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Growing and Caring For Herbs

May 31, 2023
Written by Aaron

If you have some space in your flower or vegetable garden, growing herbs is definitely worth it! Many are drought tolerant, do well in containers, require very little care, and can provide a bountiful harvest all summer long. 

Buying herbs at the grocery store is often pricey. Growing them at home, using the tips below, helps to ensure a steady supply for a fraction of the price. 

If  you’re not accustomed to adding herbs to meals at home, buying a plant is a great way to experiment and see which ones you like. If you try Cilantro, for example, and don’t like it, place it in a nice pot and take it as a hostess gift the next time someone invites you to a barbeque. Especially if you’re coming over to our house, we love it!

Look for the “Y” - shoots coming from the main stem above mature leaves, and trim the stem just above that point.

Herb Growing Tips

  • Like many other plants, there are perennial and annual herbs (annuals don’t survive an Ontario winter and need to be planted each year). Perennial or annual may determine where you plant your herbs in the garden.
  • Most herbs are drought tolerant and enjoy full sun. The amount of water and sun can vary slightly, so it’s good to note watering and light needs for the herbs you’re growing.
  • The more you trim herbs, or “give them a haircut”, the more your plant will thrive. Start trimming them early - when they’re about 4 inches tall, and do it often! This will make your plants more sturdy and bushy.
  • Regular pruning ensures that your herbs don’t flower! While this is the goal with many other plants, it’s not what you want with herbs. A plant will focus on producing flowers and seeds, and stop producing the leaves that you want to harvest for herbs!

Here’s a list of our favourite herbs to grow in Southern Ontario, and how to care for them.

Basil - Annual

If you’ve planted tomatoes, it just makes sense to add a few basil plants! The tomatoes will love them, and so will you on your toasted tomato sandwiches. Basil loves full sun, and evenly moist soil.

Chives - Perennial

Chives are one herb that you may want to allow to flower. Its blossoms are great for flavouring vinegar, and the plant will still produce mildly onion-flavoured stems. Chives like full sun but will still grow in partial shade, and once established they only need watering during dry spells.

Cilantro - Annual

To some people with a very specific gene Cilantro tastes like soap! For everyone else, it’s one of the most delicious herbs and a taco wouldn’t be the same without it. Cilantro prefers part shade, but will tolerate full sun. It can be allowed to dry out, but it may flower prematurely if it gets too dry.


Dill - Annual

While Dill is considered an annual, many people in Ontario find that if you allow it to eventually go to seed, it will reseed and grow again the following season. No guarantees. But worth a try, right?  Dill plants love full sun, and their roots just slightly moist.

Lemon Balm - Perennial

Fresh leaves can be used to make tea all summer long, or can be dried for winter use. But this versatile herb can be used for many things from pesto to cookies! Grow Lemon Balm in full sun to partial shade, and keep the soil moist for optimal growth.

Lemongrass - Annual

A staple in Thai cooking, Lemongrass is a great addition if you love to cook. Full sun and moist soil will keep this herb happy and producing lots of  lemony stalks. You might want to try bringing it indoors for the winter as well.

Mint - Perennial

This herb comes in so many variations that are just simply delicious - spearmint, peppermint, apple mint, chocolate mint, and more! But this is one plant you’ll want to keep in a pot, well away from garden soil. It’s also one to trim before it sets seeds or you will have a garden that’s full of mint! It can be invasive. It will thrive in full sun but will stand some shade, and it likes moist soil.

Oregano - Perennial

For obvious reasons, (tomato sauce) Oregano is a great addition to the garden. It will spread and reseed throughout the garden if you let it go to seed, but some people like this feature and use it as a groundcover or border for a perennial bed. Oregano likes full sun to partial shade and once it’s established it is very drought tolerant.

Parsley (flat and curly) - Annual 

There was a time when every restaurant meal was adorned with a sprig of Parsley. It’s pretty. But it’s also an underrated culinary herb and can add wonderful flavour to soups and stews as well as other savoury dishes. Keep this plant moist and in full sun to part shade.


Rosemary - Annual

Is anyone else addicted to bread with olive oil, salt and Rosemary? It can’t just be us! This is another garden staple that loves full sun and slightly moist soil. It can also be brought indoors for the winter, but be sure to keep the soil from drying out completely. 

Sage - Perennial                            

Perennial, with a caveat. In Ontario, it’s best to provide some winter protection for this plant if you want it to survive the winter. I’ve had reasonable success with bringing it indoors for the winter, or it can be treated as an annual. Sage likes full sun and moist soil but don’t overwater this one! It does love the heat of summer and will produce a nice big plant once temperatures heat up.

Thyme - Perennial

Thyme is just so good in so many things - vegetables, meats, soups, and of course stuffing! It’s easy to grow if it has well-drained soil and full sun. Once it’s established it is moderately drought tolerant and can be harvested from early Spring until Winter. 

Like all herbs - don’t forget to give it frequent haircuts!

 

At Eising Garden Centre you’ll also find many more herbs to grow and enjoy. Do stop by and give them a try!

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