The Garden Guy | Herbs for the Pacific Northwest

Courtesy photo

Herbs are a wonderful thing. They can range from 30-foot trees to shrubs, vines and ground covers to perennials and annuals. For thousands of years, they have been used as seasonings, ornamentals, medicines, dyes, teas and more. Let’s look at the culinary herbs which the great USDA Zones 7 and 8 weather allows us to grow. It’s way cheaper than buying them in the grocery store and definitely, tastier.

Herbs fall into two categories: Annuals, such as basil and cilantro, live for one growing season, and need to be sown or purchased live each spring. Perennials, such as thyme and chives, live for, at least, three years (although most will return for a decade. Some, such as rosemary and sage, are shrubs and can live for decades. My subjective list of the 50 best herbs for our region and the three cuisines they enhance can be found at nwnews.com (under the Community tab) and saved for your future use.

Before developing your herb bed, do your homework. What cuisines do you enjoy? What herbs will enhance that food? And, what growing conditions do those herbs prefer? Not all of them like rich garden soil and regular watering. Some like to "tough it out."

Select a sunny spot as most herbs want full sun. Divide the garden space according to how the herbs are best grouped. Basil and Chives have similar rich soil and water needs and grow well together. Herbs like Rosemary and Oregano are from the Mediterranean and grow in lean soil and drier conditions. They require less water and no fertilizer. Plant them in a different area of the bed.

Plant several of each type of herb to increase your harvest and preserve the surplus for winter cooking. Plant seedlings at the same depth they were in the nursery pots. Seeds can be planted in a one-inch deep furrow. As these seedlings grow, thin them and use the pulled plants for your salads and cooking.

Herbs respond well to harvesting and will grow thicker and bushier with frequent snipping. For best results, harvest in the morning using a pair of garden hears or kitchen scissors. Don't remove more than one-third of the plant, so that it can recuperate and continue growing throughout the season. For convenience, plant them close to the kitchen door.

Also, know that herbs taste best before they flower. As with zucchini, it is possible to have too many herbs ready to harvest. But, with herbs, an over-abundance is not much a problem. They are easily dried or frozen and can also be preserved in oil or vinegar to be used on salads and in cooking.

You don't need a large amount of garden space to grow a useful herb garden. You don't even need a garden. These days more and more Seattleites are living in condominiums or apartments. Many herbs can flourish on a patio, deck, or front steps. All you need is a sunny, warm place and containers large for plants to grow with adequate root space. Growing herbs in containers are great if you're short on space, have poor soil conditions in the yard, or just want to keep your herbs closer to the kitchen! Enjoy the great taste and cost savings growing your herbs can produce.

Do you have questions about this article or other gardening topics or concerns? Get answers by contacting the Weekly’s Garden Guy at gardenguy4u@gmail.com.

Three-Cuisine Herbs for the Pacific Northwest

(P) = Perennial

(C) = Good for Indoor Containers

(S) = Shade-tolerant

( A) = Annual

Asian

Mediterranean

Basil(s) (A, C)

Basil (Mexican Spice) (A, C)

Chives (P, C)

Chives (P, C)

Basil (Red Rubin) (A, C)

Cilantro (A, C)

Basil (Sweet) (A, C)

Garlic – Society (P, C)

Cumin (A)

Epazote (A)

Garlic (P)

Lemon Verbena (A)

Gom Chiwi (A)

Marigold (Mexican Mint) (A, C)

Lemongrass (A)

Lovage (P)

Marjoram (P, C)

Marjoram (P, C)

Mexican Orange (P)

Mexican Tarragon (P, C)

Mint(s) (P, C)

Oregano (P, C)

Papalo (A)

Vietnamese Mint (P, C)

Parsley (A, C)

Sage (Pineapple) (P, C)

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