since they grow better in damp ground, while some herbs such as basil prefer partial shade. Mints are hardy perennials but the most popular for culinary use are spearmint, peppermint and applemint. Most mint will reach a height of 2 to 3 feet. Plant seedlings about 2 inches deep in moist soil and place in a semi-shaded area for best results. Sage seeds germinate easily. Plant in moist soil and keep in a sunny area. Be sure when buying your seeds that you get the garden sage variety since this is the one used for culinary purposes. This easy to grow perennial will grow to be about 3 feet.
Basil seeds germinate quickly and do better if grown inside the house in consistently warm conditions. Soil should be medium rich and the plants should be placed in a partially shaded spot. Basil is an annual and will grow to be about 15 inches tall. Dill is also an annual and may self sow for the next season. Fertile, sandy soil is important for growing dill. Garden variety thyme is the best type for cooking. This perennial will grow up to 10 inches tall. Thyme is a slow growing plant and should be planted in sandy soil with a little lime. Chive is another perennial that germinates slowly but production can be increased by bulb division. Use a medium rich soil for chives. Tarragon is a perennial that should be purchased as young plants. The French tarragon has a much better flavor for cooking than the Russian tarragon. Plant in a slightly sandy soil for best results.
Rosemary is a perennial that grows up to 6 feet tall and can be used as a culinary, aromatic or decorative herb. It is better to buy young plants since seeds germinate slowly with rosemary. Plant in a sandy, alkaline soil and place in a somewhat sheltered sunny area. Oregano is a species of marjoram and this perennial can grow to 3 feet tall. Sow seeds in a medium rich alkaline soil and remember, this plant spreads quickly. Garlic is grown by planting single cloves about 2 inches deep in a rich, moist soil.
Make sure your soil is well fertilized or use compost to enrich the soil after any major harvesting of leaves. Sow the seeds of summer savory in medium rich soil and allow about 4 weeks for germination. Parsley is a biennial that should be sown in medium rich soil in direct sun or semi-shade. Soaking the seeds before planting will speed up the slow germination of this plant.