Three Great Herbs – Basil, Chives, and Oregano
Starting a herb garden can be a great way to ensure the herbs you consume are fresh, and it can help save you money! But picking a few herb to start off with can be hard, because of how many unique flavors and different cultivars there are. We’ve picked out three favorite common herbal seasonings to provide growing insight for, so you can get your own herb garden going.
Basil is a great herb for the summer. It has a great amount of uses, as well as a variety of cultivars, all coming in different flavors. Some cultivar include the common Genovese basil or sweet basil, as well as others like lemon, cinnamon, and Thai basil. It’s a fairly easy herb to grow, and it’s many culinary uses make it very worth growing. When fully grown, a basil plant will yield about 1/2 cup of basil every week, if pruned consistently.
To start growing your basil, your first choice when planting is whether you will use seeds or you can buy a plant. Either will work just as well as the other. Your second choice to make is whether you’re planting in a container, or planting in the ground. Basil will do best in a planter with drainage, so using a container for these is usually be the better option. If not planted in a spot with good drainage, the plant roots are at risk of having their roots rot. However, if planted in a container, make sure you plant it in a larger one, as basil can dry out quickly in the hot summer. Due to basil being an extremely delicate and tender annual, make sure before you plant that there is no chance that even a small frost can hit it, because even that will likely will kill basil.
Basil does it’s best in moist soil with a neutral pH (6 to 7). It’s recommended to add compost to the soil when you first plant them, and fertilizer if you are going to continually harvest them. Try not to use to much though, as basil can lose it’s flavor if too much is used. It should be watered whenever the soil is dry to the touch, and make sure not to water the leaves, and focus on watering the base of the plant instead. Proper sun is very important when growing basil, which is another reason why containers are preferred, as they can be moved around. They should receive about six to eight hours of sun each day in order to thrive. You should space basil about 12 to 16 inches apart from each other. However there are some cultivar that will grow in smaller clumps, such as spicy globe basil. They will also grow anywhere from 12-24 inches in height, again depending on which cultivar you plant.
Your basil plant will be ready to harvest when reaching about 6 to 8 inches in height. To harvest, you’re going to just cut off the leaves whenever needed, rather than harvesting them all at once. You should be consistently pinching off this plants leaves, because if you don’t basil will flower. If your basil does flower, just prune the flower so your plant can focus it’s energy on growing more leaves, rather than flowering. Keep harvesting your basil until the first frost of the year is expected, and then you can harvest all of your basil. After harvesting your basil can be dried, frozen, or be used to make basil flavored vinegar.
Another fairly common herb to grow is chives. It is one of the easiest herbs for anyone to grow, can add color to your garden, and are a great herb to plant for anyone who enjoys garlic or onions. There are a few different cultivar of chives such as, garlic chives, great Siberian chives, common chives, and Siberian garlic chives. Each cultivar has it’s own unique taste, so you might want to try each one before planting.
Starting with chives can be done in a number of ways. The first way is to get a division of the plant in early spring from a friend, and just take off a few clumps of the roots and bulb, and then transplant these into your garden. Or, like basil, you can buy seeds or buy a start plant. Growing by seed will take longer however.
When planting chives, make sure they are in moist well drained soil. Chives can thrive when in a container with ideal soil. Make sure to use organic potting soil as well as a 3-3-3 fertilizer. If you’re not planting in a container and are planting in rows, space the rows 20 inches apart, and space the columns 4 to 15 inches apart. The pH level of the soil should be 6 to 8, and they’ll thrive best in zones 3 to 9 of the USDA plant hardiness zones. Chives should be planted in full sun to do their best, but can also grow in partial shade. The temperature of the soil should be kept around 65 to 70 degrees F. You can choose to cut the flowers off when they wilt and save them, as they are seed bearing pods. The seeds inside will be small and black. Make sure to keep them in a cool spot for storage in your house until you plant them. This can be important to do with some cultivar, as if you don’t they will self-seed and can quickly grow out of control.
When your chives grow 6 inches tall, you can begin harvesting them. Start by cutting back the stringy green leaves down to 2 inches above the soil using garden clippers. Continue to harvest chives throughout the growing season every 2 to 3 weeks by removing the top growth again whenever it gets 6 inches tall. For preservation, you can make chive vinegar, or store them in the fridge for up to a week. Chives can also be frozen. Also make sure to wash your chives before preserving to remove any dirt.
Last but not least, oregano is an essential herb for any herb garden. It is a versatile hardy perennial that can be grown indoors or outdoors. Like chives, it is very simple to grow and great for any herb gardener just starting out. Oregano plants can continue to come back for many years to come, without even having to do much for them. For the choices flavor-wise, you can choose to grow either Mediterranean oregano which is in the mint family, or Mexican oregano which is related to lemon verbana.
Oregano is fairly simple to grow, and just like basil and chives will do best in a containers with well-drained soil. It does best in part to full sun, and can also thrive indoors if kept near the window for sunlight and given adequate heat. Like chives, you can plant them from either seeds, divisions, and cuttings. Oregano will do best in zones 5 to 10 of the USDA hardiness zones. Most importantly though, make sure not to water your oregano too much. Only water when the soil is dry at the top when you touch it. If you chose to plant your oregano in a container, the container should have a diameter of 12 inches at least. If planted in a garden, space your plants 7 to 10 inches apart. Oregano can reach a height of 24 inches and can grow 18 inches across when fully grown.
When the plant reaches 4 to 5 inches in height, you can begin to cut sprigs off for use in the kitchen. Like most herbs, the cuts made before the herb flowers will be the most flavorful. This is because, like basil, the plant has more energy to put into the leaves. For preservation, you can either freeze them or dehydrate them. Dehydrating is the best way for oregano, and it is the easiest and most accessible way. If you don’t own a dehydrator you can just tie the sprigs together and then hang them up to dry in the window. Make sure to wash them, and if hanging them up to dry to cover them with something like a paper bag with some holes to avoid your herbs from dusting up, and allow air circulation.
We at Goffle Brook Farms hope this helps you get a start on your herb garden. For any plant foods, fertilizers, compost, or starter plants you need for starting a garden of your own, we have it all here at Goffle Brook Farms. We’d be more than happy to help with any questions you have about herb gardening, just stop on in and we’re more than happy to help!