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Biocontrol Reference Center

HOWARD GARRETT'S BASIC ORGANIC PROGRAM

GROWING HERBS ORGANICALLY

Herbs have a great many more uses than those in the culinary world. Some make excellent landscape plants. Rosemary, bay, germander, santolina make excellent permanent plants and are all evergreen in the warmer parts of the country.

Perennial herbs make great garden additions by adding fragrance, foliage texture and flower color. Some of the most beautiful and easiest to grow include the following: artemisia (soft silvery gray foliage in summer), garlic and onion chives (summer flowers of white and lavender), sweet marigold (yellow flowers late summer into fall), mealy blue salvia (blue flowers in summer), Gregg salvia (red, pink or white flowers in the south all summer), yarrow (lovely delicate foliage and yellow, white, pink or red flowers in summer), purple coneflower (beautiful white or purple-pink flowers in summer). Elderberry is a spring flowering herb with berries in late summer and fall.

Some herbs make excellent ground covers. Lamb's ear is a soft-textured, light gray-green herb good for small areas; prostrate rosemary is a very low growing version of the regular rosemary; lanium is a silvery-leafed ground cover good for partially shaded areas; pennyroyal is a tough, low growing evergreen ground cover that is excellent for use between stepping stones; and creeping thyme is not only a durable ground cover but also has flowers in a range of colors from white to lavender. Greek oregano is a good winter hardy ground cover. Gotu kola and gill ivy are also good ground cover herbs.

Some trees are herbs. The most noteworthy is ginkgo. It has interesting, delicate foliage and beautiful yellow fall color.

Herbs can help with insect control and make excellent companion plants for our vegetables and ornamentals. They are great choices for organic gardens - in act anyone who sprays toxic pesticides on herbs is a nut. People like to pinch, small, taste and eat herbs fresh out of the garden. Besides, pests aren't usually a problem. Even if your herbs are only to look at, pesticides shouldn't be used on them. The following are some of my favorite herbs:


Bay
Basil
Borage
Chives
Comfrey
Garlic

Ginkgo
Elderberry
Lamb's ear
Lemon balm
Lemongrass
Lemon verbena

Mint
Mullein
Oregano
Purple coneflower
Rosemary
Salad burnet

Southernwood
Sweet marigold
Thyme
Yarrow

Bay (Laurus noblis) A slow-growing evergreen that needs protection from hard winters. Bay is tough, easy to grow, has a delicious flavor and is an attractive plant.

Basil (Ocimum spp.) Plant after danger of frost in sun or partial shade. Great flower for food or tea.

Borage (Borago officinalis) grows about three feet tall. It has gray-green leaves with whitish bristles and blue star shaped flowers that bloom throughout the summer.

Chives (Alium schoeoprasum) grows in clumps and look a bit like thin monkey grass. Onion chives have narrow leaves and lavender flowers. Garlic chives (A. tuberosum) has wider leaves and white flowers.

Comfrey (Symphytum officinale) "The healing herb" has large, fuzzy, 10-inch long leaves, spreads to three feet high by three feet wide and wider and has lovely pink or purple bell shaped flowers which hang gracefully from vertical stems.

Garlic (Allium sativum) The foliage of garlic is dark green and grass-like. The flowers on some species are very interesting as they curve around and finally burst open in the early summer. Elephant garlic, actually a leek, has large round decorative flower balls.

Ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba) The leaves when used in food or tea are good for your memory. Great, although short lived, yellow fall color. Open lacy overall effect.

Elderberry (Sambucus canadensis) A large growing, graceful shrubby perennial with edible purple-black berries from August through September. Grows to 10 feet in most soils and has lovely white flower clusters in the summer.

Lamb's ear (Stachys byzantina) A tough, soft, gray, fuzzy-leafed herb, that makes a good small area plant.

Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) An easy-to-grow lemon flavored perennial herb with scalloped edge oval leaves.

Lemongrass (Cybopogon citratus) A grass-like herb that looks like a small scale pampas grass. Its wonderful lemon scent makes it excellent for making tea. If it freezes, which is often in all but tropical areas, just plant new plants each year.

Lemon verbena (Aloysia triphilla) In addition to being one of the most delicious flavoring herbs, lemon verbena is a wonderful addition to the landscape garden as well as the herb garden. It will freeze, so it is best treated as an annual.

Mint (Mentha spp.) Mints make good landscape ground covers but they spread aggressively. Mentha pulegium, pennyroyal, is reported to repel fleas.

Mullein (Verbascum thapsus) Common mullein or old man's flannel is a big wildflower that looks like a large, upright version of lamb's ear. Its flowers are yellow, white or purple depending on the variety.

Oregano (Oreganum spp.) The strongest in flavor is Greek oregano, which is also an excellent ground cover plant. Excellent in sauces, soups and salads.

Purple coneflower (Echinacea spp.) An absolutely terrific perennial herb that should be used in every landscape. Bright pink or white daisy-like flowers with yellow centers.

Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinnalis) Gray-green shrub that can grow to a height of 4 feet. It freezes in hard winters but is worth replacing every year if necessary. The low-growing ground cover type is Rosemary prostratus.

Salad burnet (Poterium sanguisorba) A compact, rosette evergreen herb that will reach a height of 2 feet. Lacy foliage provides a pleasant cucumber fragrance.

Southernwood (Artemisia abrotanum) My favorite artemisia. It has finely textured, dusty-gray foliage and constant lemon scent that's stronger when crushed.

Sweet marigold (Tagetes lucida) French tarragon substitute. It flowers with yellow blossoms in late summer and early fall. Some people call it Mexican mint marigold.

Thyme (Thymus vulgaris) I especially like the creeping thymes which make fragrant ground covers. Use between stepping stones, on borders and in stone pockets.

Yarrow (Achillea millifolium) Lacy, fern-like foliage and is an evergreen perennial in warmer climates. Colorful flowers on tall stalks which bloom in early summer.

Herb culture: Plant in any well drained soil improved with compost and rock dust. Fertilize twice each year with mild organic fertilizer. It's that easy.


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