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Make Thyme for Herbs in your Garden

Back in the 60s, Simon & Garfunkel sang about parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme. Today, the list of herbs found in gardens would fill up the whole song. For centuries, herbs have been used for food and medicine. Today they are still used for seasoning food, providing pleasant fragrance, and even adding interest to the garden and beautifying the landscape. Growing herbs – both annuals and perennials – can be simple and rewarding. A wide variety of herbs can grow in our climate and landscapes. University of Georgia horticulturist Bodie Pennisi doesn’t just study herbs in her research garden in Griffin, Ga. She also grows them at home to add flavor to her food. Here are a few of Dr. Pennisi’s favorite herbs and tips for growing them.

• Basil. “You can start from seed or purchase it in plant form,” Pennisi says. Basil can vary from the most common – a wide-leafed variety – to the small-leafed lemon basil and purple opal basil, which has dark maroon-purple leaves. It should be grown in full sun and well-drained soil. As soon as its flower heads appear, these should be pinched back to prevent the plant from going to seed.

• Thyme. There are more than 400 varieties of thyme, with English thyme being the most common. For the South, Pennisi suggests growing lemon thyme, caraway thyme and mother-of-thyme. Thyme varieties that creep make an excellent ground cover.

• Sage. A perennial plant, sage varieties can be used interchangeably in cooking. Once it is established, it usually does well in well-drained soils. One particular variety of sage, known as pineapple sage, can be used to flavor drinks, chicken dishes, cheeses, jams and jellies.

• Rosemary. Rosemary can be enjoyed year-round from the garden, because it too is a perennial plant. The shrubby plant can grow to between 3 and 5 feet tall. It’s drought-resistant after it’s established, but should be planted in full sun. “If you see that the plant is not growing vigorously, it’s a sign that it’s not getting enough sun,” Pennisi said.

• Mint. Mint should always be grown in a pot, she said, because once it’s planted in the ground, it can take over. “The same goes for oregano and marjoram,” she said. “They’re a little too happy to grow.” The invasive mint can tolerate partial shade. Pennisi likes to grow peppermint and spearmint varieties to add to her tea.

• Winter and summer savory. Winter savory has smaller, darker green leaves, a stronger flavor and is a perennial. It grows best from cuttings. Summer savory grows more easily from seed. Both require full sun.

• Chives. Chives are a member of the onion family. “Onion chives are planted each year. The garlic chives have flat leaves, and they’re perennial” says Pennisi. They are easy to grow, but require a balanced fertilizer to grow well. Onion chives have pink flowers, while garlic chives have white flowers.

• Lemon balm. “I like lemon balm for tea,” she said. Lemon balm is a perennial that can spread up to 3 feet. It will grow in partial shade. This is just a small list of herbs that can be grown here. Not all do well directly planted in our soil. Those varieties should be planted in raised beds or containers.  Want more information about growing herbs, contact me at 706-795-2281 or .  Need information how to use these herbs and spices in cooking?  Check out this blog post from our FACS Agent, Brad Averill, https://site.extension.uga.edu/madison/2021/04/cooking-with-herbs-spices-and-seasonings/.