Archive for the ‘Growing herbs’ Category

A Chef’s Herb Garden

Palladio Restaurant at the Barboursville Vineyards

bsville tastg roomIMG_1102 When my sister called to ask where we could go for an afternoon of wine-tasting to celebrate my brother-      in-law’s birthday, I knew the answer at once. The rolling countryside in central Virginia has seen a booming growth in wineries. There are now over 70 wineries clustered around historic Charlottesville with a dozen enjoying national reputations. These gorgeous vineyard estates have also become destination venues for     weddings for many brides. The area abounds with wine trails and tours and tourists.


The beautiful Barboursville Vineyards, established in 1976, spreads across 1000 acres of rolling hills looking toward the Blue Ridge Mountains in the west. It is one of the most famous here and so that is where we headed. The rustic Tasting Room is old-world gorgeous, the staff knowledgeable and friendly, and for a $5 tasting fee you can sample more than 15 award-winning wines. Plus they give you an inscribed wine glass as a souvenir. We had great fun and learned a lot about their elegant wines.


Here’s a nice video about the Barboursville Vineyards:


But for me the highlight of the afternoon was the discovery of the impeccable chef’s herb garden in front of the winery’s renowned Palladio Restaurant.

flowering English thyme

flowering English thyme

I can’t remember when I have seen a large kitchen herb garden bursting with such beauty and health and bounty. The garden consists of raised beds with one culinary herb growing in each bed – tarragon, chives, English thyme, rosemary, sweet marjoram, basil…When I saw these herb beds I immediately wished I could harvest some of these glorious herbs and make lots of beautiful and delicious herbal vinegars.

so many chive blossoms

so many chive blossoms


And so this visit has inspired a new project here and that is what is coming next: a practical guide for making herbal vinegars at home. There will be easy directions and photos as well as specific recipes for both making and using your herbal vinegars. You will learn how to make beautiful herbal vinegars and how to create an herbal bouquet in every bottle. These herbal vinegars are also wonderful gifts to share with your family and friends.

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Looking for Certified Organic Medicinal Herb Seeds and Plants?

Visit Horizon Herbs


Horizon Herbs is a certified organic farm and certified organic processor in Williams, Oregon. It is one of the last few seed companies that actually grows and harvests the seeds they sell. Their specialty is medicinal herb seeds and plants from Agrimony to Zhi-mu and they have the largest collection of medicinal herbs in the US. All seeds and plants are certified organic, open-pollinated, GMO-free, untreated and packaged in plain packets to conserve resources and keep costs down.


The enclycopedic catalog lists 400 organic seeds and organic plants for medicinal, culinary and dye herbs plus a collection of rare, historical and odd herbs. Medicinal herbs often require cultivation strategies that differ from vegetable seeds. Each seed packet (100 seeds) gives you the common name, Latin name, uses, descriptive and growing guidelines. Extensive information for each plant is available online. For more specific cultivation advice you may wish to order the comprehensive The Medicinal Herb Grower, $19.95, written and illustrated by the founders of Horizon Herbs, Richo and Sena Cech. Or visit the Medicinal Herb Bookstore where you will find a large selection of books. I just joined the email newsletter to keep in touch with them. Visit Richo’s extraordinary blog The Seed Screen for inspiration and to learn how to create your own herbalscape and medicinal herb garden.


Where to start? Common and useful medicinal herbs are burdock, calendula, echinacea (see photo), chamomile, lemon balm, marshmallow, nettles, wood betony… Or perhaps a gift collection of certified organically grown seeds is a good choice for the aspiring grower of medicinal herbs:

Lifeline Medicinal Herb Garden – 18 packets/ $29.95

12 Kidzherbs® Medicinal Herbs + Sena’s delightful book – $19.95

6 Traditional Japanese Herbs – $19.95

8 Traditional Chinese Herbs – $24.95

9 Traditional Ayurvedic Herbs – $24.95

7 Dye Plants Seeds – $14.95

5 Native American Plains Seeds – $9.95

8 Native American Spirit Plants Seeds – $22.95

10 My Mother’s Kitchen Garden herbs – $19.95

7 Edible Flowers Seeds – $14.95


There is nothing as gratifying as snipping a few herbs from your own garden for a healing tea or an ointment. If space is a problem, a medicinal window box or large tub planter will allow you to benefit from the natural healing powers of herbs.

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“Herbs from the Common to the Exotic”

THE THYME GARDEN HERB SEED COMPANY produces an informative and charming catalog. The 2010 edition is current.  A family-owned business in Alsea, Oregon since 1990, the 80-acre farm features one of the largest collections of herbs in the Northwest. The herb seeds packaged for sale are collected at the farm and most herb plants are grown organically. You can view or order the catalog at The Food Blog offers tempting farm recipes.

The 64-page catalog offers an extensive selection of herb seeds from Adonis to Yellow Dock covering 33 pages. There are three pages of basil varieties alone. You can check online for new varieties that are not listed in the catalog. Although there are no photos in the print catalog, you will find many photos online.

The descriptive information listed for each herb includes the common and botanical names, classification (perennial, tender perennial. biennial, annual), height at maturity, growing conditions (full sun, part shade, shade), hardiness (growing) zone, varied uses, herbal remedies, and interesting history and folklore. Organic seeds are marked. Herb plants that attract butterflies, bees and hummingbirds are also marked. Since the farm grows most of their herb plants from the seeds they package for sale, we know that these seeds work! They do not ship herb plants. Gift Certificates are available.

Seeds for Everlasting and Exotic Flowers offer plants to dry for bouquets and craft projects. There are also mushrooms, hops, bareroot medicinal herb plants, and beneficial garden bugs for natural insect control.

The farm produces many herbal products – herb and spice culinary blends, herbal tea blends, herbal honey, and dried medicinal and tea herbs from Alfalfa Leaf to Yerba Mate.

The catalog is printed on recycled newsprint and has a color cover in a jigsaw puzzle design of various farm activities. It is easily worth the price of $2. Each seed packet is $1.95 and there is a $3 handling charge (US and Canada) for your order.

The farm is located in the Coast Range Mountains of Oregon, a short drive from Corvallis. On a visit you will find luxuriant display gardens including a Thyme Garden featuring fifty varieties of thyme and a Moon Garden. The nursery offers more than 700 varieties of herb plants for sale at the farm only. You are invited to join them in the summer for an herbal luncheon in their outdoor country restaurant and tour the surrounding fragrant herb gardens.  The cookbook More Good Thymes in the Kitchen is filled with favorite recipes collected over many years. The farm is also available for wedding ceremonies.

I will be sure to place a seed order with the Thyme Garden as a new customer and look forward to a visit on my next trip to the Northwest.

Have you had the good fortune to enjoy a garden tour and herbal luncheon? We would love to hear of your visit.

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Are the winter blues getting you down? Hot off the press the 2011 herb seed catalogs may sweep away those winter doldrums. They are full of growing tips, how-to’s, supplies, books and inspiration. Whether you are gardening in beds or containers these catalogs will speed you on your way.

I prefer real catalogs that you can peruse and compare at your leisure. I also prefer businesses and farms which specialize in herbs. After the holidays I sent off requests for new catalogs. One week later the first catalog arrived and the next six arrived the following week. Now that’s quick service! My favorites are described in separate posts so that you can compare and decide which one(s) is for you. It’s “thyme” to order your catalog now. And the bonus is that most are free. Order today!

Herbs are easy to grow with a little bit of planning, preparation and knowledge of the growing conditions they prefer. Most require at least 6 hours of sunlight a day and grow best in well-drained soil with plenty of organic matter. With a catalog(s) to guide and inspire you, you can bring the magic of herbs to your home and garden and enjoy the luxury of fresh herbs every day. You can choose herbs for flavor, fragrance, herbal remedies, color, texture, crafts, weddings, gifts, insect repellents…to start.

In the catalogs below you will find descriptive information listed for each herb including recommended varieties and tips for growing herbs in garden beds, containers and window boxes; common and botanical names; organic seeds; suggested uses, history and folklore; garden themes; harvesting; garden supplies and tools; and books. Two offer dried culinary, tea and medicinal herbs and other herbal products.

Retail businesses/farms schedule events and workshops and one farm has a restaurant open for luncheons. Gift Certificates are often available.

Here are my favorites so far:

• Johnny’s Selected Seeds

• Richters Catalogue

• The Thyme Garden

• Nichols Garden Nursery

• Territorial Seed Company

You will need to know your plant hardiness or growing zone as well as your average frost dates for planning your herb garden and selecting appropriate herb plants for your geographic location. These zones are useful as a guide only since other factors such as exposure and soil can cause variations and create microclimates within a zone.

Here is my favorite link for finding your plant hardiness zone in your state:

Here is my favorite link for finding your average spring and fall frost dates:

Do you have a favorite catalog for herb seeds that you would like to share with us?

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Strawberry jar overflowing with herbs after two months

A Strawberry Jar Herb Garden

Parsley, Sage, Rosemary & Thyme

A strawberry jar with pockets overflowing with kitchen herbs brings the flavors and fragrances of a miniature herb garden into your home. Place the strawberry jar near your kitchen to savor their tempting flavors and to enjoy adding just a pinch or two to your foods. In the kitchen today these herb plants are everyday herbs for Mediterranean foods from Italy and France. Use these herbs to flavor pasta sauce, herb butters, chicken, herb rice, stuffings, rubs and marinades.

The strawberry jar in the photo below contains Parsley, Sage, Rosemary & Thyme, the four famous herbs of Scarborough Fair, an old English folk song popularized by Simon & Garfunkel in their wildly successful 1966 album by the same name.

Below you will find easy steps to follow and a Photo Album Slideshow to guide you.

General Growing Tips for Strawberry Jars

Strawberry jars are just planters with side pockets. When filled with herbs, each pocket holds a separate herb plant. They come in various sizes, shapes and materials. Once used to grow strawberries, they are now popular for growing miniature herb gardens. The jar in the photo is 6” wide and the nice pockets are 3” wide. Look for jars with large pockets and chunky or squat shapes. Below is a great large strawberry jar for a patio, porch or balcony. Tall and thin jars are not recommended for growing herbs. Te rracotta clay is a traditional choice although ceramic (glazed) and plastic jars do retain the water better.

Steps to Follow

For best results follow the easy steps outlined below and displayed in the Photo Album slideshow beneath.

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1. Purchase your herbs at your local nursery, herb farm, Farmer’s Market or herb festival. Select small, bushy and vigorous plants in 2-3” pots. You want a nice 3” pot of rosemary for the top. The plants shown here are larger than necessary. Look for these varieties for best results: curly parsley, common or tri-color sage, rosemary, any culinary thyme. Dwarf and compact varieties are always good choices for containers.

2. Use a premium potting soil, preferably organic. Many potting soils now include slow-release, all-purpose plant food. If not, you will need to add some to your potting soil. Feed at one-half the recommended rate and mix into your potting soil before planting.

3. If using a terracotta jar (recommended), you will need to soak the jar in a bucket of water or the sink for 20-30 minutes before planting.

Water the herb plants at the same time if needed.

4. Gather your other materials: potting soil, (plant food), garden scissors, hand dandelion weeder or dull knife, small rake or fork (bonsai tools work well), garden gloves.

5. Fill bottom of jar with potting soil. Un-pot herbs. You will plant each herb by putting the herb inside the top of the jar and pulling it through a pocket. If the parsley (or thyme) plant is too big to fit through the pocket, gently break or divide it in half with your scissors. Do not divide sage or rosemary. If there is a mass of roots at the bottom of the plant, gently pull the bottom mass off. (Don’t worry, the plant will benefit from this gentle pruning.)

6. As you pull each herb from the inside through the pocket, fill the jar with more potting soil. Try to angle the roots of the plant downward rather than sideways. The dandelion weeder can be helpful here. After planting the rosemary on top, run the weeder or a dull knife around the top edge of the pot to tamp down the soil. Leave 1/2 inch of space on top for easy watering.

7. Slowly water each pocket before watering the top. A small watering can with a long spout is very useful here. Or use a small measuring cup with a spout. You may want to set the jar on a plant coaster for protection.

8. For best results place the strawberry jar near a window with bright light, not direct sunlight, or in a protected bright spot on a porch or balcony. The jar needs 5-6 hours of bright light and needs to be watered or checked daily. Always water each pocket separately before watering the top. If you are going away for the weekend, move the jar out of the sunlight into a low-light spot.

Please enjoy your beautiful new strawberry jar filled with fragrant and flavorful herbs and do not forget to check it daily. When the potting soil feels dryish to the touch on the top or in any of the side pockets, it is time to water. Smaller strawberry jars may need to be watered daily.

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