Can I tell you a secret? My garden the last two years has been terrible (I should be nicer to myself and call it sub-ideal). I will blame it on being a new mom, and the remodel of our home. In all honesty, it is neglect and focusing on other things. I will also admit that I am not a master gardener. There are many people out there who know a lot more than I do. However, I’ve had some experience (and major failures) that have taught me a bit.
My saving grace in the past few years has been that I planted some perennial herbs in previous years that survived my lack of attention and continued to make me look good despite my lack of effort. If you’re a person who doesn’t want to be in the soil every day or you just want a lot of bang for the time you put in, may I suggest these favorite herbs of mine.
Sage aka Salvia is a beautiful herb that grows in spite of neglect. Above you can see just the picked leaves from my Sage plant, but it also send up flowers and looks beautiful. You can cook with it, make smudge sticks (a future post), or just enjoy its fragrance and appearance. Note: Mine has grown big and wide in the past few years. You can trim it back, but if you want to have a larger plant in future years, leave it room to grow.
Rosemary smells great and has a lot of culinary uses. A little water the first year, and you have a plant that is very low maintenance. Did you know that Rosemary is often associated with remembrance of loved ones as well as weddings? Brides used to wear a wreath of Rosemary, and couples would plant Rosemary during their wedding. If the plant grew, it was a sign that the union would be happy. (Lucky for them, it’s hard to kill as I’ve mentioned). Here’s a beautiful idea for incorporating it into a wedding from Ruffled.
This is the large Lavender plant I have near my driveway. It makes me happy every time I see it. The first year you plant Lavender, you need to water it a bit to get it established. After that, it’s pretty drought tolerant. The plant above survives on our NW rain only. (Obviously in other areas, you may need to water occasionally).
Downside? As you can see, it attracts bees, and I’m terrified of bees. I’m not saying I don’t like them. Long live the bees! I’m just phobic of them and have been my entire life. If you are allergic or have the same fear, don’t plant in a place where you walk frequently. I pick off what I want to use early in the morning or in the evening when the bees are taking a rest. I wish I was the one enjoying all that lavender honey.
Drying lavender is easy, and once your plant is big enough, you will have plenty of lavender to make gifts (even for yourself). While the other two plants I’ve mentioned are a bit more optional on pruning (good idea but will still work out if you don’t), you do need to prune lavender in the spring. This will ensure you get a nice healthy plant with plenty of lavender to enjoy and harvest later. Don’t let the idea of pruning stop you from planting it. That small amount of work is worth the payout from the plant.
So, those are three of my faves. I would say that most herbs will help you out and have your back. Oregano and Thyme are two other examples. I also like to plant Italian Parsley and Basil each year because I use them all summer, but they need love. (I plant them as annuals. I’ve heard people say they bring them indoors, but this has never been very successful for me. We don’t get a lot of sunlight here in the winter at our windowsills). Basil is a plant you need to prune in order to keep it growing. Pull off the leaves, and don’t let it flower (pick off the tops of any flowers you see.) In my opinion, the most high maintenance of the common herbs is Cilantro which always likes to bolt (go to seed) pretty quickly for me. (Anyone have a secret to avoid this and get a fuller plant?) One other note is that Mint will grow very well for you, too well. Make sure you always plant it in a pot on its own. Otherwise, it will spread everywhere in your container and flower bed.
It will save you some frustration if you plant herbs close to the kitchen either in a bed or in pots. You don’t want to trek out to the garden when you realize you forgot the Parsley (especially if you need to trek out with your wee one). I really like this idea from The Vintage Wren for creating an herb garden near your doorstep.
I’d love to hear what other plants (not necessarily herbs) you’ve found that have become your low maintenance faves. I’ll share some other edibles that I’ve found to be easy going in a later post.