Herbs in the Pocono Garden

Growing herbs in your garden may sound extravagant but most herbs are perennial and they don't cost any more, and usually less, than a regular house plant.

oregano herb gardening

What exactly is an herb? Herbs are leaves of plants or low-growing shrubs. They can be used fresh or dried. Dried forms may be whole, crushed or ground. When herbs are dried the flavor is intensified. If a recipe calls for a dry herb you may substitute fresh, but in larger quantities.

Many people commonly use the term herb when they mean spice. Spices come from the bark (cinnamon), root (ginger, garlic or horseradish), buds (cloves), seeds (yellow mustard, poppy, sesame), berry (black pepper) or the fruit (allspice, paprika) of plants and trees.
Some plants produce both an herb and a spice. In North America, Cilantro is an herb used in Mexican foods. The Cilantro plant produces fruit which are dried and ground into the spice we know as Coriander. They have very different tastes. FYI in most of Europe and Asia the plant is called Coriander also. Cilantro is the Spanish name for it.

Herbs can be grow indoors, in containers or in the garden. We grow most of ours in raised beds, although some, like Rosemary, can not survive a Zone 5 winter so it lives on the deck in the summer and fall and in the living room the rest of the year.

Popular herbs for backyard or kitchen gardens:

  • Basil
  • Chives
  • Cilantro
  • Dill
  • Lemon Balm
  • Marjoram
  • Mint
  • Oregano
  • Parsley
  • Rosemary
  • Sage
  • Summer Savory
  • Tarragon
  • Thyme
  • The list above is by no means comprehensive. Many ethnic groups use other regional herbs in their traditional cuisine.

    Growing Herbs

    Raised Herb Bed

    We have one small raised garden bed dedicated to growing herbs in which we have Oregano, Lavender, Winter Thyme and Broadleaf Sage. We would have more in there, but nothing else will fit.

    Other herbs are scattered throughout the rest of the beds. Tarragon grows happily with the Irises. The Chives and Oregano have spread everywhere. We grow Monarda, a member of the Mint family, both for the beautiful flowers and the leaves.

    Container Herb Gardening

    We grow Basil, Dill, Oregano, Parsley and Rosemary in pots under a full spectrum lamp during the winter. Aside from an occasional pruning by the cats, they do not require any special care.

    It's nice to be able to add fresh Basil leaves to bruschetta all year long. Or cook fish fillets with sprigs of Dill. The pots can be taken out on to the deck during the warmer months.

    Some perennials do not thrive under the lower light conditions indoors. The leaves on the Oregano get progressively smaller as the winter wears on. The Sweet Basil gets very leggy.

    If an aggressive trim and the bright sunlight of the deck do not revive them, they are tossed into the compost bin and I start over.

    This container from Yardiac is adorable and looks like a great way to grow an kitchen herb garden.

    Growing Requirements

    Most herbs do not require any special soil amendments and most will flourish under a variety of growing conditions.

    All herbs can be grown in full sun. Some, like chives can be grown in part shade but will experience slower growth and fewer flowers. Planting the same cultivar in multiple areas that receive unequal amounts of sunlight can be benefical. You can, to some degree, control the maturation of the plant.

      For instance, once Dill has produced flowers the plants stop growing new leaves. If you want to lengthen your Dill harvest you can divide your plantings between locations in full sun, part sun and part shade.

      The dill in full sun will skyrocket from sprouts to seed. Those in part sun will develop more slowly and those in part shade will be leggy, slow growers that may not reach the flowering stage of growth until well past normal.

    Like most plants in your garden, herbs appreciate good soil. A yearly side dressing of compost or well composted manure will ensure that your plants thrive without the application of additional fertilizers.

    I have found that clay soil seems to inhibit vigorous herb growth. Soil that is loamy or even sandy produces a better plant. Most of the Poconos has clay under the layer of top soil. Working in coarse, all purpose sand lightens the soil and improves drainage.

    The harsher winters of Zone 4 and 5 will limit some of the plants you can grow in the Poconos because they will not overwinter here. But they can always can be grown as annuals or in containers that are kept inside over the winter. Zone 6 gardeners are not so limited.

    Move on to Herbs page 2 to learn about the perennial varieties we grow in our Pocono garden. Herbs page 3 is all about Basil.

    Want to connect with others that share your passion for herb gardening? Check out the

    Pocono Herb Club.

    Vegetables to grow with your herbs.

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