Essential Herbs for the Garden

Essential Herbs for the Garden

Part of Ep. 602 Back to Basics

Join Sarah Raab at Olbrich Botanical Gardens to learn the basics for planting parsley, basil, chives, sage, rosemary, and lavender.

Premiere date: May 31, 1998

TRANSCRIPT+
Wisc Gardener Transcript: 

Shelley:
Herbs are one of the many plants that grow great in containers. We're at olbrich gardens in madison and I'm with Sarah Raab, one of the staff horticulturists here. Sarah, you're in charge of the herb garden and some of the container designs here. Tell me about some of the things you like to plant in containers.

Sarah:
Well, I love to grow herbs in containers, shelley, because the pots are portable and you can set it right outside your kitchen door.

Shelley:
Great idea.

Sarah:
We also like to grow some of the cool season edible ornamentals in pots, as well including chard and endive lettuce just because they're beautiful.

Shelley:
That's a great idea and they have a lot of color to them, too.

Sarah:
They do.

Shelley:
Now let's look at some specific herbs--essentials for the kitchen, maybe. Give me two combinations.

Sarah:
Sure. One of my favorite combinations is parsley, basil, and chives. We group them together according to their growing conditions and the parsley, basil, and chives enjoy a moisture environment. Another combination is sage, rosemary, and lavender. They prefer a drier environment.

Shelley:
So are they in different soils or are we just watering them differently?

Sarah:
We actually just water them differently. The sage pot can actually dry out in between waterings while we need to be a little more attentive to the parsley pots.

Shelley:
Well what kind of soil are we using?Are we just digging up stuff from the backyard and putting it in pots?

Sarah:
I don't recommend digging up soil out of the garden because it does have insects and can harbor disease. We like to use a soil mix such as this one which contains vermiculite, perlite, and peat. It's sterile and it drains very quickly.

Shelley:
Of course because it's sterile, it creates no soil nutrients, too. What do you recommend as far as feeding our plant?

Sarah:
Well, we definitely need to fertilize. We like to use a slow release fertilizer such as this one which you apply only once at planting time.

Shelley:
During the entire growing season?

Sarah:
That's right. Or if you prefer, you can use a standard fertilizer like this one and you just need to apply it more regularly.

Shelley:
Every couple of weeks then, if we use that.

Sarah:
Exactly.

Shelley:
And do you have a favorite container for your container gardens?

Sarah:
I love to use terra cotta, Shelley. It's porous and it drains well. It's beautiful.

Shelley:
It's got a real natural look to it.

Sarah:
Exactly.

Shelley:
You know if I could only grow one container of herbs, it would be this combination, the basil, parsley, and chives. They have a lot of uses. Do you have any favorite ways of using them?

Sarah:
Well, each of them is very versatile in the kitchen, shelley. I particularly love basil because it has such a unique flavor. It's wonderful sprinkled on a tomato and mozzarella salad.

Shelley:
The flowers are purple, pretty, and edible, also.

Sarah:
They are and it's a good thing they are because you need to keep harvesting them. You need to keep pinching them off regularly throughout the season. Because basil isn't annual, it will flower and set seed and stop growing if you don't pinch off the flowers.

Shelley:
So pinch them and eat them.

Sarah:
That's right.

Shelley:
And you know, parsley is so often thought of as a garnish. It really has more uses than that.

Sarah:
Parsley kind of has a bum rap. It really has a high vitamin content and many people use it as a juice. It is a biennial. Here in Wisconsin, it does not reliably come back every year so we treat it as an annual.

Shelley:
Plant it every year.

Sarah:
Yes

Shelley:
And what about the chives?

Sarah:
I don't actually cook with the chives very often. However, I love them in the garden because they have this wonderful upright and grassy foliage.

Shelley:
I actually cook with them a lot. With their mild onion flavor, they're great sandwiches, salads. And later these buds turn into really pretty purple flowers and they even make a nice vinegar. And they even make the vinegar flavored mild onion and a little lavender color. Now this is a real hardy plant in Wisconsin.

Sarah:
It sure is, Shelley. You can not kill this thing. In fact at the end of the growing season, you can pop it right out of this pot and plant it in the ground and it'll be sure to grow out next year.

Shelley:
Great idea. Thanks, Sarah. And be sure to give your herbs at least six hours of sunlight a day. Put them in a container preferably near your kitchen.

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