I have been experimenting with growing my own outdoor herbs this year. I have to say, I could not be happier with the results. I try to seize any opportunity that I can to enhance my own cooking with herbs grown in my small garden. Here in northern Nevada, many herbs can be started by seed. Following are several species that work well in our area and grow fairly quickly, depending on your microclimate.
One of my favorite plants to grow and use is lavender. It is a hardy perennial that is a great plant for northern Nevada. I bet many of you have seen this plant in landscapes and gardens. This herb is very versatile, and many use lavender for medicinal, culinary and cosmetic purposes. If you are anything like me, everything from my dish soap to air freshener has a lavender scent to it. Soil and water demands for lavender are pretty minimal as it thrives in full sun and heat.
Borage is an herb that is typically grown for its leaves and flowers. It has the flavor and scent of cucumber. Borage is a great pollinator plant, as it attracts bees and is a good companion plant for tomatoes, squash and strawberries. Borage grows best in full sun to partial shade. Remember to harvest all the flowers in the fall. Otherwise, if you let this go to go to seed, you may likely find seedlings popping up in your vegetable garden in unwanted places.
Basil is a member of the mint family and a plant we have had great success with at the Washoe County Master Gardener demonstration garden. Many love basil because of the mild pepper flavor and incredible aroma. Here are a few tips to think about when growing this herb. Plant your basil in a sunny area in your garden. It needs 6 to 8 hours of sunlight per day and enjoys well drained soil. Make sure to harvest regularly by cutting off fresh young leaves.
Chives are related to onions, garlic and shallots. This delicious herb is a great garnish to many culinary dishes. It is a great companion plant for growing near carrots. Make sure to plant chives in areas that receive partial to full sun and make sure your soil is well drained. In my home, we have planted chives in a few small pots in our kitchen near a window with full sunlight and outside in our garden. We use it often, and it takes little time to grow back.
Mint is another popular herb to plant. Mint is grown best in a container. If you have planted it in your garden, you may want to relocate it to a container. Mint spreads quickly if left alone for too long. To get rid of unwanted mint plants, you will not only need to pull the plant, but also dig into the soil and remove the entire root system.
Plant an herb garden this year and have an abundance of herbs to enhance your summer meals.
Leilani Konyshev is the Master Gardener Program coordinator for University of Nevada Cooperative Extension in Washoe County. Have questions about your plants? Contact a master gardener at 775-336-0265 or firstname.lastname@example.org. And visit www.growyourownnevada.com.