Gardening & Farming

Top Herbs for Spring Planting

By MaryBeth Crissman

 April 30, 2018


Being raised in the Northeast always meant that our growing season was short and sweet. With just 130 days between the last and first frost, we hurried to get our seeds into the ground once the last frost of May had passed. By late September, we were already preparing our beds for the return of the frost. Such a short growing season forced us to appreciate every ray of sunshine that warmed our soil, and it gave us a glimmer of hope during the long winter months. 


Moving 700 miles south was a godsend for this gardener. Suddenly I found myself sowing seeds as early as February and enjoying a harvest of blooms and produce well into late October. My first few years as a transplant found me as an apartment-dweller, and, given my insatiable need to be surrounded by green, living things, I took to planting herb gardens in containers along my windowsills and porch railings. 

 

Herbs are those amazing plants that flourish in both containers and in the open ground. In fact, some herbs, such as chives and mint, are better off in containers because of their wild roots and seeds that spread like wildfire. (If you really want your mint in the ground alongside the rest of your herbs, you can plant it in a container and them bury the container in the ground. This will help prevent it from spreading and crowding out their neighbors.) Now that I have a real garden of my own, I like to find a nice balance between ground and container planting, keeping most of my perennials in the ground and my annuals in pots that I can refresh and rearrange each spring and throughout the summer. 


Here in North Carolina, most herbs thrive in our hot summers. They provide the essential flavors of summertime that form the basis of delicious recipes such as caprese salad, lavender lemonade, pico de gallo, and, of course, mint juleps. Get ready for a season of flavor with the best herbs that North Carolina has to offer.  

Basil

Annual - Easily start from seeds in early March and can be started indoors in late February. Plant in 3-4 week waves to ensure a continual harvest. 

Chives

 Perennial - Easily start from seeds in early March. Sow directly into the container or bed.  

Cilantro

Annual - This delicate herb requires cool temperatures. The heat of North Carolina summers inhibit its growth. Sow from seeds in late early March or late August for a cool-weather harvest.  

Dill

Annual - Like cilantro, dill requires cool temperatures to flourish. Sow from seeds in late early March or late August for a cool-weather harvest.  

Lavender

Perennial - Plant from a seedling in late March, well after the final frost.  

Mint

Perennial - Plant from seedlings in early March.  

Oregano

Perennial - Easily start from seeds in early March and can be started indoors in late February.  

Rosemary

Perennial - Plant from a seedling in late March. A single bush should be enough to provide herbs for an entire family.  

Sage

Perennial - Plant from a seedling in early March.  

Thyme

Perennial - Plant from a seedling in early March.  

Companion Flowers for Your Herbs

Additional Information

 

A healthy and prolific herb garden is a wonderful addition to any outdoor living space, but it’s also nice to have some color and shape amongst all that fragrant green. Companion flowers in an herb garden serve multiple purposes. They bring bright color, can deter pests while attracting pollinators, and they provide counter nutrition to the soil, keeping it healthy and productive. Think about incorporating ZinniaP, Black-Eyed SusanP, Citronella, CatmintP, and Geraniums amongst your herbs. 


Choose your seeds and seedlings from a reputable, and preferably local, supplier like Pittsboro Feed. Christine and David Miller, owners and local residents, are highly knowledgeable and experienced who can help you make the best choices for your garden conditions and needs. 


All of the above plants with the exception of cilantro are also pollinator plants. These provide much needed nourishment for our local pollinators, including butterflies and honey bees. 

North Carolina Spring

By MaryBeth Crissman

April 30, 2018


 Growing up in Central New York, autumn was always my favorite season. The rolling hills were painted with brilliant warm colors, a beauty to behold pressed against a clear topaz sky. The air smelled of dry leaves, and every roadside stand displayed robust pumpkins and gourds. It was a season of visible change, of family gatherings, and of preparing for a long, oftentimes bitter, winter. There was an unspoken and pervasive sense of celebration and preparation in the air that would all too soon fade in the chill of winter. 


But thirteen years in North Carolina has changed me. No longer does Autumn hold the same magic. The flatness of central North Carolina doesn’t allow for sweeping vistas of fall foliage. You have to drive a few hours west to see those mountain views. Crisp, cool air doesn’t settle in until closer to Thanksgiving, and, even with brightly colored gourds and pumpkins festooning doorways and porches, autumn just isn’t the same in NC. 


For this northern transplant, Spring is where it’s at. Springtime in North Carolina is indisputably magical. Seemingly overnight, trees explode into delicate white blossoms, and eager daffodils emerge from the hard red clay. A glittering golden sun rests high in a crystal blue sky, warming the air and preparing the soil for new life to spring forth. The bermuda grass instantly comes out of dormancy, transforming yards and golf courses from brown barren wastelands into lush verdant spaces. I always loved the first sound of peepers as they began their eveningsong in the New York spring, but nothing prepared me for their music here. Their song is so loud and clear that it overpowers the sound of the evening news, despite the windows being closed!


Springtime in North Carolina is fleeting, multiplying its beauty. The delicate blossoms that paint the trees in pale pinks and snowy whites will soon be swept away by a strong breeze, filling the air and covering the ground with a fragrant springtime snow. Pleasant, temperate days and chilly nights quickly give way to hot, dry days and muggy nights. The short season for open-windows is immediately followed by sealing up the house to keep the pine pollen out and the AC in. For a few short weeks, the lush and varied greens of the North Carolina landscape rivals those of the Emerald Isle itself. Sweet smelling breezes, the early emergence of pollinators of every kind, and the cheerful song of the morning birds reminds us of the renewed promise of life that springtime brings. 


There is nothing like a North Carolina spring, and it only took experiencing one for this transplant to become a convert. I still love a majestic New England autumn, but it doesn’t hold a candle to the promise of a North Carolina spring. 

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