Growing Herbs for Thanksgiving
Every year at Thanksgiving time, many people scramble to try and find fresh herbs to use
for their Thanksgiving recipes. You find them in the store, in those little plastic
clam shells, kind of dry and wilted. The volatile oils have deteriorated, and while they
taste better than the dried version, you are not getting the best flavor. Growing fresh
herbs is so easy, why not do it yourself this year?
I’m going to separate them into growing groups. Certain herbs enjoy like growing
conditions, and you will save time and have more successful plants if you either grow
them in these groups or by themselves. You can plant them together in a large pot,
individually in smaller pots, or prepare a section of your garden for herbs.
Most herbs grow quickly, so if you decide to plant in containers, be sure to give them
plenty of room to spread out. If herbs become pot-bound, you may find that they require
more water. If this happens, you should re-pot them into a larger container.
Low Water sun Loving Herbs:
Chives, Marjoram, Oregano, sage and Thyme prefer well draining soil and will do well with less water and more sunshine.
If you have a sunny window in your home, you can grow them indoors.
Chives prefer to be grown by themselves and will spread into a lager clump each year.
Marjoram and Oregano are close members of the same family. If you plant them together,
you may notice that the flavor will become more similar in both due to cross-pollination.
You probably want to avoid this. They are also both vigorous spreaders, so give them
plenty of room.
Marjoram grows exceptionally well with most other plants, helping to
improve growth and flavor.
Rosemary, both upright and trailing, grows extremely well in the Tucson area. It is great
in pots and also makes an attractive landscape plant. Once established, it requires very
little water or attention.
Rosemary and Sage make good companions if planted together.
Sage comes in many different varieties. Garden Sage (Salvia officinalis) has the strongest
flavor, traditionally associated with Thanksgiving recipes. The difference in flavor is
fairly negligible between the other varieties (Purple, Golden, etc.), so you may choose to
plant them for color or growth habit as well as cooking.
Thyme grows well with any of the other sun-lovers. It has a tendency to spread, so again,
you need to give it lots of room. There are several varieties good for cooking, Common
Thyme (Thymus vulgaris) being the traditional cooking thyme. Lemon thyme is also
wonderful for cooking, with a strong lemon scent and mild flavor.
Moisture Loving Semi-shade Herbs:
Basil, Cilantro/Coriander, Dill, Mint and Parsley are all moisture lovers.
They want at least 6 hours of sunshine daily, but may need protection from afternoon sun in the
summer and fall.
Basil and Dill need protection from winter cold, anything below 40 degrees is a killer
cold. Grow these two in pots that can be moved indoors when the cold comes. A nice
sunny window will help them grow big and bountiful.
Cilantro loves the outdoors, as long as the temperature remains cool. When the weather
heats up, Cilantro wants to bolt! Bolting means the plant tries to send up a flower stalk
and make seed. In the case of Cilantro, this is not necessarily a bad thing, as the seeds are
Coriander! You really get your money’s worth out of this helpful plant. You can also
save the seeds for next season’s planting.
Mint loves water. If you plant it outside near a hose bib, under a dripping swamp cooler,
or anywhere else moisture collects, mint will not only thrive, but it might just take over!
If you want to keep mint under control, plant it in a pot. Mint is another plant that comes
in many varieties from one large family, so be careful of the cross-pollination and
mixture of flavors and plant them in separate pots. Chocolate-Spear Mint might sound
good in theory, but in practice, it’s not really that tasty. Some interesting mints to try are
Apple Mint, Orange Mint, Chocolate Mint or Pineapple Mint if you are looking for
something new. You can also stick with the classics: Peppermint, Spearmint, Mint Julep
or Mojito Mint.
Now that you know what to plant get growing!
Herbs like plenty of food, so give them a balanced (all-purpose) organic fertilizer regularly.
If you are growing in the ground, this means every 6 weeks or so spring through fall. If you are
growing in pots, then the amount of water you are using means the nutrients get flushed
out more rapidly, so you’ll want to fertilize every four weeks or so.
Removing flowers from your herbs as they form helps keep them full and strong. If you
allow them to go to flower and then to seed, most herbs think they’ve done their job and
get straggly and/or die.