Nothing completes a great recipe better than fresh herbs straight from your garden, and they're pretty easy to grow.
You don’t need a lot of space because herbs grow well in containers in partial to full sun as well as in landscapes and raised beds.
Many herbs can be grown year-round in Louisiana. Some grow better in cooler weather, others when temperatures are warm. Herbs are either annuals, which will complete their life cycle in a year, or perennials, which will live for several years.
You can grow these plants from seeds or transplants. I use transplants because they are easier. Seeds, however, are much less expensive, but take more time and planning.
Start seeds in trays in a hot house, a greenhouse or on a windowsill that gets a lot of light. Plant them up to one month before you plan to set them out in a garden or planter.
Here’s some herbs suggested by LSU AgCenter state vegetable specialist Kiki Fontenot for various seasons:
Annual herbs for spring and summer are also known as warm-season herbs and are best planted in the garden after the last frost date, typically March 15 in south Louisiana. Good growers are basil, mint, lemon verbena, rosemary, sage, thyme, lavender, catnip and bay laurel.
For fall and winter, cool-season herbs should be planted in the garden between September and February. Most cool-season herbs can tolerate normal winter freezes in Louisiana. Later in the cool season, in March or early April, plant larger transplants for harvesting in late May to early June.
Cool-season herbs that generally perform well here include parsley, cilantro, chamomile, dill, oregano, borage, chives, garlic, celery, chicory, fennel, arugula and chervil.
Perennial herbs that will produce year after year in the right conditions include anise, hyssop, bay laurel, lemon verbena, lemon balm, rosemary, Mexican tarragon, burnet, garlic, chives, oregano, pineapple sage, rue, catmint and all other mints.
Although most perennial herbs can be planted throughout the year, they perform best when planted in the fall using transplants from local nurseries. This allows them to become well established during the less-stressful cool season.
Thyme, sage, catnip, scented geraniums and lavender are perennial herbs that require excellent drainage to survive the summer. They may be more successful when grown in containers and placed in a location that gets some afternoon shade during the summer. These herbs can be short-lived and are susceptible to root and stem rot in the hot, wet conditions of the late summer season.
Several perennial herbs that have difficulty surviving our summers are grown here as cool-season annuals and include French tarragon, feverfew and chamomile.
To keep your herbs producing and healthy, pick no more than one third of the total foliage at any one time.
Flowers of herbs may also be used as a garnish, to flavor dishes, to attract pollinators or to cut for a pretty arrangement.
Herbs that have started to flower and set seed can be harvested to replant next season.
You also can harvest and dry or freeze herbs for later use. To dry herbs, gather, rinse and tie a bunch together and hang them upside down in a cool dry place indoors with good air circulation. Once dried, store them in air-tight containers protected from light.
To freeze herbs, cut, rinse and dry them, then give them a fine chop. Place them in a thin layer in a freezer bag. Be sure to label with the herb name and date.
Grow Herbs in Your Backyard
WHAT: A free hands-on program to teach how to grow herbs by the Baton Rouge Botanic Gardens Foundation.
WHEN: 10 a.m. to noon Saturday, Feb. 8
WHERE: East Baton Rouge Main Library, 7711 Goodwood Blvd.
DETAILS: Art Scarbrough, a member of the foundation and the Herb Society of America Baton Rouge Unit, will focus on native plants and pollinators and ways to create sustainable ecosystems in your backyard. The program also will include a walk in the herb garden behind the library.