“February is the border between winter and spring.” Terri Guillemets. “While it is February one can taste the full joys of anticipation. Spring stands at the gate with her finger on the latch.” Patience Strong. “Probably more pests can be controlled in an armchair in front of a February fire with a garden notebook and a seed catalog that can ever be knocked out in hand-to-hand combat in the garden.” Neely Turner.
It’s mid-February and we are getting closer to many pre-spring activities in the landscape. As the night temps remain above 50 degrees, begin pruning your knockout roses for a very colorful season ahead. Time to start thinking about herbs, too.
An herb is any plant with leaves, seeds, or flowers used for flavoring, food, medicine, perfume, or ornamental value. And botanically, it is any seed-bearing plant that does not have a woody stem and dies down to the ground after flowering. However, herbs are herbaceous but many do develop woody stems.
Herbs can be classified as being either annual (like basil), perennial (like thyme, sage or lavender) or biennial (like parsley) depending on how they begin their growth each spring, ie. Seed, overwintering crowns, roots, or bulbs. Perennial herbs can be shrubs like rosemary or trees like bay laurel.
Each gardener decides what their herb garden should look like and its size. A dedicated garden devoted only to herbs can be charming with lots of curb appeal. However, such gardens are not necessary and can be impractical. Herbs lend themselves to being incorporated into the vegetable garden, perennial or annual flower beds, landscape beds, or in containers placed strategically throughout the property. As herb gardens are planned in your backyard, learn which herbs like companion planting situations and those which need to be socially distanced.
Herbs can be fairly easy to grow. Most of them do best in full sun, but a few will tolerate partial shade. Adequate amounts of organic matter should be worked into the soil before planting which helps improve soil structure and aeration. A well-drained soil with good fertility is needed for success in growing herbs. If the area has poor drainage, then consider raised building beds. Do not place plants with opposite watering requirements together as companion plants.
Herbs that grow fairly well together as companion plants in the same area or container include basil, cilantro, sage, chives, dill, mint, coriander, tarragon, oregano, and rosemary. Mint pairs well with a few things, but other herbs need to be separated from it. Mint is a natural creeper so its vines can be aggressive. Basil helps repel white flies, mosquitos, hornworms, flies and aphids while improving the flavor and growth of tomatoes.
Bee balm (bergamot or monarda) attracts bees and butterflies and improves the flavor of tomatoes. Nasturtium helps repel white flies and squash bugs. Garlic and onions reduce the quality of beans and peas, but improves the growth of roses, beets and cabbages. Mustard may negatively impact turnips and sage reduces effective onion growth and the quality of cucumbers.
Socially distancing plants such as fennel, mint, oregano, and wormwood in separate beds helps to prevent negative effects on the other herbs in your garden. Exercise care and understand some of the ill effects from placing basil, dill, garlic, rosemary, rue, and sage as companion plants.
Fennel is a great stomach medicinal but keep it separate from most other plants. Mint is a stomach medicinal, energy booster, and bad breath neutralizer which grows very quickly and aggressively. Oregano is very invasive but offers natural antibiotic properties and helps reduce inflammation.
Basil has many positive points from flavoring pizza and pasta to medicinal value for upset stomachs, parasite infections, and digestive problems. However, avoid planting sage and basil together. Dill has a unique flavor (dill pickles) and offers good medicinal treatment of colds and flu. Even though it is a great companion plant, it can stunt the growth of fennel and lavender. Garlic is excellent in flavoring foods but also offers medicinal benefits with immune system and reducing risk of heart disease. Garlic stunts the growth of parsley and sage.
Rosemary offers cooking qualities, memory improvement, brain protection from aging effects, and digestive issues. It does well with sage and bay, but chives and cilantro doesn’t grow well next to it. It also favors drier conditions than other herbs. Rue works well as anti-inflammatory, diarrhea remedy, and useful for multiple injuries, aches and pains. Do not plant in vegetable garden and keep it away from basil and sage as their growth is impeded. Sage works well as medicinal herb for reducing blood sugar levels and cholesterol. Do not plant sage around chives and onions.
Culinary herbs are used in small amounts and provide flavor rather than substance to food. Other common herbs include bay laurel, borage, caraway, catnip, chervil, epazote, lemon grass, lemon balm, lemon verbena, lovage, sweet marjoram, nasturtium, salad burnet, summer savory, winter savory, scented geranium, sorrel, thyme, among others.
Five herbs that are easy to grow and very popular in the kitchen include chives, dill, parsley, basil and oregano. Growing herbs is a great way in keeping fresh remedies and helpers in the kitchen nearby. However, do grow them correctly by understanding companion planting and social distancing amongst them for best results. Do your homework and research your choices to determine what is best for you. The choice is yours! Continue enjoying these February days!
“The Word of the Lord is right and true; He is faithful in all He does. The Lord loves righteousness and justice; the earth is full of His unfailing love.” Psalm 33:4-5. “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.” 1 Corinthians 13:4-5. “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16.
Eddie Seagle is a Sustainability Verifier, Golf Environment Organization (Scotland), Agronomist and Horticulturalist, CSI: Seagle (Consulting Services International) LLC, Professor Emeritus and Honorary Alumnus (Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College), Distinguished Professor for Teaching and Learning (University System of Georgia) and Short Term Missionary (Heritage Church, Moultrie). Direct inquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.