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The herb garden.

Houses of all Sorts

A wide variety of houses has been featured in Natural Life over the years: urban and rural, expensive and affordable, strawbale, solar-powered, wind-powered, domes, teepees and stackwall.

Our friend Rachel McLeod wrote Natural Life's longest-lived and most popular column--beginning almost at our beginning and ending in the late-90s. Many of her columns are archived at Here is an excerpt from one published in 1992.

One day some years ago two members of the Ministry of Agriculture visited my herb garden. They were looking for information on herbs as a viable alternative crop for tobacco growers. We toured the garden, talking about the plants as we went. When they took their leave, one said to me, "You talk about the herbs as if they were people." That is so true, and it's one of the joys of growing herbs. They become your friends and, like good friends, they enhance your life by bringing pleasure and creative living to everyday activities.

Spring is almost here, the seed catalogs are tempting us and we should choose the herbs we plan to grow this summer. If you already grow herbs, you may not need to buy many; you may have collected seed, some will self-seed and, of course, the perennials will appear as the weather warms and can be propagated by cuttings or division. But if you are growing herbs for the first time you will want to choose seed.

Start with annuals and biennials (they will be so marked in the catalog) plants like chervil, summer savory, parsley, basil and dill. These will grow quickly in summer and should be harvested before they flower. Perennials such as sage, thyme and lavender take longer to become established and you may prefer to buy young plants in May.

Before you finally make your choices, give thought to where the plants will grow in your garden. For many years I have been advising beginning herb gardeners not to wait until they can make a special herb garden but to pop the herbs in between existing plantings, in the flower border, among shrubs or in the rockery. Now I am taking my own advice.

The original plan was for a low maintenance garden that we could enjoy without too much work. However, soon I was cooking in my new kitchen and quickly realized that I needed my "friends". I simply couldn't manage without having fresh herbs straight from the garden for our meals. I needed everyday home remedies (like chickweed to draw out a difficult splinter) and dried herbs for gifts. So a lavender border was begun. And now the parsley, sage and French tarragon share space near the patio door with a tree peony and garlic chives.

The only important things to remember when planting herbs are that they need good drainage and, that for you to use and enjoy them, they should be well labeled and placed where they are easily accessible from the house. Some like full sun, others will take sun or part shade, some do not mind dry soil, others need a damp soil. Some will be too friendly and will have to be controlled before they become invasive. In the following months I will write about individual members of my herb friends and describe their likes and dislikes and their great qualities in enhancing our lives.

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Author:McLeod, Rachel
Publication:Natural Life
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Mar 1, 2006
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