Last summer I started a perennial herb garden just on the other side of our orchard. Although I grew up eating fairly bland food and have cooked that way myself for years, as I get older I realize that I enjoy herbs and spices more than I thought I did!
I decided to start a perennial herb garden because I found that buying fresh herbs at the market can be quite expensive. Even when I find the price reasonable, sometimes I have to buy too much for the recipe I am following and end up wasting some of the herb. So, I decided to start growing my own. Of course I will continue to plant basil seeds every year, and red peppers to make my own red pepper flakes, but the perennial herbs seem to take care of themselves. In fact, it’s rare that they get bugs. That’s probably because of the aromatic oils in the plants themselves. My only problem has been with our &%$#(@# vole that insists on tunneling right through my beds!
I grew rosemary for years at our old house and ended up with huge rosemary bushes that weren’t very well tamed. Our kitty cat used to sleep under the rosemary during the hot summer afternoons and she would come into the house smelling like heaven! I am just learning to cook more with rosemary, and made a delicious rosemary sourdough cracker a couple of years ago.
I have also tried growing oregano before and really enjoyed learning to make Italian and Mexican dishes with fresh oregano. However, I have never grown sage or thyme, which I had heard are fairly easy to grow, especially in my 7B/8A climate. In fact, when our new house is finished being built, there is a hill right behind our covered patio where I will be planting thyme, as it is supposed to be a great ground cover.
I decided to locate the garden right behind the log retaining wall that is terracing our orchard because many herbs are deterrents to deer. In fact, my research reveals that deer detest rosemary! We haven’t had a real problem with deer in our orchard/garden, but I’m all for double purpose plants!
So, I decided to plant the herb garden with the four basics: oregano, sage, rosemary and thyme. Did I just hear Simon and Garfunkel in my head? 😉 All of these are perennials. Up in the garden I also have a few other perennial herbs including lemon balm, spearmint and lavender.
The lemon balm is in a planter right next to the bee hives. There is an old folk tale that bees will not abandon a hive (swarm) where lemon balm grows, so that is why we planted it there. We also have another lemon balm plant right next to our bee watering pond, so you can see I put a lot of faith in some folk tales! We’ll see how it goes this year. Lemon balm was once called a “poor man’s lemonade” plant, because not very many pioneers had lemon trees, nor could they afford lemons, but lots of people can grow lemon balm!
I am keeping the spearmint plant contained in a large pot. Spearmint is known to spread willy-nilly and is hard to get rid of once established. That is why, even though it is crowded, I am keeping it in a pot. I will find a wider pot for the spearmint later this spring, however, so it can spread it’s roots a bit more. But I must warn you, my plant kept trying to escape this past summer by producing runners down to the ground seemingly overnight! Of course, these runners are what I snipped and used for my kitchen. I love putting a few bruised spearmint leaves in hot water with a touch of either honey or a few stevia leaves, letting it cool, then drinking it over ice. Ahhhhh. So refreshing on a hot summer day!
The lavender is located just above the log retaining wall, near the strawberries. Lavender infused water is also yummy, and I just love putting a few dried sprigs in my drawers for a fresh, clean scent.
My dresser drawers, silly. 🙂
When Ray and I went on a farm tour a couple of years ago, we visited a farm that specialized in aromatic herbs including lavender, clary sage and lemon verbena. In their gift shop they gave away lavender cookies and let me tell you, they were absolutely delicious! As you can see in the picture to the right, I haven’t cleaned the lavender bed yet, but I will get to that soon. My husband gave me the beautiful garden armillary for our anniversary several years ago, and my father made the concrete pedestal. When the lavender is in bloom, this is such a beautiful vignette in the garden. And the armillary actually keeps pretty good time! Speaking of thyme…
All of the herbs survived well over the winter, despite all of the wind, rain, hail and snow, and are showing signs of good spring growth.
I pinched a few sprigs of rosemary and thyme the other day for one of our new favorite veggie dishes: roasted root vegetables! All I had on hand this time were potatoes and carrots, which is just fine, but parsnips, rutabaga, even radish works in this dish. Just a couple sprigs of fresh thyme and rosemary, chopped fine, salt and pepper, drizzled with olive oil, and the vegetables come out browned and caramelized, seasoned to perfection. What temp to set the oven? Just about anything from 300 to 425, so you can roast meat or bake bread while roasting these healthy and delicious root vegetables – just knowing that they will cook faster at higher temperatures MMMMMMMMM…
And the cute little kitty reclining on a rock that you may have spied near the sage? That is in memory of my sweet kitty, Missy, who was queen of our neighborhood for 15 years and will remain forever in our hearts.
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