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Post by Sonshine on Wed Oct 26, 2011 1:16 am

Reprinted with permission from Herb Gardening from the Ground Up: Everything You Need to Know About Growing Your Favorite Herbs. Copyright © 2012 by Sal Gilbertie and Larry Sheehan. Published by Ten Speed Press, a division of the Crown Publishing Group, Berkeley, CA. The following excerpt can be found on Pages 27 to 32.


Herb Basics: Chickweed: A Healthy Spring Green

Chickweed is traditionally used to tame coughs and hoarseness, but this native southern European he...

Gardening Tips: Small Space Herb Gardening Ideas

If your yard, balcony, or deck receives a few hours of sunlight, you can still grow abundant versio...

Green Patch: Perennial Pruning

Rita Buchanan answers a reader's question about the best way to go about pruning herbs. Perennial h...

Herbs vs. Bugs

Scents to discourage flies, fleas and other bothersome insects....

Herbs vs. Bugs: Herbal Insect Repellant

Scents can discourage flies, fleas and other bothersome insects....

Before we consider the first herb garden, let’s analyze the general conditions that determine how individual herbs grow for those herb garden beginners. Each herb’s life cycle, climate requirements, growth pattern, and means of propagation dictate what you can and can’t do for it in the garden. Becoming familiar with these key factors is really more important, at this point, than knowing which names belong to which herbs.

Life Cycle

Herbs live according to one of three distinctly different timetables: annual, perennial, or biennial.

An annual is any plant that can be sown from seed and will mature to harvest stage within one growing season. Left outside into winter, both plant and root structure will be killed by freezing temperatures or even a light frost.

Many of our most familiar culinary herbs are annuals—basil, chervil, coriander, dill, summer savory.

A perennial is a plant that comes back every spring. The plant itself may be killed by frost, but the root structure is hardy and, after hibernating for the winter, it sends up new shoots at the start of spring. Mints, sweet marjoram, tarragon, sage, and oregano are all hardy perennials.

Tender perennials such as rosemary, bay, and lemon verbena can with¬stand a frost but not substantial freezing, so for practical purposes they must be either treated as annuals in the garden or brought indoors in pots over the winter months, then returned to the garden in the spring.

A biennial is a plant that takes two years to mature. Its root structure survives the first winter it spends outdoors, but when the plant goes to seed in the second growing season, it has outlived its usefulness. Parsley is the most familiar of the relatively few biennial plants.

Climate Requirements

Life cycle and climate obviously are interrelated. Because all annuals are killed by frost, they are classified as tender. But some annual herbs are more tender than others. A windy, 40° F night will kill basil but not affect the dill plant right next to it. Both are annuals, but basil is very tender and dill is not.

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He who cultivates his land will have plenty of food,
but from idle pursuits a man has his fill of poverty
Proverbs 28:19[b]

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