Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Herb Gardening Tips from Bonnie Dehn

Minnesota's Herb Lady Bonnie Dehn

It took me some time but my herb garden has finally been planted. I had been hesitant to get it started this spring simply due to our erratic weather and, shamefully, gardening has never been my forte. No, those genes went to my sister. So I needed help. Luckily, Minnesota’s own Herb Lady Bonnie Dehn of Dehn’s Gardens lent her expertise. The following are a few tips offered by Bonnie for a successful garden this season.

First things first.

According to Bonnie, the first thing you need to do is to grow herbs you think you will use. Next, determine a location for your garden. Close proximity to your kitchen is a good idea. If open yard space is not convenient then consider container gardening (which was my approach.) The advantage of growing herbs in containers or pots is that they can be placed anywhere. This is a good thing for herbs that do not require much sun (such as chervil, sweet marjoram, and lemon and lime basil.) Container gardening requires a little more attention than plants grown in conventional garden space, however. For one, all containers should have an unplugged drainage hole at the bottom. Secondly, since plants grown in pots dry out faster than in open soil, watering frequently is is a must.

Easiest to grow.

All herbs may be difficult to some and very easy to others. Start with the herbs you love to cook with. Basil, large leaf parsley, Italian parsley along with rosemary, mint -mint grows everywhere - and chives. This group of herbs are relatively easy to grow; lots of sun, water as needed and be sure to use them.

Some require more attention.

Cilantro, dill and marjoram are more difficult to grow. Dill and cilantro are short term growing herbs - about six weeks for best flavor. As dill and cilantro mature they become more pungent;cilantro especially will take on a strong flavor. Many do not care for this "stronger" flavor and therefore these should be planted every month, in order to keep the consistency of their flavors.

Growing herbs together.

Most herbs can be grown together in one pot. However, combining the herbs does bring in insects on occasion, in particular aphids.

Will bugs bug my garden?

“You better believe it!” says Bonnie. However, some herbs actually repel bothersome insects, even our stubborn Minnesota mosquitos! Try planting something lemon-scented such as lemon thyme, lemon basil or lemon scented geraniums, which are natural bug repellants. Remember that it is good to have some bugs around; lady bugs and praying mantis tend to eat the troublesome ones.

Have fun with your garden this spring. But if you do not have the time for gardening or the desire to get dirt under your nails but still want fresh herbs, stop by the Farmers’ Market on Lyndale Avenue in Minneapolis and pick up one of Dehn's Garden's prepared mixed-herb pots. There is a variety of combinations to chose from. Which ever way you chose to obtain your herbs this season, be sure to enjoy them! Here are some of Bonnie's recipe for inspiration.

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