"growing herbs" --- poison free organic gardening Victoria BC
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Growing Herbs

sweet Genovese Basil - best for pesto

Nothing compares to herbs fresh out of the garden; absolutely nothing. If I were a gourmet chef, I would insist on a garden next to the kitchen, and would not accept anything less. And then there is the heavenly experience of walking into one's garden on a sunny summer day and be greeted by the delightfully sweet and saucy aromas of fresh basil and oregano from 20 feet away.

This also confuses critters like the carrot rust fly and the cabbage worm moth no end - which is an altogether good thing.

Most herbs develop their best flavour with lots of light and heat. Ideally we need a little place in the sun, sheltered from the north, and close to the kitchen. Come to think of it, a lot of people would thrive with these conditions as well. A little reflected heat would be nice as well, such as from a south facing stone wall. Stones store the day's heat well and readily radiate it at night, which is really nice in our cool-nights climate. Fairly bulky flat stones placed between the plants in a random, natural way will contribute to the available heat, preserve moisture underneath them, serve as stepping stones and add to the beauty of the whole thing.

Most herbs really like rich, well-drained soil. A nice sandy loam with lots of manure and organic content is ideal. If your soil tends to the clay side, do not hesitate to add quite a bit of sand to it. Lots of seaweed mixed into the soil will do wonders for your herbs - both in strapping health and penultimate flavour. It's all those dozens of different trace elements in the seaweed which tweak the flavour to perfection. It's really worthwhile to prepare your soil well; if the soil is ideal, your herbs will be too, and you'll have practically no other work - other than harvesting.

Many herbs are perennials here and will live in their space for many years. You'll also want to be able to use goodly amounts of your herbs, and it would be a shame if all your oregano is wiped out by one spaghetti dinner for a family reunion. So be generous with space, plants, manure and depth of soil. Eighteen inches deep would be nice, and a raised bed type of setting is necessary for heat and survival in our wet winters. A stone wall for a border stores heat and adds great good looks. Allot permanent spaces for your perennial herbs with spaces for the annual types in between. Also allow space for our fabulous tin-can trickle irrigation system. And that's all there is to it, really; the herbs will do all the work of growing.

The easiest way to obtain both perennial and annual herbs is to get them from your favourite garden centre. All herbs may be started from seed but some may take a year to germinate, which requires dedicated attention, while others germinate very spottily. Here then are the major herbs, beginning with the perennials:

Oregano aplenty
Oregano. Very slow and erratic from seed; best from root division. 3 plants for fresh use, more for drying. Divide and replant every 3 years. Harvest before flowering in July; second harvest in October.
Indispensable in Greek and Italian dishes, tomato sauces, pizza, fish and salad dressings.

Rosemary. From seed in April indoors with slow and spotty germination; best from early cuttings in early summer. Plants tolerate light frost; can be set outside early. Two plants for fresh use, more for drying. Harvest anytime, dry prunings.
Fragrant leaves are great in meats, poultry, potatoes and potpourris.
Rosemary suffusing the air with its sweet aroma

Salvia officinalis, culinary sage
Sage. Easy germination in about six days, but grows slowly. 3 plants for fresh use, more for drying. Divide and replant every three years. Pinch back growing tips to keep bushy, remove flower stalks. Start early indoors, or sow outdoors after danger of frost.
Leaves, flowers are great in meat, sausages, poultry, dressings, vegetables, omelets and stuffing, including flowers in salads. Also S. elegans, milder more fruity scent than S. officinalis.

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