Flowerdale Nursery  & Landscaping
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     Flowerdale Nursery & Landscaping

        Growing, eating, & enjoying Herbs

 

Herbs differ from Spices; Spices are the seeds, stems, or roots of any plant, while an herb is the aromatic foliage or flowers of a plant. Some herbs are also spices! Example, Cilantro is the herb (foliage & stems), while Coriander is the spice (seeds). Herbs are best used fresh, however dried herbs can be used when the plant material desired is out of season or not available. Like spices, herbs are used to flavor & preserve food. Many herbs are used medicinally & some are used in perfume & potpourri.

Planning an Herb Garden

Herbs are & well suited to use in the home garden. Most herbs are grow best outdoors, many herbs suffer from poor growth when grown indoors (there are some exceptions).

·         Exposure: Most herbs prefer full sun for at least 4 hours a day. Most herbs tolerate windy conditions & slopes well.

·         Soil: Herbs are tolerant of a wide variety of soils; however like most plants they will grow more vigorously in soil amended with compost.

·         Herbs are perfect for containers as many will tolerate shallow soil & crowded roots

·         Mix herbs in with your vegetable plants & flowers, many herbs attract beneficial insects that eat pests.

·         Many herbs are drought resistant & some herbs even thrive in hot dry climates.

·         All gardens / landscapes in Orange County are in USDA climate zones 8 through 10 & Sunset Western Garden Zones 18 through 24.

·         Some herbs tolerate coastal conditions.

Soil Preparation

Many herbs are remarkably tolerant of poor soils. The addition of organic matter (compost) improves the following in garden soils:

·         It influences the water holding capacity, making clay soil drain better & allow sandy soils to hold more water.

·         The fertility of the soil is increased by feeding soil organisms which make nutrients like nitrogen available to plants.

·         It improves the soils tilth making it softer & more workable.

Add compost in a 4’’ to 8’’ thick layer & dig in once a year (best done in the fall or winter). This replaces the organic matter that has been depleted in the soil during the previous growing season. To improve drainage further in heavy clay soils, the addition of Pumice or Perlite may aid in loosening the soil.

 

Fertilizing

Most herbs need little supplemental fertilization. Herbs in the ground need fertilizing once every three months. Using granular fertilizers works best on plants growing in the ground; however the reverse is true for plants being grown in containers. For herbs grown in containers the use of liquid or water soluble fertilizers is recommended.

Pest Control

Many herbs are pest free & in fact many herbs actually help repel pests. It’s best to use the same pest control methods that are used on vegetables.

·         Establish a threshold for a low pest population level. Monitor the pests in your garden frequently.

·         Eradicate infestations manually at first.

·         Use pesticides as last resort for problem situations.

·         Attract beneficial insects, bats & birds.

·         Keep a clean garden, remove dead leaves, twigs, fruits, etc.

·         To prevent introducing of new pests to your garden inspect new plants.

·         Use only pesticides listed for vegetables!

Organic pesticides of relatively low toxicity are best recommended for use in home gardens (we are what we eat).

Weed control

Remove weeds often & as soon as they are spotted. Manual pulling often works better than chemical sprays.

·         Intensive weed removal in spring & fall before weeds set seed helps control the weed population the following season.

·         Use mulches, when used properly it can reduce weeds.

·         Never use plastic weed barriers, it is not healthy for soil; whereas landscape fabric allows for gas & water exchange.

·         Pre-emergent herbicides work well, however if your growing from seed, avoid using these herbicides.

·         Avoid over watering.

·         Check irrigation for leaks & incorrect sprinkler spray paths.

Disease Control

Plants grown correctly have few disease problems.

·         Choose the right plant for the right location.

·         Plants generally need less water when dormant.

·         Do not crowd plants too close together.

·         Keep tools clean & sharp.

Many diseases are caused by improper growing conditions which can stress plants.

·         Over watering is the #1 cause of plant death, besides the lack of water!.

If your plant becomes infected with a disease it is best to remove & destroy the plant as soon as the detection is noticed. The gardener is limited to what can be applied safely to edibles for disease control.

 

 

Planting

There are basically two seasons for edible growing in most of

Southern California.

1.   Warm season (summer - fall) runs from May till October. Plants that are warm season growers should be planted in the spring.

2.   Cool season (winter – spring) runs from November until April. Plants that are cool season growers should be planted in the fall.

Herbs are best planted in the fall & winter.

Using Herbs

Herbs are a versatile group of plants. They are widely used in landscapes, flower, culinary, & medicinal gardens.

In the Landscape

Some herbs are commonly used in landscape design. The herbs that are commonly used in the landscape tend to have some traits in common. They are usually shrubby, bear attractive flowers, have evergreen or interesting foliage, & tend to be easy to grow. Herbs are native to areas what from areas with a similar climate to our own, are good for landscaping.  Southern California’s climate is perfect for growing a wide selection of herbs.  Our climate is considered a Subtropical Mediterranean climate. A large number of herbs are native to Arid Subtropical & Mediterranean areas making for a long list of good candidates. However, our cool wet winters play havoc on those herbs that come from truly tropical climates. The following list of herbs is suitable for Orange County landscaping:

Rosemary, Rosmarinus officinalis

Oreganos, (Origanum species)

Sages (Salvia apiana, S. officinalis, S. clevelandii)

Thymes (Thymus species)

Rue or Ruda (Ruta graviolens)

Sagebrushes, Wormwoods & Absinthe (Artemisia species)

Hyssops (Agastache species)

Rosehips & Rose Petals (Rosa species)

Dill (Anethum graviolens)

Basil all types (Ocimum species)

Lavenders (Lavadula species)

Catmint (Nepeta species)

Bay (Laurus nobilis)

Chives all types (Allium & Thumbaughia species)

Lavender Cotton (Santolina species)

Chamomile both German & Roman (Matricaria recutita & Anthemis nobilis)

Avoid planting Fennel in as it has become an invasive weed in our area. Mints & Spearmints of all kinds can also become invasive pests in well watered gardens. Mints should be planted in pots, where they thrive.

Most herbs attract beneficial insects to the garden & are an indispensible tool to the organic gardener. 

 Herbs in the Kitchen Garden

Herbs are perfect for those people who love to cook. Every culture on earth uses some type of herb or another to flavor food. Some herbs have been used as a preservative in that the smells can repel food pests (weevils, beetles, etc).

·               Mirepoix is the herb mix used in classical French Cuisine. The main ingredients of this combination are Celery, Tarragon, Carrots, & Onion. Herbs de Provence are traditionally herbs that grew wild in Southern France, they included thyme, Tarragon, Savory, & Rosemary (Bay is also commonly added). However, contemporary “Herb de Provence” mixtures were invented in 1970’s by McCormick & Co.

·                 Since antiquity Italian food has always been flavored with herbs. The Mediterranean climate of Italy is home to many of our most popular herbs, such as: Basil, Oregano, Sage, Parsley, Bay, & Rosemary.

·                 In Latin American many herbs are used, however, the most common are Chili, Lime, Cilantro, Onion, Avocado Leaf, & Epazote. Many of these plants have been used by Native Americans prior to European influence. However, the Europeans introduced many new herbs (classical Mediterranean & Asian herbs) to the culture of Latin America.

·                 Asian cuisine emphasizes the balance between sweet & sour. The herbs & spices most highly regarded are Sesame, Ginger, Allspice, Garlic, Anise, Black Pepper, & Lemon Grass.

·                 Indian cuisine is noted for its heavy use of herbs & spices to create vibrant multi-layered flavors, with Curry, Cardamom, Nutmeg, Cinnamon, Cloves, & Basil. These create many of the lovely & spicy flavors that are hallmark of Indian food. 

Many herbs work well with particular types of food: Thyme works well with red meat, Dill with Fish & Seafood, & Sage with Chicken. Be creative & adventurous in using different herbs or herb combinations in your home cooking. Often herbs are what are needed to highlight & complement the wonderful flavor of food. There are many herbs that can be used in the kitchen:

Salad Burnet

Sumer Savory

Winter Savory

Stevia

Caraway

Saffron

Borage (flowers only)

Fenugreek

Marjoram

Calendula

Culantro

Sorrel

Fennel

 

 

The Medicinal Herbs

Plants were man’s first medicine, & we continue to be used plants as our natural pharmacies. Herbs can benefit mood, metabolism, circulation, hair, skin, & more. As with all medicines natural or not care must always be taken, consult your physician before using anything as a medication.

Ginseng- Increases Blood Circulation & Metabolism

Aloe- Prized for its positive effects on the Skin & Hair

Mint-Aids in digestion, Fights Bad Breath

Chamomile-Sedative

Valerian-Sedative

Cannabis- Pain relief, Hunger Stimulation, Anti Nausea

St John’s Wort-Antidepressant

Opium Poppy-Pain Relief

Comfrey-Prevents Infections

Mullein-Boosts the Immune System

Feverfew-Relives Fevers & Headaches

Garlic-Antibiotic

Milk Thistle- Benefits the Liver


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