Growing culinary herbs in Huerfano County
by Carol Dunn
HUERFANO- Herbs are great companion plants for your garden. Check out the following web site for a list of plant species that benefit from growing side by side and also plant associations to avoid: http://www.attra.org/attra-pub/PDF/complant.pdf. For instance, when interplanted with tomatoes, basil repels tomato insect pests.
Culinary herbs are a little more independent than some garden plants, but they will still need to be watered occasionally after they are established. If the soil does not get dampened enough by monsoonal rains, then you will need to supplement the water. Water is especially important in the first two weeks after you plant your herbs into the garden. Even herbs that are “tolerant of full sun” can suffer from our high altitude solar and our drying winds.
When shopping for herbs, choose those that will perform well in our climate once established: thyme, sage, chives, dill, parsley, rosemary, basil, licorice mint, French tarragon, lovage, oregano, cumin and savory. There are others, and you can research them by looking through dryland or xeriscape gardening guides. Many herbs will be average performers in dry soil and super specimens with much more water. Some will adapt so well that they will reseed themselves year after year.
Culinary herbs are ideal for growing in pots, as long as they are watered regularly. If potted, they should have some shade each day. To transplant herb plants into your garden, dig a hole, fill it with water, place the plant into the hole, allow the water to perk into the ground, refill the hole with water, then fill the hole with soil. Press the soil firmly around the plant’s roots to eliminate air pockets, then water again. Mulch around the plant to retain moisture. You will need to water your herbs every day for two weeks after transplanting, so the roots can spread and get established. Most herbs prefer soil on the drier side, but not to the point of wilting. On the other hand, they will rot if kept in soggy ground.
Some herbs are frost hardy to a point. Some are perennials and will sprout in the spring from last year’s roots.
The flavor of most herbs is best if the leaves are harvested when they are new and supple, and definitely before the plants flower.
If you want to dry your herbs, gather a bunch of stems together at the base with a string and hang the bunch upside down for about ten days. Store in an airtight container, like a Ziploc bag, to retain flavor.