It's no secret that Portland is a foodie town. With summer right around the corner now is the perfect time to save a trip to the local farmer's market and grow your own fresh herbs. Here are a few tips to help your herb garden flourish in the Pacific Northwest:
- Herbs like well-drained soil. It can be tempting to over water your plants during the dry summer months but as a general rule herbs can tolerate a little dry soil. Some even say that having your plants slightly distressed imparts the herbs with a better flavor. If you're using containers to grow your herbs make sure you use a garden planting soil that is well drained by placing some small rocks over the drain holes. Consider using perlite if not using a planting mix or are worried the soil you have might be too dense.
- Trim your herbs, but don't overdo it. Most herbs won't miss a few leaves when you need them for cooking but there are steps you can take to keep your plants happy and healthy. Take the sprigs or leaves from the top of the plant by gently squeezing the point down the stem where the next set of leaves are growing. Not only will you get to use your herbs for longer but you'll actually encourage bigger, bushier growth from the plant over the course of it's life. Don't go completely overboard though, never remove more than a third of the plant's total size during any one trimming, particularly during the early phases of growth.
- Get them lots and lots of sunlight. Most herbs require at least six hours of direct sunlight every day. You can still grow things in partial or dappled shade but try and place your herb garden in the spot where you get the longest possible amount of direct sunlight. If you're worried about your plants not getting enough sun, consider container growing so that you can move them around as needed. Some people also use mirrors in their garden to redirect sunlight back onto their plants. I'm currently experimenting with this myself so stay tuned if you'd like read updates on how it goes!
- Don't just rip them out when the rain comes back. While delicate herbs like basil and dill die off as soon as the cold weather creeps back, many herbs are perennial and surprisingly rugged. My oregano, chive, and rosemary plants have seemingly come back from the dead over multiple years, have survived freezing rain and even the occasional Portland snowstorm. Yet another advantage from using containers is that you can bring your plants inside during the winter to help them thrive all year long, just be sure they still have lots of natural light.
These are just a few tips on how to make your own Oregon herb garden truly shine. Check back for more helpful hints, news, and all things Portland!