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Q. My wife and I have begun gardening together and, because we both love to cook, we want to establish a herb garden with chives, parsley, basil, rosemary, sage and thyme. Will these do well in a bed together?
A. Not all the herbs on your list will do well in the same conditions.
Parsley and chives are among the herbs that thrive in a moist, humus-rich soil that will nurture an abundance of fresh foliage. Others in this group are cilantro, dill, and sorrel. They are all ideally suited for incorporating into the vegetable garden where they will be regularly watered.
Chives and sorrel are perennial plants, easily located at vegetable plot corners or with other perennial food plants like rhubarb or asparagus.
At the other end of the “needs” spectrum are the strongly aromatic Mediterranean herbs that are fine in dryish, lean soils. Only in sun, warmth, and dryish conditions are these plants able to create the desired concentration of aromatic oils in their foliage.
Three of the herbs you want — rosemary, sage, and thyme — belong to this group, along with oregano and lavender.
For these Mediterranean plants, select a fully sunny site that is not watered frequently and where the soil drains speedily of excess moisture. Prepare the site in modest fashion, without an overload of compost. Often, perfect locations for these herbs are found along dryish edges of garden plots.
Basil thrives in warmth and sun, like the Mediterranean herbs, but it needs a more fertile, humus-rich soil.
Many gardeners find basil, an essential tomato herb, difficult to grow. Using transplants, purchased or homegrown, is helpful, along with waiting until the air and soil temperatures have warmed in the spring. Around tomato transplanting time is about right — when overnight temperatures no longer dip below 10 C.
Personally, over the years I’ve found basil easiest to grow, problem-free, in containers on my patio, where it is also conveniently close at hand.
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