by Karl Edmunds
In the world of gardening, there are seniors still managing an active garden plot and growing a table full of fresh vegetables for personal use and sharing. Others who lack space have moved to container gardens to stay engaged.
Whatever approach you take to your garden, more and more seniors are cultivating various types of herbs along side of their traditional vegetables. Herbs bring new flavors to food and bring some very valuable health properties. But they are also fascinating topics of conversation with friends and family.
For example the Greeks and Romans used to crown their leaders and heroes with dill and laurel and dill was used to purify the air in their large meeting halls. During the middle ages in France, new babies were rubbed with Artemisia juices to protect them from colds while the Greeks used sweet Marjoram as a tonic or parsley to cure stomach problems.
One of the most common herbs is Chives. It grows wild in many places and has been an economic contributor in Asia and some Mediterranean countries. And on our own soil, early Dutch pioneers planted chives in the meadows for their cattle hoping for chive flavored milk.
Just so we are on the same page, an herb is defined as a seed plant that does not produce a woody stem like a tree. But they do grow to develop flowers and seeds. In their published Handbook on Herbs, The Brooklyn Botanic Garden lists 73 different types of herbs.
If you are just considering adding herbs to your garden, the challenge is deciding which herbs to plant. While herbs can be mixed with traditional vegetables, most suggest separating your herbs for best results. Here are some herbs to consider:
Herbs that are strong – winter savory, rosemary, sage
Herbs used for accent – sweet basil, dill, mint, sweet marjoram, tarragon, thyme
Herbs used for mixing or blending – chives, parsley, summer savory
With success you will likely want to increase the variety of herbs you use. As you make your choices, be aware that herbs can be annuals, perennials or biennials. For example, annuals that bloom just one season and die could be anise, basil, coriander, or dill. Herbs that will live 2 seasons are caraway and parsley and those that bloom every season once planted could be chives, fennel, marjoram, tarragon or thyme.
Small sections such as 12- by 18-inch plots within your traditional garden area can be an adequate allocation to begin. Try to separate your annual and perennial plants and keep a diagram so you won’t forget where and what you planted. Also, some use colorful herbs such as parsley and purple basil as border plants for a decorative look.
A critical success factor with herbs is drainage. In super wet soil with poor drainage, your chances of success are slim to none for any herb you choose. Most herb growers don’t advocate the high use of fertilizers with most herbs. You do not want lots of foliage with little flavor which is the result of too much fertilizer.
Herbs can be a fun and new dimension to your garden and bring new flavors and aromas to your home. Make room in your current garden to try some herbs or start with a small container on your deck.
For more than 20 years, Karl Edmunds has been a noted author within the business and management consulting arena. As a senior, he now engages his curiosity and observations about life to write about key issues of importance to the growing community of seniors (Boomers), and the value of living life to the fullest every day.