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Herbs are among some of the easiest plants to grow. Herbs can be grown in the garden, in containers and indoors. They just ask for sun, water and well-drained soil with a pH of 6.5-7. Some herbs will even tolerate shady conditions with less than ideal soil. The hardest part about herb gardening is deciding which herbs to plant. Herbs have a very long history starting well over 5000 years ago. Every source of information has a slightly different definition of an herb. I like to think of them as plants that are useful to people. They are generally classified as aromatic, medicinal, culinary and ornamental. Many fit into several categories.

Oils from aromatic herbs such as lavender and mint are used to add fragrance to perfumes and candles. Entire gardens are planted with aromatic herbs to enjoy the scents and have ingredients for sachets and potpourris.

Herbs have been used for medicinal purposes since ancient times. Aloe Vera has a long history of treating burns and garlic juice has been used as an antiseptic, but caution is advised. It is imperative that herbs listed as medicinal be correctly identified and their use understood because some can be dangerous.

Culinary herbs are what most commonly come to mind when people hear the word “herb” or “erb”. Technically both pronunciations are correct. In the United States the “h” is usually silent, while in Europe the “h” sound is pronounced. Without culinary herbs our food would be incredibly bland. Basil, parsley, dill and chives are very popular culinary herbs. The more these plants are pinched back and used the more growth they produce. This should be done often because herbs can become bitter if allowed to get leggy and go to seed.

Ornamental herbs can be in any of previously mentioned categories. They are grown for their beauty as well as other purposes. They add color, texture and fragrance to the garden. Some excellent examples are ‘Golden Lemon’ thyme, bronze fennel ‘Purpureum’, purple basil ‘Purple delight’ and tricolor sage ‘salvia officinalis Tricolor’.

There are many reasons to grow herbs. Cooking ingredients, aroma and ornamental value are just a few. Herbs can be incorporated in existing flower or vegetable gardens or planted in a more traditional garden reserved exclusively for herbs. Either way, herbs of all kinds are wonderful assets in any garden space.

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