Herbs in the Florida Garden

Herbs are plants grown for their special aromas and flavors. They are mainly used to season, enrich, or otherwise improve the taste or smell of foods. Many herbs are also colorful and have interesting textures.

Herbs are well-suited for container culture, because only a small portion of the plant is usually needed at any one time and the plants are generally small. They can also be used in borders or in flower beds.

Most herbs will do well under the same conditions of sunlight and soil as vegetables, although some herbs are more sensitive to soil moisture conditions than others. The addition of organic matter to sandy soils can be beneficial since herbs are shallow rooting. Keep in mind that some herbs, such as mint, can grow rapidly and become weedy if left unchecked.

Some of the easiest to grow are rosemary, basil, oregano, mint, and thyme. Once established, a rosemary plant will produce fragrant leaves for years. Basil is perfect for containers or in the garden bed. Oregano is a perennial that comes in two types—Mexican and European. Both can be grown from cuttings. Mint is a perennial that spreads like wildfire, so consider keeping it confined to containers. Thyme works well in rock gardens, or looks good cascading over the edge of containers.

Herb gardenUF/IFAS Publications

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Growing Herbs Indoors

Creating a window garden is easy. Use one large container to house all your herbs with similar water needs or put each in its own individual pot. Or hang a window box with brackets from your local garden center. You can grow your herbs from seed, but you will save time by buying small plants from a supermarket or gardening center. A few favorites for window gardens include oregano, thyme, sage, and rosemary. Fill your container with a well-drained potting media. Herbs prefer a sunny location and can be grown in the same conditions as vegetables, whether indoors or out.

Even if you don't have a sunny windowsill, you can still grow herbs indoors, thanks to new products on the market. These kits include everything you need to get started, including seeds, a full-spectrum grow light, and either pots or a hydroponic container system. You can choose from basil, oregano, thyme, parsley, and many other herbs. Start by inserting special pre-seeded pods into your hydroponic container or by planting seeds in the provided pots. As the herbs grow, just add water and nutrients as recommended.

Hydroponics is when you grow plants in a nutrient-rich solution instead of in soil. Hydroponic units can be elaborate, with pumps, timers, and other equipment, or can be simple floating systems. You can even build your own system. While more expensive than a traditional container garden, hydroponically grown herbs grow much faster. This difference is because the needed moisture and nutrients are always readily available, allowing plants to maximize growth and production. Another advantage of growing herbs hydroponically is that you’ll never have to weed them or deal with soil-borne pests.