Just like other types of plants, herbs may be annual, perennial, or biennial. Because there are so many different types of herbs, if you are interested in a specific herb, you should do your research to understand its nature and its growing requirements This article will get you started in understanding, in general, the different types of herb plants and what they are used for.
Annual herbs, such as basil, cilantro, and summer savory will not survive a frost. They are planted from seed, or from purchased starter plants every year. Biennial herbs such as parsley, angelica or caraway will form leaves in their first growing season and flowers and seeds in the second season, then die. Perennials like sage, thyme and winter savory will easily survive colder temperatures and will return year after year. Many perennials grow quite large, so you will need only one or two in your garden.
When growing annuals or biennials from seed, sow the seeds in late spring in flats, or for some herbs, directly into the garden. Prepare the soil first by working it to a fine texture and moistening it. Plant the seeds in rows, and cover the seeds with a thin layer of soil, or as the seed package directs. Fine seeds can be planted in a mixture of sand, allowing them to spread more evenly. Keep the soil moist during germination.
Herbs are categorized by how they are used. Culinary herbs are probably the most useful and the ones most commonly found in herb gardens. Chives, thyme, basil, oregano, sage, savory, rosemary and marjoram are culinary herbs that are used in small quantities to add flavor to different types of food. Parsley is an extremely popular herb that is used mostly as a garnish. The uses of culinary herbs in cooking is almost unlimited.
Aromatic herbs are grown for their attractive smelling flowers or foliage. Oils from aromatic herbs like lavender, mint, and rosemary can be used to make different types of perfumes and toilet waters. Sprigs of aromatic herbs such as lavender can also be used to scent linens or clothing. They can also be dried and made into potpourri which will enable them to be able to retain their aroma for a long period of time. Lavender and lemon verbena are great herbs to use for potpourri.
Some herbs are also used for medicinal purposes. For centuries herbs have been used in folk medicine, and thought to have the ability to cure certain ailments. Present medical knowledge recognizes that some herbs are beneficial while others are overrated. If you plan to grow herbs for medicinal purposes, you should study as a herbalist. Some herbs are harmless but others can be dangerous if consumed.
Some herbs are also grown just because they are beautiful. Ornamental herbs often have brightly colored flowers and foliage. Valerian is grown for its crimson blossoms and borage and chicory sport gorgeous blue flowers. One of the most familiar ornamental herbs is lavender, with its spikes of purple flowers. Another familiar ornamental herb is thyme – it has many varieties which have varied foliage, and others which become a blanket of groundcover, often covered with tiny spikes of purple flowers.
Many herbs will fit into multiple categories, as they have multiple uses. For example, mint may be used for cooking, tea, and pest control. Whatever the reason you have for growing herbs, by understanding how herb garden plants are used, you are able to pick the herbs that will be most useful to you.