In days gone by, almost every home had a small herb garden just outside the back door. The herbs were used to flavor dishes and in preserving garden produce for the winter. The practice declined for many years, but is making a spectacular comeback as people seek natural spices and healthy alternatives.
Herbs typically don’t do well in intense heat and are best planted in the spring or autumn months in South Florida. However, herbs that include oregano, rosemary and thyme can be planted almost any time of the year and thrive. Some stay where they’re planted, while others like to spread and sprawl.
Plants or seeds can be planted directly in the ground, in raised beds, and in containers on decks and patios. It’s easy to tuck herbs in amongst flower beds. They’ll require at least 6 hours of sun and will do well being shaded from intense, afternoon sun – especially mint.
Plucking the newest leaves and pinching back plants when needed aids in extending the harvest, while helping to keep them from flowering. Herb production slows down when the plants bloom and they’ll try to produce seeds.
Basil is extremely popular and while some varieties are annuals, there are also perennial types. Peppermint and spearmint easily spread to other areas via underground roots. It’s best grown in pots where it can be contained. Oregano can be grown year-round as a perennial. Rosemary is a perennial that can get very large if not pinched back.
Chives can be cut to the ground if they become overgrown and they’ll begin to regrow in about a week. Dill adds flavor to a variety of dishes and can become a host for black swallowtail butterflies. Fennel is another herb that can be cut to the ground and regrow. It’s often a perennial in South Florida and also provides a home for the black swallowtail – along with parsley.
Sage is an herb that can also be grown as an ornamental. Shiso is a Japanese herb that does well in South Florida for those that enjoy Asian cuisine. Typically used as a sushi garnish, it’s also known as beefsteak plant.
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