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Easy gardening with herbs

By Chris Stadther

COVID-19 restrictions have encouraged many people to turn to gardening as an outdoor activity that keeps them close to home. Growing herbs in the ground or in a container is a great way to garden outdoors and bring the fruits of your labor indoors when the weather turns cold. They can add color and flavor to our foods and delightful fragrances to our homes.

Most herbs are easy to grow and they do well growing in pots. They enjoy full sun, at least 6 hours per day, but when it gets really hot, they enjoy a little shade protection. A good quality potting mix and a container with drainage holes is necessary to prevent overwatering and root rot. Many herbs are drought-tolerant once established. Moisture is needed to maintain active growth but allow the soil to dry out somewhat before watering again. Do not overcrowd the herbs. Good air circulation is necessary to avoid any disease or pest problems. Prune or harvest herbs regularly to promote vigorous growth and keep the plant well-shaped. Use the cuttings to dry or freeze for later use.

When deciding which herbs to grow, start with ones that you may use the most in your home.  For example, if you like herbal teas, chamomile and a variety of mints can be grown.  Choose basil, oregano, and rosemary for Italian cooking. Herb plants are readily available at the local nurseries and home centers to help you get started. Seeds can also be purchased, but it takes a little patience to get them started, especially if you are new to gardening.

Bring the herb plants indoors before the first frost.  Check them for any pests and remove them with a strong stream of water or insecticidal soap. Place them near a window where they receive bright light. Reduce watering them while indoors.

Herbs are plants that can give you year-round enjoyment both outdoors and indoors. For more information go to: https://content.ces.ncsu.edu/how-to-create-a-container-garden-for-edibles-in-the-north-carolina-piedmont and https://dare.ces.ncsu.edu/dare-county-horticulture-information/

Chris Stadther is a Master GardenerSM Volunteer for Dare County. For gardening questions contact Dare NC Cooperative Extension at 252-473-4290 or email greenlineobx@gmail.com.

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