Your Opinion - What Herbs / Spices Can't You Do Without?

Hillsborough, NC(Zone 7b)

Hello All
I've a small (est. 6 feet x 4 feet) sunny space located literally a step from my kitchen's back door.

I use this small area to grow herbs for flavoring my recipes. I'd like to grow everything and anything and in large numbers but space doesn't permit. What are your favorite and most versatile herb choices to spice up you dishes? If you could pick just a few to grow...what couldn't you do without and why? I am interested in herbs that will do well in the southeast keeping in mind the very small planting area. Thanks ahead of time for your input.

Phoenix, AZ(Zone 9b)

garlic chives, upright rosemary (in a pot), basil (all kinds), lemon balm (so good steeped in iced tea, in a pot), thyme (Enlish, in a pot), some mint (in a there a pattern here? So of these can be really invasive), clumping oinions (in that pot again), and a good hot pepper of some kind. Your garden is just about the size of one I have off the laundry room, which is off the kitchen. Not fully developed yet, I'll add some things next spring.

Good idea for a thread!

Hillsborough, NC(Zone 7b)

So Mary you are growing in pots sunk into the earth...or on top? I grew lemon balm last year and it came back this year - I planted it for the fragrance in chicken stuffing and chopped small added to coconut shrimp but it took up lots of space and I found I did not use as much as I thought. Clumping onions..what are they? Miniatures? Strong or mild? Is that another name for shallots? Love shallots.

Phoenix, AZ(Zone 9b)

Some in-ground, some above, just for artistic value. I saw a picture of upright rosemary growing out of one of those containers that sit kind of sideways and it looked really pretty, so I have that idea for the rosemary. Most of my garden is far from my kitchen and I want to correct that. The area I mentioned above is small and very sunny. The garlic chives and some basil are already there, the other plants are only in my head for right now.....oh! dill and cilantro too in cool months. I plan to work that garden after the summer heat passes and I'll need to shade it next summer.

The onions: my little local group of gardeners call them 'walking onions' because they 'travel' all over your garden. It's probably more accurate to say they are scallions. When I pull some for the table, I immediately put one back in new place in the container (which is sunken) and it then makes more onion sets. Not too much is happening with them right now, these do not seem to like the heat.

I wish I had planted the lemon balm and thyme in sunken containers but alas, I didn't know how they could take over the garden and you are right, I only use a little - in comparison to the 'shrubs' they have become.

Someone on a recipe thread was talking about candy onions so I looked them up, my hubby really likes sweet onions so I got some seeds. Trying to figure out sowing times, I think early spring.

Clay Center, KS(Zone 5b)

Our herb collection is mostly in pots to put them in the garage in the winter, but rosemary, chives, parsley, several basils, shallots, sage, cilantro, all occupy the walk way between the garage and the house where they can be easily harvested. Our small vegetable garden is all raised beds a little further from the house. The walking onions sound interesting. Our extreme heat this year has raised havoc with anything that "flowers" but the herbs are in partial shade, so they have survived.

Southern NJ, United States(Zone 7a)

Our herbs are in partial shade, too, and I think that helps a lot!

Hillsborough, NC(Zone 7b)

Shoot! The back deck is even closer to the kitchen and on same level. It is partially sunny and things don't dry out much even in pots. I didn't put herbs there because I thought they needed hot/solid sun and like to dry out between waterings. But if I can use the deck...I will have more space and better access. Then the sunny spot will house a tomato or pepper or both! (if I can keep the critters away. )

Shawnee Mission, KS(Zone 6a)

I had lemon balm and had to tear it out as it was seeding all over the yard. The thyme hasn't been a problem here. We have more moisture and so it has the tendency to die out. I also have it along a south facing wall of the house between the patio concrete and house. It;s also under the house overhang. It's a hot and dry area. Gets sun most of the day.

Depending on the amount of sun you get the deck might work. Some of the herbs like mint and parsley like moist soil so check on the water requirments.

Fencing (either metal or liquid) around the tomatoes and peppers will help keep the critters away.

Cleveland,GA/Atlanta, GA(Zone 7b)

If we are talking about an herb garden, I can't do without arugula. I can make a salad using just arugula as a green or put a few chopped leaves in a dish, raw or cooked, and you'll know it's there. I would only plant mints in pots adjacent to your in ground spot. It's too invasive for a small space. Sweet basil (Italian) and Thai basil are musts because I cook both Italian and Asian food. If grown and harvested properly you should have plenty for fresh foods in season as well as to use dried throughout Winter. A variety of small tomatoes are a must for a kitchen garden. They can go in ground or in a large pot adjacent to your space. It's great to step out the door and pluck cherry, grape or pear tomatoes for appetizers, salads or a sandwich. I love to grab a few black cherries for my morning bagel and cream cheese. I grow parsley and cilantro too but parsley tends to get tough in late season and cilantro is good for spring to early summer and then not again until fall in our zone. If you like spicy food I'd plant one favorite hot pepper. They are not only pretty plants but they don't mind being crowded. You can always grab a jalapeno for you salsa or a Cubanelle for chili.

Hillsborough, NC(Zone 7b)

Arugula...I hadn't considered it. Will you expand? Need lot of space? Can you cut from it and it keeps giving -- or will I need multiples?

So far will plan dill, tarragon, few basil types, parsley, will add a hot pepper, would love a fennel or two..chives, shallots, scallions,.and cilantro. Do you think I will have room for all in that small sunny space? ( pots can go on deck along with herbs that can take part sun and need to stay a little moist) And I will have a few tomato as I do now in pots..and a mint or two in pots. Also baby bell in a big pot.

I must have crazy taste ..can't abide rosemary, sage, thyme or clove.

Houston, TX(Zone 9a)

Arugula is a green, you can pick leaves from the outside and it'll keep on growing. It has a definite "taste" so you might want to buy some first at the store if they carry it. We love it! Mine doesn't get too big. I'm growing it in a pot right now under the eave behind the garage (not direct sun).
What I love to grow and what I CAN grow are two different things here in Houston. Cilantro bolts very easily--must wait for cool weather. Ditto for parsley & dill. I grow Mexican Mint Marigold instead of tarragon, as it won't grow well for me. I grow lemon grass, rosemary, oregano, 2 basils, 2 thymes, 5 mints, chives, green onions (just planted those for the first time this year), stevia, curry plant. My lemon balm & tricolor sage died :( I actually don't use all these herbs but they make a nice garden :) Good luck with yours! Janet
This picture is from early Spring this year.

Thumbnail by bariolio
Hillsborough, NC(Zone 7b)

Well, no wonder it is all so healthy and lush looking --- you have those angels working for you!

Oh, I know what arugula is -- I just never thought to grow it!
This fall I am going to bite the bullet and put up some cedar fence posts with some wire fencing....dig a trench and put the wire in that too and the up out of the ground for the upright part of the fence .....eliminate deer, rebbits and voles all in one fell swoop. The gate area only weak spot. Squirrels and birds would need a lid -- so no going that far. That is where the veggies, fruit and some salad greens will go. But this little herb harden with one or two arugula will stay ouside the kitchen door and that is why i was wondering what the favorites were for those that were interested in and enjoyed cooking. It is just a small space.

Davenport, IA(Zone 5a)

What a magical herb garden, just lovely!

Shawnee Mission, KS(Zone 6a)

You can put a threshold below the gate and also put fencing on gate. I was at someone's house last summer and they had what looked like a garden straight out of Petter Rabbit: Spit rail fence with rabbit fencing on the inside, pickett gate, wreath on the gate, and perinnials around the outside.

We put some of our herbs in square planters that have legs and casters. Easier to garden in and keeps the garden items out of woodchuck eating range. I've also been looking at vertical gardening to see if we could incorporate some of those concepts at our house.

Bariolio - very nice garden space.

Hillsborough, NC(Zone 7b)

I have seen those wool pockets - really expensive, but allow gardening to cover entire vertical surface and things stay well watered.

I did not tink of that - could put a regular metal threshold right up to gate bottom or even use a flagstone. Can first trench and fill with wire and the put the stone over that.

Got to put up the gardening shed first and that will provide one side of the enclosed area. This one will be in a sunny spot....other shed is in the woods and way to hard to clear to plant. Mature trees. I've seen a few copperheads there too living under the ramp built to allow access for the mower up into the shed.

Shawnee Mission, KS(Zone 6a)

Put something down that you think you will see and not trip over.

There are a number of ways to do vertical gardening. One of them is the wooly pockets.

Here are some sites that I posted on a vertical garden thread that I thought had some interesting ideas or products. Some of them use the wooly pockets and other use boxes or even gutters. I've seen several versions of the gutters as gardens on-line including one where the gutters are hung in rows within an overall metal frame. Kind of like a metal fence where the verticals are gutters.

This message was edited Aug 1, 2011 11:18 AM

Hillsborough, NC(Zone 7b)

Thank you for the links.
The gutters sound interesting... i can get from habitat for humanity... One side of the fence could be constructed from the gutters with the metal fencing wire behind. Definitely would be a deer barrier if high enough. The metal dog/rabbit wire stapled behind could prevent the rest. Sure would be easier on my back for all annual plantings if up higher in the gutters. Thanks again.

Cleveland,GA/Atlanta, GA(Zone 7b)

Regarding the arugula, you will need more than a couple of plants. They are only about twelve inches when full grown. You harvest by "hair cutting" like other greens. Just make sure not to cut the heart. In a bout a week to ten days, which is how long it will last in a damp paper towel in the fridge, the plants will be ready to cut again. I'd suggest at least a square foot of your twenty four. Beets are good too because you can eat the baby greens, then baby beets and then big mama beets. Ditto turnips. I plant chard and kale spring and fall. They're especially good in winter soups or cooked with beans. They are also attractive when well tended throughout winter.

Hillsborough, NC(Zone 7b)

My dad made a kale and sparerib soup. I grew up thinking kale was italian food!

Three plants in 1 square foot...and that is not a crowd correct? I was just outside looking at the space and trying to figure if I could get a gutter nailed in there across the house ( which is the back 'wall' ) looks similiar to bariolio's photo. I would have to drill it into the Hardiplank siding to fasten. Drill.....divorcre....drill....divorce..........hmmm. Maybe this will get that shed built faster. We have so many projects but we have been knocking them out pretty good.

Hillsborough, NC(Zone 7b)

My bro just telephoned while typing this and he said NOT kale..'scarole! (escarole). He loves it when I make a mistake.

Cleveland,GA/Atlanta, GA(Zone 7b)

I grew up eating kale and short rib stew and kale and white beans. I love escarole too. You can sprinkle a whole bunch of seed in that one square foot, thin and eat the youngin's and then leave about three or four inches of space between plants. They don't mind being crowded at all. Direct seed and they will sprout when the weather is right. They are fool proof and the seed is very easy to save. I find it popping up between stones, board, etc. It's the perfect weed. :>)

Shawnee Mission, KS(Zone 6a)

I guess I should have checked the web address. I posted them not that long ago and it looks like some of those sites are no longer at the old address. A number of the sites indicate that they put a drip line into the gutter. I would think that you would want to put it in a place that will not shade the rest of the garden. Something to think about.

See the wee wall of plants photo on this site. I think that the vertical spacing between gutters is too close.

Highland People's Food Seedbank gutter project includes growing and watering hints.

This is the DC Row house's new address. This one has fence or deck screen growing boxes.

Martha Stewart gutter garden

Here's is a blog that has a couple of examples of gutter gardens including one with a home made watering system.

Shawnee Mission, KS(Zone 6a)

If you attach it to the house be sure to put a spacer between the house and gutter. It's a moisture issue. IMO I would use it as part of a fence or build a stand before I would attach to the house directly. I also saw a wooden pallet used as a verticle garden. I could see those attached to posts, one or two pallets high. Another way of making a wall.

Hillsborough, NC(Zone 7b)

Yes, I saw that it would not work on the cement siding- there would be a war anyway " what are you doing with THAT HAMMER?"

It would be on the inside of the larger garden I plan along the shed. A gutter row or two. Anything on the outside would be a deer buffet.

Maybe it was kale...and not escarole. My brother isn't always right!

Houston, TX(Zone 9a)

You are too funny, missingrosie! I have 4 brothers, 0 sisters. I know how they are...
I've enjoyed seeing all the varieties of vertical gardening. Maybe one day, we'll try something. You'll have to post pictures are your project unfolds.

Hillsborough, NC(Zone 7b)

I will.

I have 7 brothers
and 6 sisters

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