What are your favorite scents? Maybe a flowery perfume that your grandmother wore. Or a fragrant soap that a special aunt kept for guests in a powder room. Or the aroma of luscious chocolate chip cookies baking in the oven that brings back memories of happy Saturday afternoons with your family. And perhaps the smell of a mesquite fire takes you back to camping excursions and marshmallow-roasting as a child. I have a very tiny, very old jar of hand cream with the scent of heather. As soon as I open and sniff it, my mind flashes back to my childhood in California. Can’t explain it. Just takes me back.
Fresh rosemary. Who doesn’t like to rub their fingers along a fresh herb such as a sprig of rosemary and smell its fabulous bouquet? Rosemary reminds me of France for some reason. And I like to bake rosemary shortbread around the holidays every year. I’m sure you have a fragrance or two that takes you back to a previous time in your life.
Herbs can not only take you back in time, they can also bring you delightful gardening experiences now. Walk across a bed of creeping thyme and sniff that lovely lemony scent. Snip some lavender and breathe in that glorious aroma. And don’t forget that using fresh herbs in your cooking can enhance your dishes. Fresh herbs have a far better taste than the dried ones, so what’s better than growing your own herbs to spice up your meals?
Basil represents summertime to me — served with red ripe tomatoes, fresh mozzarella balls, and a sprinkling of good olive oil and maybe some syrupy reduced balsamic vinegar. There are many basil varieties including purple ruffles, lime, lemon, cinnamon, Thai, and many others. For some reason, my purple basil isn’t doing as well this year as my giant-leaf Genovese basil.
I grow my herbs in pots for a movable kitchen garden. You can do the same, too, or you can plant yours in a garden bed. Depending on whether you want to watch the herbs grow from seed, or if you’d rather start with more mature plantings, herbs can usually be planted after the last frost in your area. For me, that’s usually in May.
Some of my herbs such as sage, thyme, and rosemary overwinter very well outdoors here in Virginia’s Zone 7. Others such as basil tend to die out after the first frost of Autumn. You can take your tender basil indoors and let it spend the winter on your kitchen windowsill or another sunny area. Every October, just before the first frost, I bring in a beloved rosemary plant to join the basil on the windowsill. Hang your harvested herbs in bunches for a decorative addition to your kitchen.
If you prefer to start your seeds indoors prior to your last frost, you can use a plant light and shelving system to get a jump on the growing season. I really like this system, and there is a smaller one available below if you have less space. Click on the image for more information and to order:
You can also check out some more herb gardening ideas from my Vegetable, Fruit and Herb Gardening page. Herb gardening is one of my favorite forms of gardening due to the wonderful fragrances emitted by just a slight brush against an herb plant.
What are your favorite herbs?