Guest column: Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme thrive in Oklahoma

The Daily Ardmoreite
Pat Neasbitt Master Gardener

Guest column: Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme.

These herbs grow well in Oklahoma, along with lots of other herbs that Simon and Garfunkel couldn't work into their lyrics. Herbs are plants that are used for medicinal purposes and to add flavor to food. Fresh herbs are always better when adding flavor to food, but your own dried herbs are also wonderful to have on hand for enhancing your home cooking. Herbs are fantastic for making herb butters, herb vinegars, bundles for flavoring your grilled masterpieces, rubs, marinades, sauces, herbal teas, and potpourri. Who knew you could use herbs in so many ways!

Herbs are also very attractive ornamental plants that can be used in many different landscape situations. They look great in flower beds, in an area set aside for growing only herbs, in borders, rock gardens, and in container plantings. You could have an herb theme garden such as a "pizza" garden, a medicinal herb garden, a children's herb garden, a kitchen herb garden in pots on the windowsill, or just mix a few herbs in with vegetable or ornamental plantings. Herbs also work well on a sunny porch or patio in containers and hanging baskets.

Some herbs are annuals while others are perennials that come up year after year. Annual herbs can be seeded directly in the garden or started from seeds indoors for later transplanting to the garden. You can save seed produced by your own herb plants for next year's crop or obtain seed from your local garden center or seed catalog. To save your own seed, harvest the entire seed head after it has dried on the plant and lay out on newspapers or paper towels to continue drying. After the seeds are thoroughly dry, store them in canning jars with lids. Be sure to label and date the jars and store in a dark, cool, dry location such as inside a cabinet. To preserve your seeds even longer, store the jars in the refrigerator or freezer.

Perennial herbs can be propagated by cuttings or by division. Divide plants every 3 to 4 years in the early spring. The plants should be dug up and cut into several sections and can then be replanted in various places or shared with others.

Many herbs can be harvested for fresh seasonings, and clipping herbs back keeps them from getting too big, stops them from flowering and going to seed, and makes them thicker and more attractive. To dry herbs for later use, clip them before frost and hang the herbs upside down in loosely tied bundles in a well-ventilated room. Use a rubber band to fasten them together, and it will tighten as the herbs dry and shrink and keep them together. Just straighten a paper clip to hang them with.

Many of the herbs we grow today are from the Mediterranean region of the world that have hot, dry summers. That means herbs grow great in Oklahoma in full sun and without too much water or fertilizer. Herbs also need great drainage, so, in Oklahoma, that means sandy soil or raised beds are essential. Mints and a few other herbs such as Italian flat leaf parsley will grow well in moist shade or partial shade. If you don't want your entire landscape to be mints, be sure to plant them in containers. Some herbs that grow well in Oklahoma are rosemary, basil, sorrel, cilantro, chives, parsley, thyme, oregano, mint, dill and sage. Happy Herb Gardening!