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Growing Herbs in your Backyard GardenHerbs of all types can be successfully grown in your garden, mixed in with flowers, as borders or in groups by themselves. However, you might want to think about creating a spot dedicated just to herbs.
This can be a very small area consisting of only a few plants, or something more elaborate such as a rock garding setting. This type of backdrop is particularly attractive for growing herbs and can be made to look like a showplace.
Select a place that receives full sun and is well drained, perhaps even on a slope. Some medium sized natural rocks should be the beginning and focal points. Group your herbs around or between the rocks, leaving plenty of free space so it does not look crowded. Agressive plants such as mint can be put in one-gallon containers and buried to the rim, which will serve to confine them to their allotted spot. Once all your plants are in place, mulch the area with crushed rock which will further enhance drainage and help to keep down weeds. You may also consider planting a medium tall hedge on the windward side of the herb garden. This makes an attractive stage and keeps your herbs from getting blasted by strong winds and rain.
Regular watering is important to keep the soil from drying out, but as a general rule, herbs need little in the way of fertilizer. In fact, too much fertilizer will make them grow rank and unwieldy. Most herbs will readily sprout from seed and you will have plants in no time, saving the cost of buying established plants.
Grow a variety of common herbs you are most likely to use in cooking, including rosemary, sage, basil, dill, mint, chives, and parsley among others. But don't overlook some of the more exotic types. Some of these are not only useful and tasty, but ornamental and fragrant as well. You may consider borage with its unusual foliage and vivid blue flowers. Camomile not only makes a delicious tea, but has the added attraction of dainty yellow or white daisy-like flowers. Bergamot is another interesting plant that produces lavender flowerheads. Tansy puts on a long lasting display of yellow pompoms. These are only a handful out of dozens of unusual and decorative herbs.
Harvest herbs you are planning to use fresh such as parsley, marjoram, mint and chives immediately before use for best flavor. Wait until your plants are established and can withstand the stress of being robbed of their leaves.
Towards the end of the growing season, you can begin to gather the leaves in preparation of storage. Harvest while the plants are completely dry and spread them in a single layer on a flat surface to dry in a well ventilated area out of direct sunlight. Alternatively, you can 'bake' them on a cookie sheet in a slow 170F oven for 2 to 4 hours.
When dry, they can then be further processed by collecting the leaves or flowers whole or crumbling them. Always make sure the material is completely dry and store in glass or plastic containers to preserve flavor. During the first few days of storage, regularly check the containers to see if any moisture has accumulated. If so, you must remove all the herbs and re-dry them to discourage the onset of mildew.
Planned and planted carefully, a herb garden, small or elaborate, is a source of enjoyment and a worthwhile addition to your backyard garden.
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