By: Alex Stallings
There is nothing more satisfying than cooking with fresh herbs from your own garden. Not to mention, the best thing about herbs is that you don’t need a lot of space to grow them. This makes herb gardens attractive to all types of growers, whether you are working with an acre or a window box. Herbs are perfect for container gardening, as this allows them to be easily accessible. Other benefits of growing them in containers include the ability to control aggressive spreaders, like mint, and being able to more easily control how much moisture is in the soil. If you choose to grow herbs in containers, make sure to use pots with good drainage and quality potting soil. The most popular herbs to grow in containers include basil, mint, chives, dill, lavender, and rosemary.
Another good thing about herbs is that they make great companion plants. Companion planting can be found in all types of growing situations, be it gardening or farming, as it helps create ideal growing conditions for all plants involved and increases efficiency by saving space. Companion planting helps keep pests away and attract pollinators. It also helps with soil nutrition, which is important for keeping plants healthy and making edible plants more nutritious for us. Herbs are great companions for other herbs and vegetables. Herbs make great companions because their strong scents keep pests away. The most important factor to keep in mind when companion planting is that you want to combine plants that require similar growing conditions, specifically the amount of sun and water they need.
The most popular example of companion planting is basil and tomatoes. Basil prefers being combined with vegetables more than other herbs. Basil and tomatoes work well together as they both need about 8 hours of full sun a day and like moist soil. It is important when growing basil to harvest it very frequently and do not let it go to flower, as it will become less flavorful. Herbs that work well with basil are parsley and cilantro. Chives, on the other hand, work very well with both herbs and vegetables.
A good companion herb that works very well in a container is mint. There are many different varieties of mint, all which have slightly different flavor profiles. The characteristic that all mint shares is its strong smell, which keeps pests, like aphids and flea beetles, away. Something to keep in mind when planting mint- mint is a “super spreader” and will take over wherever you plant it. To keep it under control, plant mint in a container. Even if you decide to plant mint in a bed, planting in a container and then planting the container will help control the spread.
Chives keep pests, like aphids away, and draw in pollinators, like bees and butterflies. Another reason chives are an attractive companion herb is that they are very beneficial when planted with roses. Many gardeners pair chives with roses to help encourage growth and repel Japanese beetles, the rose’s arch nemesis.
Dill, like chives, also repels aphids, along with spider mites. They also attract ladybugs, butterflies, honeybees, and other pollinators. Ladybugs are excellent pollinators, and they help to control aphids. Many farmers will release ladybugs in their greenhouses to control aphids as an alternative to using a pesticide. Dill works very well when grown alongside cucumbers, lettuce, onions, and corn.
Two of the most popular herbs to grow (and my personal favorites) are lavender and rosemary. The two work well together because they both come from the Mediterranean area and require similar growing conditions. These herbs can be used either fresh or dried. They are delicious when infused into lemonade or can be infused into bath salts or oils for relaxation. These two herbs are my favorites because of their fresh, natural scents and versatility. They also look beautiful in wreaths and dried or fresh flower arrangements.
In conclusion, herb gardening is very beneficial for growers of all types. They are adaptable to fit gardens of any size and work well in containers. Herbs also make great companion plants for other herbs and vegetables, like tomatoes, cucumbers, lettuce, and corn, and are beneficial in home-garden settings to enhance the growth of plants, like roses. There are so many ways to incorporate herbs into your daily life, so get growing!