No one has ever accused me of having a green thumb. Yet I’ve enjoyed herb gardening ever since the day, years ago, that I read an article claiming that most herbs thrive on neglect. The more you ignore them, the better they grow.
I try not to neglect them, but knowing they’re very forgiving – and that most of them aren’t finicky about growing conditions or treatment – gave me the confidence to try growing them. I’ve had an herb garden ever since. They’re pretty, they’re easy to grow, and you can eat them. What’s not to love?
I especially enjoy making spaghetti for dinner, and going out to the garden to gather basil, oregano, and thyme to add to the sauce simmering on the stove. I feel like such an Earth Mother that I sometimes get an urge to put on a long skirt and apron, and start churning butter to spread on freshly baked bread. Sadly, I own neither a butter churn nor a long skirt and apron.
When we lived in Minnesota, chives were my harbinger of spring. There would always come a day in early March when I would go outside, brush the snow and dead leaves from the garden, and see tiny shoots starting to poke through the ground. At the other end of the calendar, November would find me out gathering sage to snip into stuffing for the Thanksgiving turkey.
When we moved to Georgia, I was delighted to find that the previous owners of our home had a small herb garden in the back yard. That wasn’t the reason we bought the house, but it was a nice plus, although it came with a few surprises. One was that rosemary, which was a fragile, one-season plant everywhere else we’ve lived, was like a small tree here. Tarragon, on the other hand, which was like a jungle plant in my Minnesota garden, doesn’t grow here at all. Because of the humidity, I was told, which means it was one of the few herbs that are picky about conditions.
I totally neglected the herb garden last summer. In hindsight, I’m not sure why, since the stay-at-home orders necessitated by the pandemic gave me more time that I could have devoted to it.
This year, we decided to dig up the herb garden and start over. Many of the herbs were old, tired, and overgrown, and as the world started opening up again after COVID lockdowns and restrictions, it seemed like a good time for a fresh start in the garden, too. I harvested batches of most of the herbs, then my husband dug everything up, including the rosemary tree.
After several trips to garden centers to purchase seeds and baby plants, and a few mornings of planting, I’m now enjoying a beautiful new herb garden. Some of the dozen or so plants I have are old favorites, like basil and cilantro, and some are new ones, like purple sage for its pretty color, and lemongrass, which is supposed to repel deer and other critters. Unfortunately, it hasn’t scared off whatever’s chewing on my parsley, but everything else is still intact.
I’m looking forward to watching my garden grow, and to cooking and baking with fresh, new herbs, as soon as they get a little bigger and stronger. And who knows? Now that it’s okay for us to be out and about again, more or less, I might go out and buy myself a long skirt and apron. Right after I start searching for a butter churn.
June 6, 2021
©Betty Liedtke, 2021
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