Spring has sprung! The season is telling you to start that herb garden! Your pasta is crying for fresh basil, that focaccia bread needs rosemary, and what dish doesn't want some chives. So gather your tools, your soil, your planters, and your creativity you will need to plant an herbilicioius garden that will reward you with sensational seasonings, heavenly aromas, and save you tons at the store. There are some basic herbs that are a must for any garden. Dill, has feathery, fern-like leaves and is best used fresh to flavor sauces, fish, and of course, pickles. Margoram, is better fresh, but can be dried. Chop it with a little olive oil and rub it on fish or meat to be grilled or sautéed. It is great with lamb. Sage leaves can be used whole on a pork roast, or simmer in soups that contain garlic. Thyme is a versatile herb that is great in sauces, sprinkled on meat or seafood for grilling or simmered in stews. Tarragon has a licorice or anise flavor that pairs well with tomatoes and chicken. Rosemary is good chopped finely and mixed with garlic to add to burgers or roast and potatoes. Of course we all have heard of Rosemary Chicken too. Basil is always best to add to sauces at the last minute. Never simmer it. Chop basil in your food processor with a little olive oil and you have pesto! Parsley is good to chop finely and add at the last moment to seafood and meat sauces. Cilantro pairs well with spicy foods. Add a few leaves to tacos or anything with curry powder, such as pad thai.
Whether you are designing a new garden or filling holes in an established one, herbs offer endless planting potential. The best times to plan are in the spring, after the soil has warmed, or in the early fall.
Crowd control is a necessary evil in herb gardens. Some herbs become invasive and crowd other plants, and even take over a garden. Tansy, catnip, comfrey, horseradish, lemon balm, hops, Artemisia, and all kinds of mint spread aggressively via underground runners unless you control them. A good way to control their crowding is to plant the herb in a twelve inch pot and then submerging the pot in the ground. The pot won't be visible but will help keep the plant in bounds.
It is always good to have fresh herbs on hand! Herb foliage is at its most potent before the plant begins to flower and set seed. Staggering your planting will give you fresh herbs during the fall.