Published on 04/01/96

Rediscover Riches Herbs Can Add to Your Home

Herbs, and access to where they grew, once raised riches for spice-hungry nations. They may not be kingdom builders now, but they're hugely popular.

People are rediscovering the many ways herbs can enhance their lives, from their foods to their landscapes.

The variety of herbs home gardeners have today would once have been unimaginable. But if you're a beginner, start by learning to grow about a dozen. The culinary herbs will be the most rewarding.

Besides furnishing flavors for the kitchen, culinary herbs can add beauty and fragrance in the home or garden. Arrange them in flower beds, borders and rock gardens.

Most herbs require full sun, although some will grow well in light shade in the South.

You may use many attractive designs for an herb planting area. Parsley, chive and both purple and dwarf basil make attractive borders.

Separate the perennial and annual herbs because the annual bed will have to be redone each year. Renew perennials after two to three years. Draw up a >garden plan first and label plants when you set them out.


If you grow herbs in the vegetable garden, you need only a small section to produce enough for your family.

Most of the better-known herbs are easily grown in Georgia. A warm site with full sunlight and good drainage is best. Most Georgia soils will produce excellent herbs if they till easily and drain well.

Medium-fertile soils will produce leaves with peak aroma and flavor, the traits you treasure in culinary herbs. Too much nitrogen or manure will add lush growth and subtract aroma.

Any good way to fertilize and/or add organic matter to grow vegetables will be fine to grow herbs. The soil pH should be around 6.5. Two pounds of 5-10-10 per 100 square feet before planting should be ample.

Have the soil tested before you plant an herb garden. Your county agent can give you exact recommendations.

Grow any annual herb and some perennials from seed. Sow seed in flats indoors in late winter or early spring, so seedlings can be ready to transplant when spring weather permits.

Always plant anise, chervil, coriander, dill and fennel where you want them to grow. They're hard to transplant.

Sow caraway, parsley and lovage in late spring where they are to grow. First work the soil to a fine consistency and wet it down. Plant the seed in shallow drills and cover lightly with soil.

Press the seed row down with the back of a rake. Water carefully with a fine spray to keep seeds constantly moist. Once they've germinated, slowly reduce watering until plants are well-established.


Mix small-seeded herbs such as sweet marjoram, balm, summer and winter savory, thymes, and catnip with fine vermiculite or sand to distribute them better.

Sow larger seeds directly. Space them more thinly and cover them with about a quarter-inch of soil.

Grow mints, pennyroyal, tarragon and chives from divisions or cuttings. Rosemary, lemon balm and lavender seeds germinate slowly and may do better in a greenhouse.

Grow winter and summer savories, sages, thymes and mints from seed or by layering. Peg down branches, still attached to the main plant, at a joint and cover them with an inch or so of soil. After roots are well-formed at the joints a few weeks later, cut off the branches and transplant each newly rooted part.

Mints spread fast and often need restraining. Use a sheet of tin around the edge to keep them confined.

After herbs are established, keep weeds under control. An organic mulch helps keep down weeds and conserve moisture. Water only in severe drought, since most herbs can withstand dry weather.

Wayne McLaurin is a professor emeritus of horticulture with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.