By Pam Brown, Urban Horticulture Extension Agent, Pinellas County Extension
There are many different herbs that can be grown in our gardens. Herbs for cooking come to mind and are probably the most useful to the home gardener.
Most culinary herbs can be grown in Florida. Herbs with gray-green leaves like lavender, wormwood, and lambs ears do best in our cooler months as they tend to get moldy during our humid summer. Rosemary, parsley, dill and chives are very popular and are easy to grow. Rosemary will grow into quite a large bush. Basil is an annual, so to keep a good supply, plant seeds every few weeks to keep vigorous plants all summer and through fall. Parsley and dill will attract swallow-tail butterfly caterpillars, so plant enough to share.
To successfully grow herbs, choose an area with 4 – 6 hours of sun and well-drained soil. Herbs do not like wet feet so in our rainy summers it is a challenge to keep them happy. Adding compost can help with drainage, will add slow release nutrients, and help keep down fungal diseases. Herbs do not like much fertilizer ‑ that is why compost is a good source of nutrients. Too much fertilizer will cause fast growth at the expense of developing the oils that are the source of the flavors or scents. If you plant mint, be aware that it can grow rampantly so you might want to keep it in a pot where no roots can get into the garden soil. It can become very aggressive to the point of crowding out other desirable plants.
Speaking of pots, use pots with good drainage. The soil you use should be loose and well drained. You can make a good mix for container grown herbs by mixing equal parts of potting soil, peat moss, and perlite (or vermiculite). Watering is the most difficult part of container gardening. Plants growing in containers dry out faster than those in the ground, so you will need to check the pots every day when the weather is warm and dry.
For additional information, check out our short video below and for further reading access the UF/IFAS Extension publication Herbs in the Florida Garden at; http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/document_vh020