Herb Gardening in Florida

Article By: Matthew Lenhardt
Citrus County Horticulture Extension Agent
February 24, 2010

Considering growing your own herbs this spring? Well, it is easier than you might have thought possible.

Herb gardens are a popular and fun way to enhance a landscape and provide fresh tasting herbs for decoration or enhancing the taste of many of the foods we eat. Herbs can be planted in a variety of ways. Some herbs can be planted directly in the ground as a specimen or accent to an existing landscape arrangement. Some herbs can be grown inside but may require special care. Although for convenience and to help avoid nematodes and other problems, many herbs can be grown in containers or hanging plants that may be used for adorning walkways, patios, or balconies.

Cultural care is similar to vegetables. Most herbs require plenty of sunlight and should be planted or positioned in areas that will allow for this. Proper soil bed preparation, fertilizer, and watering techniques are very important for healthy plants.

Harvesting herbs at the right time and curing them correctly will allow the flavor of their leaves, seeds, or fruits to last longer. Depending on the variety, many herbs leaves can be used fresh during the growing season. When planning to use herbs at a later time, they should be harvested when the plant begins to flower. To retain their green color, basil, tarragon, lemon balm, and the mints which are tender-leaf herbs and have high moisture contents, need to be dried quickly and away from light. Molding is possible if they are dried to slowly. Other varieties such as sage, rosemary, and thyme, which are not as succulent, can be dried less rapidly and are not as affected by sunlight.

The best thing about herbs is their flavor and the creativity you can have when cooking. So, have a little fun this summer and see how successful you can be with your own herb garden.

As part of Springs Awareness Week, I will be offering a course called "Fertilizer Basics" at the Citrus County Extension office in Lecanto on March 16, 2010, at 10:00 a.m. Topics will include appropriate fertilizing techniques and how over fertilizing impacts our water. The course will also include a general overview of water quality in Citrus County springs by hydrologist Dave Dewitt of the Southwest Florida Water Management District. There is no charge for the course and seating is limited. Anyone interested is asked to please register in advance by calling the Citrus County Extension office at (352) 527-5700. We are located in the Citrus County government complex at 3650 W. Sovereign Path, Ste.1, Lecanto, FL, 34461. As a part of the University of Florida we are a research information based program available to all.