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Herb Garden for a Novice

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I've never had much luck growing plants, but love fresh herbs. I'd like to grow them this year rather than continually buying them. The ones we use most are basil, rosemary, thyme and cilantro. If possible I'd like to grow garlic and hot peppers like jalapeno, serrano and habenero.

In addition to my inexperience, I have two problems: 1) We have huge trees all around our house and very little direct sunlight. 2) We have a huge groundhog living in the back yard who I'm sure would be delighted to eat anything I plant.

So, can I grow these things on my screened porch? It gets direct sun for a couple hours in the morning. And the groundhog couldn't get to them. If I do try this, when should I plant them in the pots? Should I start with seeds or plants?

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  1. You're going to need more than just a couple hours of direct sunlight. Most plants need at least 8 hours of sunlight a day. Is there a way to put put your plants on a window sill where they could get more sunlight? You can buy plants but I like to grow from seed. Basil & hot peppers are so easy to grow from seed. I planted thyme & cilantro a couple of times last summer but did not have any luck. I planted basil, dill, garlic, peppers,cherry tomatoes, and okra in my front yard. I have trees surrounding my back yard also but found a spot in near the back and grew tomatillos, collards, salad greens, peppers, green beans and tomatoes. My watermelon & canteloupe did nothing. If it were me, I'd set a trap for that groundhog; he'd have to go...

    8 Replies
    1. re: Cherylptw

      I find everything except cilantro is easy to start from seed. I think cilantro hates me.

      You definitely need more that two hours of sun, unless you're willing to grow them under lights.

      1. re: Shazam

        I bought a small cilatro plant a few weeks ago and planted it in a pot. It gets a lot of sun but it isn't really hot here yet. The cilantro has taken off and is growing like a weed. The problem is, it looks like a weed. It smells and tastes right but the color is off. Instead of being dark to medium green, it's very pale green and yellow. It's not a very appetizing color. Will it get darker as the weather heats up?

        1. re: southernitalian

          I've been buying Vietnamese cilantro the last few years, it doesn't look like cilantro but I love it. It grows like a weed but is sort of striped looking I guess. All I know is I don't love cilantro but I love this stuff. Maybe you have that?

          1. re: coll

            No, it definitely looks, smells and tastes like cilantro, but the color is off. It's albino cilantro.

            1. re: southernitalian

              Does it look like a deficiency? I think lack of nitrogen can cause yellowing of leaves.

              1. re: DMW

                Actually I think the problem was that it got old. I didn't realize how quickly it grows. I have to clip some off every three days or so to keep it bright green. It's very strong smelling and tasting too. Almost too much. I will have to adjust the amount I use.

      2. re: Cherylptw

        We kinda like our groundhog, though we haven't seen him since before the first snowfall. His name is Earl.

        1. re: mojoeater

          I know this post is older, but I felt the need to write about groundhogs. They hibernate for about 5-6 months, then awake when Spring arrives, to consume everything in their path, like all your plantings, as they need to bulk up for the coming winter.

          I would never consider exterminating a groundhog, but maybe moving Earl to a different venue, which involves humane trapping, might be a good idea for your herbs and your sanity.

      3. Whichever way you decide to do this I would suggest that you plan out a series of plantings of the short-lived herbs so that you have new plants coming along every month or so. I'm always disappointed when my basil gets too leggy and begins to yellow after a while and wish I had bought just one plant every six weeks or so (exact number depends on how much you'll use, of course). Same thing happens with cilantro....... not so much with thyme. Rosemary seems to be the most hearty herb you can get. We have a small bush all year round that would be very large bush if we let it.

        Enjoy!

        1. Our critters leave the rosemary and thyme alone. What zone are you in? I'm in 6, so I dig up the rosemary and bring it inside for the winter, but the thyme is OK outside. Both plants do OK with about 6 hours of direct sunlight, but less than that and you might want ot set up some grow lights on your screened porch. oh, and i would get plants for both the rosemary and thyme, rather than start from seed. I've had good luck propagating them by taking cuttings, removing some leaves from the bottom and just letting them sit in water. After they sprout roots I plant them in small pots. I've propagated my rosemary plant for about 4 years now with this method. I would just keep digging hte plant up but it gets too big in the garden each summer, so I start over with a new spring every spring.

          2 Replies
          1. re: gimlis1mum

            I actually like growing herbs under lights-- seems liked the flavor is more delicate. My outdoor basil got pretty strong and bitter. Basil sprouts easily for me, but I had a terrible time trying to grow thyme from seed. Out of the whole pack, two sprouted, and that took weeks. Garlic, you can just take any sprouted bulb and stick it in the ground, although I think you're supposed to plant shortly before the frost?

            1. re: jvanderh

              This is my first year at trying garlic, and I think it went in ~a month before frost. None of the cloves had sprouted when I planted it, although many of them did send up a green shoot before the ground froze. i'll be interested to see which plants do well - those that sprouted, or those that didn't!

          2. For the most part, I think that buying plants give you such a head start you'll be glad you bought them instead of trying to grow them from seed. But you could try a little of both.

            1. Can you do window boxes on the windows of your house that have southern exposure? That would keep your herbs out of reach of your hungry groundhog.

              2 Replies
              1. re: mflipp

                The only windows that get direct sunlight for any length of time are the bedrooms. I'd hate to run upstairs and drop dirt in the carpet every time I wanted herbs.

                1. re: mojoeater

                  try hydroponic gardening under lights. Check out the aerogardens or rig something up. Herbs need lots of sun and depending on what kind - different kinds of soil/water requirements. Good luck. I prefer highly aromatic ones - just personal preference.

              2. While I respect the fact that you like Earl, the groundhog, I felt the need to tell you that the pre-'80s edition of The Joy of Cooking, I believe, has a recipe for cooking a groundhog.

                1. Some herbs, like basil and thyme, seem perfectly happy in an area of my garden with only 4 or so hours of sunlight per day. To find others, consult a book on herbs and spices like HERBS IN BLOOM by Jo Ann Gardner or HERBS by Tolley and Mead.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: DonShirer

                    Mint does well w/o that much sun too. Wilts w/ too much.