The New Jersey coast is one of the best places to have an herb garden. The well drained soil, sunshine and breezes all encourage healthy plants.
Rosemary and lavender grow
best at the shore and throughout most of the Delaware Valley, but then so do
many other herbs. A mild but cool winter allows perennial herbs the rest they
need and the long growing season from frost to frost gives them plenty of time
An herb garden can be as small as a barrel or window box, as fancy as a bricked path knot garden, or as casual as some generous rows planted among the tomatoes and beans. There are many such examples in Cape May. Several of the historic places such as the Physick house have herb gardens. Many home owners have herbs in both their flower beds and vegetable gardens and there are pots and window boxes every where with the homeowners favorite basils, parsley, and other culinary herbs.
An herb garden is so essential to a home and family. There is lavender for love and fragrance. Make potpourri with it or tie it into bath bags. There is basil for all the Italian dishes, sage for immortality and Thanksgiving dinner. How about using rosemary for remembrance and for the pork roast for Sunday dinner? Fragrant mint for tea, chives for the baked potato, dill to toss with sour cream on cucumbers and lots and lots of parsley for just about everything you serve. Sweet woodruff can go in the May wine with strawberries, and thyme has many uses too. The list goes on and on and on and on.
Although most culinary herbs do best in sun, there are a few exceptions that can take less than full sun if they get good sun at noon. A lot of this placement is trial and error. Some spreading herbs such as mints, lemon balm, monarda, and even woodruff are all best grown under trees where they become a useful ground cover and smother out weeds. Try mowing mint before a picnic and the whole yard smells nice and is said to be insect-free. This is a good reason to grow mint beneath the picnic table.
To begin your herb garden now or any time this summer choose a sunny spot in which to grow your favorite herbs. Landscape ties (8x8x4) filled with a good, well-drained soil work very well. You can edge this with thymes, parsley, nasturtium and viola.
As you move near the center use the shorter herbs and then plant the tall ones in the center. Try sage, lavender, rosemary, basil, Italian parsley, lovage, chives, tarragon, dill, cilantro, lemon verbena, lemon grass and scented geraniums for a few that will be fun to grow and use. Save the mints, lemon balm, bergamot and oregano for a spot outside the raised bed where they can spread readily. I use many of these under tress as a ground cover that is fragrant and easy to grow to keep weeds away. Try a few herbs now, they will grow on you!
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