In the garden
Fall is the time to plant perennials including herbs. Because some favorites like basil and parsley are annuals planted in the spring, it’s easy to forget that many herbs can be planted in the fall and enjoyed until Thanksgiving, or if the weather is mild like last year, all winter long. And herbs can always be planted in pots and brought inside.
“Now is a very good time to get perennial herbs in the ground,” says Nicole Schermerhorn, co-owner of A Thyme to Plant at Lavender Fields Herb Farm. “It’s cool enough that you want to be outside working in your garden, but still warm enough for the herbs.”
“Typically we’re also getting enough rain at this time of the year,” adds Schermerhorn, “and you’re home from vacation now so you can take care of your herbs and begin using them.”
Hardy perennials to plant now include rosemary, sage, thyme, chives, fennel, mints, and parsley. The fennel and the mint will die back over the winter but come back in the spring.
“Planting now allows the herbs to establish roots over the winter,” says Schermerhorn. “They’ll flush out new growth in the spring.”
Herbs can be planted in dedicated herb gardens, mixed with vegetables, or added to flower beds and borders. Their various textures and colors can be very attractive, and many people enjoy putting fragrant herbs along walks or driveways where they can easily be touched to release their scents. Culinary herbs should be planted near your kitchen so that harvesting them is easy and convenient. You’ll use them more often.
In choosing a site, remember that most herbs require full sun, from 4 to 6 hours a day minimum, good drainage, and good air circulation. Good drainage is so important that Schermerhorn recommends planting herbs in raised beds.
“Clay soil,” she says, “does not provide good drainage.” She recommends a planting medium of one-third organic matter such as compost, one-third topsoil, and one-third builders’ sand.
“Make sure it’s builders’ sand,” says Schermerhorn. “It won’t compact like play sand so it adds drainage.”
Don’t mulch herbs. “We put a handful of organic compost around our plants to dress them up and improve the soil,” says Schermerhorn.
“Herbs do not like wet feet, and all mulch does in winter is keep their feet wet.”
In fact, most herbs are considered drought-tolerant, though some moisture is needed during dry spells to keep the plants growing. In general, annuals require more moisture than perennials.
Herbs also don’t require much fertilizer. Over-fertilizing an herb can produce growth that is too rapid, making the plant more susceptible to disease or insect problems and diluting the concentration of essential oils that produce the taste in culinary herbs. Herbs in pots are the exception. They should be lightly fertilized once a month during their growing season.
Using your herbs is important to keeping them healthy. Evergreen herbs can be cut and enjoyed in recipes or vases all winter.
“Herbs are designed to be used,” says Schermerhorn. “Cutting them encourages new growth, so keep using your herbs.”
Citizen Staff Reports 10/12/2015
HandsOn Day 2015, which will feature 1200 volunteers serving more than 65 nonprofits in Greater Richmond, will take place Oct. 17 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Among the projects in Henrico or surrounding communities that need volunteers are: installing GardenFest lights Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden, distribution center assistance at Feedmore, pumpkin carving with residents at SupportOne, work and play at Housing Families First, paint for independence at Heart Havens, spruce up the shelter and clean sweep at Harbor House at Safe Harbor, pinwheel project at REAP and Kidney Walk prep at National Kidney Foundation Serving VA. > Read more.
Citizen Staff Reports 10/12/2015
Virginians who want to plant beneficial plants for bees, butterflies and hummingbirds have a new resource at their fingertips. The online Virginia Native Plant Finder now lets users search for native plant species that benefit pollinators. The tool, which is managed by the Virginia Natural Heritage Program, is free and easy to use; searches can be completed on desktops, tablets or smartphones.
Native plants are those that grow where they evolved; they have traits that enable them to adapt to local conditions. The Virginia Native Plant Finder lets users create their own custom native plant lists by selecting from dropdown menus. > Read more.
Henrico County Recreation and Parks is hosting a concert by The Volunteers of the United States Army Field Band on Thursday, Oct. 15 at Henrico Theatre, 305 East Nine Mile Road in Highland Springs. This free concert will be held at 7 p.m. and will feature Soldier-Musicians from the U.S. Army Field Band.
Since its inception in 1981, The Volunteers has been telling the Army story through rock, pop, country, and patriotic music. Its members have performed for millions of listeners in all 50 states, Puerto Rico, Canada, Mexico, Kuwait, and Iraq. This group tours more than 100 days each year, bringing a powerful message of patriotism and support to communities large and small. > Read more.
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