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Herb Gardening Q&A

 

Hi, my parsley plant is starting to show white on the leaves and look like they are wilting (like the edges look dried out). I recently trimmed the plant for the first time so I didn't know if I trimmed it wrong or if maybe I didn't allow my plant enough time to adjust to full sun before planting outdoors. Also, a couple other herbs just look dried out at the edges too & I water all of my herbs every other day. What can I do to bring my herb garden back to health? I've only had the plants in transplanted a week so I am devastated. Could really use some guidance. Thank you. AC
Your little plants might just be a bit sun burnt if they went from a grower's greenhouse to your garden. Time will tell. Meanwhile, check out the article Herb Harvesting How-To for information on how to take cuttings from different plants. Also, rather than watering on a set schedule, you want to water when the top 2 or 3 inches of the soil has dried out. Watering too often can cause root rot.
 
I have been harvesting my very productive oregano plant. I've noticed tiny black specks on the stems and the back of the leaves. I have them on a paper towel and some are dropping off. Are these bugs that have now rendered my oregano unedible? Thank you. M
I've noticed this when drying herbs too. Never did really figure out what it is although I suspect it is bug droppings or just plain dirt. Since it isn't alive and isn't on the plant anymore, I didn't find it to be something to worry about.
 
Dear Pinch, "Fall" is here in Phoenix, meaning temperatures are finally dropping into the upper 90s. An infestation of some sort has moved into my container garden. My basil plant is affected the most, but also my Tecoma hybrids, and my rose plants. Whomever the culprits are, they are leaving behind tiny black balls, holes in the leaves, and also some leaves are transparent, like the life has been sucked out of them. They are almost spider-web like (imagine a leaf without the green with tiny black balls on it). At first I thought maybe aphids because ants are on these plants too, but with the leaf holes I thought it could be a caterpillar, specifically a 'leaf skeletonizer caterpillar' for the Tecoma's, but not sure if those would affect the basil. So, my basil plant went from lush, providing great meals, to almost inedible in a matter of a few weeks. I have been spraying Organicide, not sure if that is helping, but it definitely isn't solving the problem. Any ideas? Regards, KD
Japanese beetles are often a culprit in skeletonized leaves, but you don't seem to have those in Arizona so I would guess it is some sort of caterpillar at work. Your best bet for determining what kind would be to catch one. If you aren't seeing them during the daytime, try going out after dark with a flashlight. Once you know what they look like you should be able to identify them and how to fight back. Bear in mind, some caterpillars turn into lovely butterflies.
 
I am growing a pot of basil outside and a couple of weeks ago noticed a small ( about 2mm) gold coloured beetle on one of the leaves. after searching online I came to the conclusion that it was a golden tortoise beetle that may have strayed and landed on a random plant. looks very similar in shape to a ladybird but smaller and gold (shiny). but a few days ago noticed about 20 of them all over the plant but mainly on the leaves. but the golden tortoise beetle lives and eats morning glory leaves (which i don't have in the garden). and now i am unsure, they range from gold to a brass colour. they don't move at all and been in the same place since discovering them and don't seem to have caused any damage either. I am stumped as to what these bugs are and would appreciate an insight into these pretty bugs please. F
Wow! I did a Google Images search and they are really cool. I can't tell you much more than you already know since I'd never heard of these beetles. They don't seem to be a cause for alarm or any action since they aren't damaging the plant. Apparently they are somewhat rare. You might want to call your local agriculture office or visit a Master Gardeners' clinic to find out if they are a threat in your particular area.
 
I have a young chive plant that has small black pods on the tips of some of the stems. I have no Idea what they are. Help. Thanks KCR
My first thought is that your plant is about to bloom. Chive flower buds are usually pink or purple, though, so it may be some sort of insect. I suggest you take it to a garden center or your local Master Gardeners' office for an identification.
 
I was looking over some German/winter thyme that I planted a few months ago and noticed that a couple of the thicker sprigs have begun rooting. They look almost runners, but I can't find any mention of the plant doing this normally. The thyme shares a raised bed with several other herbs; it's already about 18 inches across and I'm worried it might crowd the other plants out if it spreads much further. Should I transplant these "runners" elsewhere, or do you think the plant will more or less stay put? Thanks. CP
I don't think your plant will get much bigger than it is. I've noticed that my thyme has a tendency to root this way as well. You could snip them off and transplant if you want, otherwise you'll have two plants side by side.
 
We have juniper berry trees. How do we dry them? MB
After you make absolute sure that you have an edible juniper, some are poisonous, and you have read "All About Juniper Berries," to make sure you are able to eat them, the best way to dry the ripened berries would be to spread them out on a screen and allow them to dry in the sun. The screen is for good air circulation so be sure to put it in a spot where the air can circulate.
 
Hello Apinchof, I need to have some knowledge about growing thyme here in my country because I am desperately want to use it as fresh. I have small thyme here from seeds and it grow about 5 inches. But when I take it out around 8 in the morning it suddenly wilted a little bit and under its leaf displayed a purple color. Is it because its very humid here in the Philippines? If i place it in a shady part of my garden, is it okay? And I am also concerned about the rainy days here.. what should i do? Hoping for your reply and I love your site so much. Thanks Truly, EC
I really enjoy fresh thyme too. Sometimes plants need to be "hardened off" as they transition from an early life indoors to an outdoor environment. If it's not too late you can do this by exposing it to just a bit more, say half an hour, of sun each day. Thyme likes full sun and not too much water. It needs to be in a pot of sandy soil with good drainage. If possible you might want to put it in a place where it gets plenty of sunshine but is protected from the rains.
 
I planted basil with chives rosemary and mint, please advise, thanks for your great information. CM
It's the rosemary you'll need to worry about in this mix. The other three plants like more water than rosemary does so watch that it doesn't get "wet feet."
 
Hello, I'm American but reside in Egypt. Will blueberries grow in SAND? Also, I'd love to plant coriander, basil, mint, etc, will they thrive in sand? What spices would you recommend for such soil? Many thanks, CJ
Most plants enjoy a sandy loam so if you work some compost into the sand you will probably have more success than straight sand. I think you would better try woody herbs like rosemary or tarragon, even lavender, rather than the tender leaf ones you mention. It certainly couldn't hurt to try to grow whatever you want. If they fail, then you'll know.
 

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Can you tell me what would chop off basil plants about 1/4" above the soil, but not eat the plant? My basil plants were doing wonderfully one day and the next they were lying on the ground! This also happened to to my cilantro plant and four small vitex plants - but the entire plants went missing. These plants are all potted. It looks like they were cut with a razor. Thanks! NM Great website!
Sounds like the work of cutworms, however, I'm surprised that they would be in a potted plant. Do some research on the subject and if you agree, you might want to treat or discard that soil as they pupate in soil so they are probably still in there.
 
Hi, I just discovered your site, and info was so helpful I thought I’d give another try. This may not be you area of expertise, but I have not had good results growing catnip, in or outdoors. Can you offer any suggestions? thanks! SS
I haven't grown catnip myself so I checked a few of my resources to see if anything unusual stood out regarding care. I didn't find any special requirements for this sort of mint except that it likes well-drained soil and a sunny location. One source did state it is much easier to grow from transplants rather than sowing the seed.
 
I didn't see anything like this in your posts, but there were so many I may have skipped one. Any who...I have an indoor herb garden set up in an aqua ponics system. My lavander plant is thriving and so was the rosemary but it is bending over at the top and the bottom leaves are browning and falling off. I don't have lights just the front window. Is my plant not getting enough light or is it the aquaponics? TPK
Full disclosure, I know nothing about this interesting subject of aquaponics. My first thought about your rosemary is that it wouldn't like being grown in water. After browsing the web, seems like plenty of people out there are growing rosemary in an aquaponic environment. You would probably find much more authoritative answers by taking your question to one of the public forums like Aquaponicscommunity.com.
 
I planted oregano last year in my container herb garden, but was a bit disappointed with the flavor. It did not smell as strong as the dried (compared, for instance, to the thyme which smells amazing). Are there certain varieties of oregano plants to look for which might be more fragrant and more flavorful? SC
Many people prefer the taste of dried oregano to the fresh leaves. As an herb dries, the essential oils become concentrated--that's why we use less of the dried herb than fresh. I suggest you look into growing marjoram. It is a cousin of oregano that is much more pleasant to use fresh. See "All About Marjoram" if it is unfamiliar to you.
 
My dill plant leaves look yellow and green, but there are some brown stuff that looks like seeds. Are these seeds? When should I remove the seeds if these are seeds. Can I plant them and get more trees? They look brown. B
Sounds like your plant is nearing the end of its life cycle. You don't say if they flowered but seeds are the natural progression after flowering. You can, indeed, plant these seeds to get a new crop. They are also a delicious seasoning. Allow them to dry on the plant and then hold a paper bag or plate under them before snipping off the "dill head."
 
This summer my herb garden became infested with small black bugs - they look like poppy seeds. I picked some Rosemary yesterday, in the ice and snow and was surprised to see they were very much alive! Help! EB
Are you sure they are alive? Generally, things on plants that look like poppy seeds are droppings from bugs like caterpillars. If you are sure they are insects, you might try plugging "small black bugs" into the Google Image function to see if you find something that matches them in appearance. Once identified, you can learn how to deal with them.
 
I am “harvesting” juniper berries from a large, older tree in our yard and plan to make a juniper tincture for culinary use. I am concerned whether I may use all of the berries I’ve collected or should limit my selection to the larger, blue berries, rather than including the smaller green berries in the mix. Thanks for your assistance. RKD
You will want to harvest only those berries that are ripe. Be sure to read "All About Juniper Berries," if you haven't already as there are particular medical conditions that make the spice unsafe.
 
I saw a question on your page about wilting leaves and darkening of the stem, which you answered could be 'wilt', an incurable fungal disease. This has happened to every herb I've grown, and I grow them all from seeds. Is there any way to prevent this in the first place? ST
Often this is a soil-borne problem so you would want to start with fresh soil. Use a seed sprouting mix at the beginning to get your plants off to the best start. You can also look for resistant varieties of seeds as well.
 
I am trying to grow strawberry plants along side my Oregano. Both have spread out as a ground hugging plant. Yet I have read oregano gets tall, and mine just spreads. Today I see that some plants are flowering. Have I waited too long to harvest? Can you make an herbal oil out of some herbs? Thank you for your time. I am really a novice at this! JD
You have learned the lesson that different plant varieties have different growth habits. Oregano is a notorious spreading plant, but some varieties also grow tall. You can still harvest the oregano with flowers. We talk about making herb oils on the Cooking Q&A Page.
 
I dry my thyme from my garden. Can you tell me if it is okay to dry thyme after it has developed flowers on it. Does it make a difference in the over all flavor? EH
 While it is best to harvest herbs before they flower because the essential oils in the leaves are more intense, I think it is okay to dry it after flowering. Might even be kind of pretty.
 
Good Afternoon, I came across your website looking for information about planting a Herb Garden. I am going to have 3 ~ 2’x8’ raised beds for both herbs & vegetables. Where can I find info about what herbs go/should be planted next to one another or what herbs should not be planted next to one another too? Also recommendations for herbs to intersperse with vegetables. This is my first try at herb gardening and all this has been brought on by my granddaughter who has never had a garden.
Any other suggestions or references to other sites for information is most welcome and appreciated. DA
The most important consideration for planting your beds is the water needs of the plants. Annuals, like basil and chile peppers, require more water than established perennials like tarragon and rosemary. I suggest you plant one bed as a permanent herb garden and then use the other two for vegetables and annual herbs. See the article "Herb Harvesting How-To," as well as many other articles about growing herbs on this site. Seeds of Change website has this wonderful article about Companion planting.
 
Love your web site! Found it while the TV was off due to weather; which is part of my question. I live in zone 6. As an avid cook, nothing beats fresh herbs. After a bad first attempt I raised the bed six inches, that really helped. I grow completely organic. My question is: any idea, other than five gallon buckets, to keep parsley from getting beat down by heavy rain, which we are prone to? Thanks, JB
The only thing I can come up with short of an umbrella would be to offer your parsley some support in the way of staking and tying. The more I think about the umbrella, however, the more I think that might work. You could find an old one and sink the handle into the garden, then when the rain starts, just open it. Hmmm...
 
Like many cooks, I also garden. I want to grow my own sumac, but can't find a source for viable seeds for the edible variety. Don't know if it will grow here in coastal Oregon, but other sumacs do, so I'd like to try. Can you help me? AB
It's a good idea, however, I sure couldn't find any sources for the seeds or plants. You might want to contact a nursery that specializes in rare and unusual plants to see if they could help you find Rhus coriaria seeds. Nichols Garden Nursery is in Oregon and could be a good place to start.
 
Can basil and rosemary be grown together in the same bed? DW
Basil will need a bit more water than rosemary and rosemary doesn't like "wet feet." If you keep this in mind when watering the bed, they should be fine together.
 
Hi, I have grown basil for years and always put up huge amounts of pesto. Last summer and this I have had big problems with grasshoppers attacking the plants. The two solutions I have read about are floating row covers and neem oil spray. Is neem oil really safe to eat and would it affect the flavor of the basil at all? What would you recommend? I have about 30 plants and it is early in the season and the grasshoppers are already at it. Thank you, EG
Although neem oil is supposedly safe, I think I would go with the floating row covers. Neem oil works systematically, meaning it goes into the roots and throughout the plant, and that just seems icky to me in pesto. One thing to note, grasshoppers lay eggs in the soil that overwinter and then hatch in the spring. You might want to cultivate the soil well in the fall to kill the eggs and perhaps prevent them from turning up next year.
 
Hi. I live in Canada in Kingston, Ontario (Thousand Island region). I think we are in the zone 5 region. I took a chance on planting an herb garden last late, late spring. Our chives have been extremely hardy over the last 10 years, so I thought perhaps I could get lucky with other herbs. Also, I love to cook from scratch and try to use only fresh ingredients, including fresh herbs. Therefore, I was motivated by the off chance I could cultivate an herb garden. The basil was tremendous, the thyme not so bad, the rosemary so, so to not bad. Now after reading your helpful responses to other gardeners mostly living in hardier sunny climes in the U.S. I was convinced you could give me some basic skills to continue my herb garden. For example: What do I do now this Spring with the dried out plants that have suffered a fairly cold winter? Do I pull out these out root and all? or will they self propagate like the chives. The chives, as expected are flourishing beautifully. But the herbs as mentioned above are well looking extremely sad. I have already planted a new crop of rosemary, basil, etc. in my makeshift indoor garden and they are coming along well indeed. I am very excited. So I went out to prepare the garden to transplant my little seedling but was confronted with last years dried out crop. Help! What should I do? Thanks ever so much. DO
You will definitely need a new basil plant since that is an annual. You could wait to see if the thyme starts putting out new leaves (the rosemary should be evergreen so it's probably done) but since you have new plants at the ready I think I would just yank out the old ones rootball and all and transplant your new herbs.
 
Hello, I recently planted a small herb garden consisting of Italian basil, oregano and garlic chives. For about a week now, I have noticed quite a few small black flies in the garden and holes in and cutouts in the basil leaves. Any idea what these flies are? They are not around the basil (at least during the day). Thanks. KH
The pest you see and the damage you see are likely unrelated. Without more information it is hard to say what the flies might be but I would guess you have some snails and/or slugs munching at your basil.

I overwatered my lavender and the stems have gotten “woody”. I have tried to let it dry out and cut the really droopy part away. The other part looked perky and then it started to droop too. What should I do? It is in a container with shells about 1.5 “ thick on the bottom for drainage. Thank you! BM
Lavender is a plant that is considered a "sub-shrub" so its nature is to get somewhat woody as time passes. You may need to prune your plant in order to reinvigorate it. Find out how and see other tip for growing lavender near the bottom of the "Lavender List 2009" article.

 
Hello, I would like to know how I can trim my purple sage? It is way too big and high for my small garden. JG
You can trim it like you would a shrub. Make your cuts at a spot on the stems just above a leaf pair and consider the shape of the entire plant as you go. Find out more at the article "Herb Harvest How-To."
 
This spring I bought a small plant of Thai Coriander from a local garden centre and potted it up. I’ve used it in a few recipes – I find it suits the stronger tasting meal components really, such as Guajarati vegetables as an accompaniment to Asian meals. A feature of the herb is that it very quickly droops when dry – it’s a very good indication of when I’ve been a little lax in watering my herb pots! Can anyone tell me if this herb can be overwintered outside, or do I need to bring it indoors? Great website – a new herb grower I fully appreciate the help it gives. RS
I wasn't familiar with Thai coriander but when I Googled it I discovered that I know it as culantro. The botanical name is Eryngium foetidum but it is known around the world by many names. You don't say where you live but unless it stays quite warm you will probably want to bring it indoors. This is a tropical biennial plant, meaning that it will grow the foliage one year and the next it will produce flowers. Upon flowering, you will want to save some seeds for your next crop.
 
I let my dill go to seed, but I'd like to still use and/or preserve it. I brought it in and rubbed the seed off the heads. It appears to be a flat seed. Is that too dried out, or is that what dill seed is? It looks kind of like a husk of something rather than a whole round seed. Maybe it's too far gone? SS
Dill seeds are indeed flat. Follow this link to a photo of dill seeds.
 
Thank you in advance. Recently I discovered black droppings (?) slightly larger than poppy seeds but just as hard near my "herb garden" on my windowsill in New York City. They're all doing great. I have lavender, basil, rosemary, lemon balm, sage and thyme. Something tells me lemon balm might be somehow the culprit as the seeds always collect near that one, but I'm not sure.
Any hints? Many thanks again for your time. EB
Black droppings on plants are often just what they look like. Droppings from some sort of an insect. Since all your plants are doing well and you don't see any damage it's hard to tell what it might be. Just to check on your lemon balm theory, I went out and shook some of my branches that are in full bloom. Nothing resembling seeds or otherwise fell into my waiting hand.
 
I grow lavender in my yard and would like to use it in cooking. Which part of the plant should I use when the recipe calls for lavender? Must it be dried first or may I use it fresh like I do my other herbs? GG
It's the flower buds that recipes are looking for. Please see the article "All About Lavender" for more information.
 
Hi, I am just wondering what oregano grows well with? Thanks BA
Oregano would grow well with the other Mediterranean herbs like rosemary, thyme and tarragon. It is my experience that it just grows well any place you put it.
 
Dear A Pinch of webmaster, I was looking up an answer to a question I had, thank you it was informative. In doing so, I came across an inquiry into a bug described as two long, skinny, brownish, grasshopper shaped bugs no larger than 1/4" long on the plant with small water droplets coming from their ends. This sounds to be glassy winged sharpshooters, Homolodisca coagulate. Without knowing the location, this is a speculative guess. These have been seen in states like Texas, Florida and California. The water droplets, are in fact excrement, called honeydew. Have a great day. Kind regards, RV
Thanks for the information!
 
Thanks so much for your website. I live in northeastern San Diego County. Our area does get hot in summers and colder in the winters. I have tried to grow cilantro (which I love) but my plants sprout and go right to seed. So with that in mind, how do you harvest the seeds and then use them in recipes?
I have the same problem with growing dill. Once the seed heads have started to turn brown, hold a paper bag under them and snip off the entire head. Allow them to dry completely in the bag and then you can separate the seeds easily. You can use them whole or ground in recipes. See the article "All About Coriander."
 
I am growing cilantro in my herb garden. I recognize the leaves at the bottom as the ones I want to chop up for fresh cilantro. However, I'm not sure how to trim and maintain the entire plant in my garden. It has grown tall and lanky. Do I let it continue to grow. It seems to have less of the larger leaves at the bottom and very stemy and smaller different types of leaves at the top, along with the coriander seeds. I want to maintain the plant to get the fresh leaves for cooking. How best to I maintain the plant in my garden. Do I trim it? Do I let it grow? Do I cut the tops off to make it thicken up instead of being so tall and lanky? LS
Cilantro should be harvested by snipping the stems about two or three inches from the ground. This will encourage more growth from the base. It is an annual with a fairly short life-span but you can extend its season a bit if you trim back the flower shoots as they form.
 
Can I plant dill seed purchased from the spices section of the grocery store?
Generally this isn't a good idea because the seeds may be irradiated and won't grow. The same goes for eating seeds that are sold for planting since they may have some sort of coating like a fertilizer or sterilization solution on them.
 
My potted lavender plant is covered in white silk nests & there are bright green with pale white or pale green stripes hatching on them & killing my plant. As best as I can determine from researching these insects, they look like the tomato hornworm. It has turned half my previously healthy pant brown & limp in a couple of days. How do I get rid of these & can the plant be saved or should I toss it to avoid them spreading on to the rest of my plants? The pot is on one side of my patio steps away from the other pots & ground plants by about 3 feet (to the closet other pot which is also lavender). I sprayed it with what little organic pest spray I had left & soap & water but need to know what to get to finish them off & keep them from returning? I need something that will not harm my pets or the beneficial bees, butterflies & birds in my garden. Help! DD
Since you didn't use the words "huge" or "big" to describe the worms, I'm thinking they aren't hornworms. Hornworms are as thick as your thumb sometimes. Sounds more like armyworms to me. I found this page about them at the UC Davis Integrated Pest Management website so you can see if I am right.
 
I've read through most of the of previous questions, but none seems to apply to me, so here goes: I have a basil plant that's in a large window box in full sun with oregano and parsley. When it was about 10 inches, the leaves started loosing their color and just started to look very unhealthy. I noticed what appears to be spores - short white stalk with black tips - on the undersides. I've sprayed with dish soap/water mix and when that did not produce results after two weeks I tried a general anti-fungal for veggies that I had. This also has not helped. The stems of the plants look great and there's even new growth happening where these diseased leaves have fallen off.... I'm so proud that's I've been able to keep all the other herbs I purchased alive, but I'm sad over this pathetic looking specimen. Thanks for your help and for everything else I learned while researching this issue on your site. DM
As you can see, it doesn't help very much to treat a problem until you know what it is. The soap and water may be effective on bugs and anti-fungals on fungus but if that's not the cause, they won't do a thing. This sounds rather unusual to me so it would be helpful to see the plant. I suggest you take a few of the affected leaves back to the nursery where you bought it and see if they can help you diagnose the situation.
 
I received a planter for Christmas with 4 herbs in it. The parsley has suddenly become leggy and yellow. Why would this be? It is indoor in my kitchen which is well lit. I have not had them directly by the window to protect them from drafts. BG
Growing tall, or leggy, is a sign of the plant reaching out for light and yellow leaves may indicate too much water. You might be able to revive the plant by snipping all of the affected leaves back to the base of the plant.
 
We live in Florida and have found small green caterpillars eating and leaving their diode on our basil and parsley have sprayed with insecticide soap and it has not worked any advice......... thanks for your help. RA
This is a good example of why we must identify the pest before we spray anything. Different chemicals take care of different bugs. Another important reason is that you might end up killing bugs that are actually beneficial to the garden. Identification is difficult and time consuming sometimes. You could look over the Insect Identification.org website but your best bet might be to capture a couple of the culprits and take them into your local Master Gardener's office.
 
Sir/madam, We have a Goa plant in our house. We find that there are lot of new white particles stuck beneath the leaves and white particles flying. We are able to understand that it is some kind of Infection. Could you suggest what it could be? Suggest remedial measures to cure the same. There are also a lemon plant and some flowering ornamental plants which we fear may pick up the infection. VSS
First I must confess, I don't know what a Goa plant is and can't find it on the Internet. Secondly, it is very difficult to know which white insect this might be so I cannot correctly identify without a visual cue. I can, however, suggest that the problem might be solved with something as simple as giving your plant a nice shower. Spray it with as strong a stream of water as possible. If this doesn't take care of your problem, you might want to contact a local expert who can better identify the pest. Meanwhile, you are correct to worry about the other plants. It's best to isolate the affected one until the problem is solved.
 
My oregano and basil are dying at the end of the season (I grew them outside and they did wonderfully). I'd like to start growing some inside for the winter. Can I grow some plants from the flowers, or would I have to use a clipping? I've got some dried flower pods from both plants, will these produce seeds for me to use for growing new plants? Love the Q&A by the way, I'm a newbie, and this site is amazing! DD
Glad you like the site! You don't say where you live but the oregano might be able to make it through the winter. My own plant keeps going all year around so that I can always harvest fresh oregano. You could take a cutting to root in water just to be sure. The basil is an annual so it will be finished. You could try planting the seeds from your flower heads--sometimes this works but other times the seeds are some sort of hybrid and the new plant may not be what you expect.
 
Hello-- I have grown fresh curry. It is now flowering. I would love to know how to cook with this! I have used dried curry powder but never fresh. Thanks, BJ
Oh dear, I'm sorry to say, you have not grown the equivalent of curry powder. Your curry plant, known botanically as Helichrysum italiacum, takes its name from the fragrance but curry powder is a combination of many spices. You can use your plant as an herb. Some say it has a particular affinity for eggs. Incidentally, the curry leaf herb, Murraya koenigii, is not from this plant and is also not a component of curry powder. Find out more at "All About Curry Powder."
 
Hi, I'm not sure if this question has been asked before or not, but I have a collection of about 20 various herbs that I have been growing outside in pots all summer and I am looking for a natural way to debug them before moving them indoors. Thank you for your help. L
Interesting question. I always just move my pots to the garage so I haven't worried about debugging them but I do see your point. The best way to prepare the plants themselves is to spray them with a strong blast of water. This will kill any aphids and, hopefully, wash away any others. There may be bugs in the pots, however, that would be more difficult to spot and deal with. I think I would try to isolate the pots in a bathtub or laundry room for awhile to see if anything crops up.
 
Hi I live in the Philippines and started my own little herb garden. Basil was my beginner's choice because of all the wonderful sunshine we get. The first three months produced gorgeous green leafy plants, after which decided to propagate via cuttings. Problem is that a week after I pruned, problems started to occur. Wilted and leaves (I made sure I didn't over-prune and left more than half of the leaves on the original plant, pests chewing the leaves, brown streaks on the leaves, and little light brown bumpy things growing at the nodes of most of my plants! HELP!!! Did I kill my plants, or introduce diseases when I pruned them? or was it just a sad, sad coincidence :-( VB
Sounds like your clippers need a cleaning. It is highly possible to pass a problem from one plant onto another. The bugs probably moved in after the plant became stressed. I wonder how the clippings that you took fared?
 
Hi, just looked at your website. Great. Are all varieties of sage edible??? We have a huge plant in our backyard, but I haven’t been able to find out if it is edible. Maybe, you can help me. OH
Not all varieties are edible. Your best bet is to take a clipping from the plant to a local nursery or a master gardener at your local extension office. They should be able to identify the type of plant and tell you if it is edible.
 
Hello, I am growing husky cherry red tomatoes in a large pot on my balcony. It gets lots of afternoon sun and I water it regularly. The plant is producing lots of tomatoes and new growth but some of the older leaves and some new are turning brown and shriveling up (not dry and crunchy). Do you know what this is and if it can be fixed? Thanks for your help! SK
Tomatoes aren't my specialty and I couldn't find any answers in the sources I checked. Pull a couple of the problem leaves from the plant and take them to a local nursery or a master gardener at your local extension office for a diagnosis.
 
Can you grow peppercorns in the Southern Piedmont of North Carolina? I would really like to start a little herb and spice garden and my husband like fresh cracked pepper, so I thought I would start with peppercorns. KG
Well now, wouldn't that just be fun! Given your climate you might just be able to do it. I think the biggest hurdle would be getting ahold of the plants. You could contact the folks at the Miami-Dade County Fruit and Spice Park to see if they know where you could obtain the vine. If you did grow them you will have to learn how to dry the berries so that they can make their way into the pepper mill. Let us know how it goes!
 
Hi there, I have many herbs planted, and they've all been doing wonderfully since January or so. (I live in central Florida.) It's now late June, we have had just a ton of rain, (after a big drought) and all my herbs have gotten "wet feet" and begun rotting from beneath. They all looked wonderful until the rains came. I am growing marjoram, flat leaf parsley, borage, basil, thyme, sage, rosemary, lavender, chives & spearmint. My curly young curly parsley and chamomile died completely. I would like to salvage the others if possible. Should I cut them back? They still look and taste great at the tips, but many of the root ends are now black. Is there any hope of saving them? And do you have any recommendations on how I could prevent this from happening next year? Would individual containers be better? (Right now they're all directly in the ground.) Thank you so much!! CG
In my experience, herbs grow better in the ground but as you have seen they are at the mercy of the weather. Most herbs originate from the dry rocky soils around the Mediterranean so a monsoon is not what they like. Chances are good, however, that your plants will recover once things dry out. Keep an eye on them, trim away the dead parts and snip them for cooking as you normally would. As for next year, you might consider making some sort of a shelter, sort of like a tent or something, to give them a bit of a break during the rainy season.
 
Hi there....I love your site. I live in San Marcos, Texas, and we have had tons of rain...very unusual...and my rosemary plants (huge) are dying in pieces...some stems are okay, but others are dead and gone. there are signs around the bottom..of some sort of white mold and mildew with lots of pill bugs working. I had originally put cedar mulch around them, but now I am removing it as I think maybe it is holding in too much moisture...I also have a huge cenizo or purple sage that is suffering from the same malady. any help would be greatly appreciated. thanks so much for all that you do. BW
Sorry to hear about your plants. Hopefully as the weather dries out they will recover. You have done the right thing in pulling back the mulch and the pill bugs might be helping to process some of the decaying material. For now, prune off the dead stems and get rid of any debris at the base of the plants. You might even want to try to scrape off the mold and mildew and add some fresh garden soil to the area.
 
Hi. I reached your site by searching on 'remedy for mildew on lavender au', but I couldn't find this reference on your site. Could you describe a lavender plant affected by mildew and perhaps provide an remedy please? A friend has some 30 plants in a row in her new garden which have only been in the ground for 18 months. She describes them as 'going woody.'  Her garden is on the south coast of NSW & we have had a lot of humidity this last summer.  Thank you very much, RE
There are two types of mildew, downy and powdery. Downy mildew is usually white and fluffy appearing under the leaves while powdery mildew is greyish and on the surface of the leaves. The remedies differ so check with a local garden center for what is available in your area. Prevention of both types is to get resistant cultivars and make sure the plants have good air circulation. As for "going woody," that is the nature of an unpruned lavender plant. See more growing tips, including pruning, at the bottom of the "Lavender List, 2007."
 
Hi, I recently started a container herb garden in my kitchen. I have oregano, thyme, basil, parsley and sage. I am using an artificial light b/c my kitchen doesn't get the best light. Four of the plants are thriving and smelling great. But I am on my second oregano plant and it's dying just like the first one did. I'm keeping the soil moist and it gets the same amount of light as the others. What gives? Any information would be greatly appreciated! Thanks, LC
The ladies who wrote The Bountiful Container say this about growing oregano: "It struggles in long periods of cool and rainy weather, and in areas with high humidity (humid weather or poor air circulation around the containers encourages disfiguring fungal disease)."
 
Hi, The mint, peppermint and lemon balm plants looked so lovely in their pots, getting new beautiful leaves everyday, that is, until those green yucky worms showed up and started chomping every good leaf away and hardly leaving anything for me; there seem to be whole families of them…. L. Any suggestions what I can do to get rid of them nasty creatures??? Since my cats are allowed to go out into the patio there aren't many "killing agents" I could use. Also, I have tried several sorts but nothing helped so far. Thanks for your time and blessings from the Holy Land. G
It is important to identify the bug before treatment because different pests require different methods. That said, I found sort of an interesting idea that sounds harmless in "The Organic Gardener's Handbook of Natural Insect and Disease Control: A Complete Problem-Solving Guide to Keeping Your Garden and Yard Healthy Without Chemicals." It is a recipe for an all-purpose Insect Pest Spray. It goes as follows: Chop, grind, or liquefy 1 garlic bulb (not just a clove) and 1 small onion. Add 1 teaspoon of powdered cayenne pepper and mix with 1 quart of water. Steep 1 hour, strain through cheesecloth, then add 1 tablespoon of liquid dish soap to the strained liquid; mix well. Spray your plants thoroughly, being sure to cover the undersides of the leaves. Store the mixture for up to 1 week in a labeled, covered container in the refrigerator. The authors suggest this for any leaf-eating garden pests and caution to keep the mixture away from your eyes and nose and to wear rubber gloves to prevent burning.
 
I've recently started an herb garden and my basil & parsley are doing particularly well. I found your article on preserving basil, but haven't really seen anything on parsley. Actually, I've planted several herbs and they are all doing fine, right now those are my best.  I'm going to start rosemary & oregano next weekend. Do you have a book or anything that will help guide me in the best ways to preserve what I'm growing? I don't want to have to keep looking it up on a website.  I would greatly appreciate any inspiration you can give me as this is my first attempt. Thank you, IA 
Congratulations on your herb garden. It's fun, isn't it? My best "go-to" book has long been The Herbfarm Cookbook. Follow this link to read the website review.
 
I would like to start a “new” rosemary plant from a clipping from my existing plant. When is the best time to do so, what type soil to use and how big of a clipping should I use? I am in SOUTH Georgia. Thanks so much, dv.
I found an excellent article at the No Thyme Productions website called Growing Herbs from Cuttings. It will give you step by step instructions.
 
Hello, About a month ago I started trying to grow dill and basil using a Chia herb kit that I received. The basil is doing fine, but the dill is falling over on itself--the stalks are very thin and fragile looking, and there are barely any leaves. What should I do to save my plant? Thank you! LMC
It's important that dill has fairly deep soil, say 10 to 12 inches, because it has a long taproot. You might try snipping back the main stem and see if that helps it bush out. Make sure it is getting plenty of sun, too, since the seedlings may be growing long to seek out light.
 
hello and thanks in advance for answering! What herbs and or spices are out there that have more than one FORM used example cilantro leaves and coriander seed.......... would love to know of more of these! interesting to know.... useful when planting to get a double harvest from the same plant!! thanks again....... p
I've actually been knocking this idea around as the subject of an article. I, too, like the idea of the double harvest. Other herbs/spice combos are dill weed and seed; borage for the young leaves and flowers; mustard, in theory, although I haven't tried it. I'll keep working on other ideas.
 
Hi! I live in Las Vegas and don't have many bugs, but I'm starting to have these little white bugs on my jalapeno plants. I don't like to use pesticides since I want to eat the peppers, are there any pesticides you suggest? They're tiny white bugs that stick to the stems of the plant. It doesn't look like they're bothering the actual fruit, but I don't like to see them there. Thanks! S
Your question introduces an important point that gardeners should ponder. The white bugs are not bothering the fruit--could they actually be protecting it? You say you don't like to use pesticides yet you are willing to because you don't like to see the bugs. I used to feel the same way, bugs are bad, but in the last couple of years I have come to realize that I don't want chemicals in my garden. Bugs are a part of the natural cycle of things, some of them help keep my plants healthy by preying on the ones that do damage. When we spray indiscriminately, as a first resort rather than a last resort, we kill the good guys as well as the bad guys. I want to encourage you and all of our herb gardening friends to learn more about Integrated Pest Management, or IPM, as a new way of looking at the way we care for our plants (especially those we are going to eat!). Start with this bulletin from the EPA.
 
How do I know when my rosemary and lavender are dead? I bought 2 small plants in 6" pots and they thrived all summer and were really growing. Suddenly I notice they are very dry and woody even though I water them regularly. In frustration I pruned them both back to about 1" to see if I could save them. Did I kill them or is it possible they will come back? LL
Hard to say. Continue to water them and keep checking. Only time will tell.
 
This year I grew sugar bush in my garden. This “tender perennial” is now about 4 ft high. The leaves are “20 times sweeter than sugar cane” and are said to be able to be used in place of sugar in recipes. But, how do I use them? How much sugar bush will equal how much sugar? Do I grind them or just cut them in small pieces? Should I dry them or freeze them to use later? Thank you for any help you can give – I hate to just throw it all out if I could use it instead. TH
I am thinking that you are referring to what I know as the stevia plant. I haven't used this herb myself but I looked around the internet a bit. Looks like most people use a purchased syrup product to cook with but other sites mentioned drying and grinding the leaves. There are several books available on the subject, maybe you could find one at the library.
 
Hello, My grandmother had some pineapple sage last year that was planted in the ground. When winter came it died. I thought it was a perennial. Is it? TU 
Pineapple sage is classified as a tender perennial. It can't take the cold so most gardeners grow it as an annual or baby it along indoors during the winter. I had success in keeping my potted plant in the garage, cutting it back to three inches after it was finished blooming. Once the weather warmed it began to grow.
 
I just started an herb garden. How do I know when my oregano is ready to be harvested? It is growing very well, however, the leaves have no smell to them. Also, do I just pick it and chop it or does it have to be dried first? dn
Try rubbing the leaves between your fingers and they will likely give off an aroma. Your plant is ready for harvest whenever you want. Snip from the stems at a spot just above a pair of leaves and remember not to cut more than one third of the plant at any one time. You will want to remove the leaves from the stems before chopping. Do this the easy way by grasping the tip with one hand and running your other hand down the stem, taking off the leaves as you go. No need to dry before using.
 
I have a a basil plant that is doing beautifully, as I planted it in Miracle Gro potting soil. The package said it was for flowers and vegetables, but now I'm wondering if the Miracle Gro is safe or if it's toxic. Someone suggested that it might be. Anyone know? A friend says it's toxic, and my husband feels that all commercial veggies & herbs are grown in such a medium. I planned on giving some to my son & his wife, but I don't want to if it's not safe. Thanks! Best regards, SH
You know, I have wondered about this too so when your question came in, I called them up. The fellow I asked had to do some checking but then read from something that said "this product is safe around edible plants--all you have to do is wash them before eating." I think I would feel better about it if he had said "oh absolutely."
 
Thank you, I have two tomato plants that are growing large nice tomatoes but the plant itself has not grown at all (still 6" tall from the day I planted it). The leaves are a rich green like poinsettias. Strange to me? Thank you. P in FL.
Seems strange to me, too, but I'm no tomato expert. Perhaps since the plant is producing fruit and the existing leaves are healthy, there really isn't a problem. I would just keep an eye on it, take good care with water and regular fertilizing and see what happens.
 
I have a small herb garden with four plants each of sage, rosemary, thyme, parsley, lavender, and basil. All of these plants are in the same bed, and all are doing well...or were doing well. Something is eating my sage. The culprit is leaving everything else alone except the sage. What critter could be feasting on my sage? LP
It's difficult to say without more description of the damage but I noticed a similar situation with the sage in my own garden that looked like slugs.
 
My son is working on school project, to see the difference between 2 types of fertilizer (regular fertilizer versus Organic fertilizer). We bought some basil seeds and planted them in each container of each type of fertilizer. It has been 4 weeks now, and I haven't seen anything growing. I used the fertilizer only to plant the seeds, and did not use any natural dirt. We left the containers outside the house. Did we do something wrong? How long does it usually take for basil to grow from a seed? Thanks for your time. TH
You are going to need some sort of soil or seed starting medium to get your seeds to germinate. Fertilizers serve to enrich the soil and then the soil provides the nutrients to the plant. I encourage you and your son to Google "seed starting" to find out more information on the process.
Dear Apinchof, I have a red Spanish pepper plant and I have a problem; the flowers open and are white, when they start closing again the chiles should start developing but instead the flower and the whole small-undeveloped chili pod just fall off. What is my problem? - J
You don't say where you are gardening but my first impulse is to say that it is probably still too chilly for your pepper plants. They really like the heat. If you are in a warm climate, you might want to consider some fertilizer. Choose something without nitrogen which will encourage more leaf growth rather than fruit production.
Hi, I am wanting to start a herb garden, I have bought all my herbs, but when I went to plant them I found that the soil is completely full of roots from the surrounding plants. What do I do about this? Do I have to dig it all up and use new soil ??? Please help Thanks J
You are likely to injure those surrounding plants if you disturb their roots. Unless you can find another suitable location, your best bet will be to build a raised bed by adding more soil that is amended with lots of good organic matter. Google "raised beds" to find more information on the subject if it is unfamiliar to you.
I had been planning to make an herb garden in my back yard. Upon digging around to test soil locations, I discovered my entire yard has reddish, thick soil which I figure is clay. Can I still grow a garden in my soil? Do you have any tips on how to work around this inconvenience?
I'm glad you are going to plant an herb garden. You will find so much joy (and good eats) from it. The clay will likely present drainage problems. You will need to amend your current soil with plenty of organic matter. In addition to a good compost, consider garden-type sand or small coarse gravel. You might also want to build raised beds. If you aren't familiar with this concept, Google the term "raised garden beds" for links to lots of good information.
Hi there, I have found a bunch of little green worms on my basil plants. They start out as little tiny bumps on the leaves. The next thing I know, there are little tiny green worms (they move like inch worms) on the basil and chew big holes in the leaves. What can I use to prevent them? They have also attacked my leaf mustard as well.
Thanks, TM
You can handpick the caterpillars or you can spray them with a BTK solution, a safe method of control. Just follow label directions.
Need advice on my German thyme we really enjoy this herb for lots of meals, but my question is is it safe to bring it indoor or will that bring in pest to my house plants? thanks mt
Thyme isn't often bothered by pests so you probably don't need to worry about your houseplants. To be safe, you could repot it into clean potting soil and give it a good spray-down with a stream of water before bringing it indoors.
Dear Sir, I found your web site while searching for information on Kaffir Lime tree. I have a tree given to me by a friend who went for holiday in Florida. I have it in a large pot in my back yard in Houston, Texas. I am trying to find out why does my tree have these leaves where it looked like something has burrowed into the vein of the leaves. I have sprayed with Insecticide soap but they keep coming back. Can you please advise what I can do to prevent this on my tree? Also when is a good time to prune the tree down. It has grown to about 6 feet in height and I want to trim it down. Please advise. Thank you. CQ
Your lime tree mostly likely has a case of citrus leafminers. To date, no chemical insecticide has proven effective in controlling this moth. The best defense is other insects like ladybugs, fire ants and lacewings. You should be trimming the plant regularly to encourage growth.
I have Basil, growing very well in a raised bed with excellent soil and amendments, along with other herbs, pepper plants, etc. I have some holes in the leaves and this morning i noticed a rather large, green worm on the underside of one of the leaves.......please let me know how to organically get rid of this. Thank you (other than just picking them off when I see them...:)
Oh, I hope you don't have those creepy hornworms. They are as large as your thumb and have a thorn growing out between their eyes. Handpicking is about the only way to get rid of these but do it fast, they will devastate a plant. There are so many different worms and caterpillars that it's hard for me to say how to control them. It is important to correctly identify each pest before just getting rid of it. Some of them are the good guys, like butterflies or bad guy predators, so try to find a book or a local bug expert to help you. My favorite book on the subject is "The Texas Bug Book: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly."
What is the best way to trim fresh Dill? I grow different herbs in the summer, but have not had the chance to grow Dill until recently. I thought that when an herb flowered it was "too mature"? My Dill has many flowers. Do I trim it from the bottom or from the top? My Oregano and Thyme are flowering also? Help.
Dill fronds are best trimmed from the base of the plant. You're right about flowers signaling the end of the life cycle for annuals, like dill or basil, but oregano and thyme are perennials. For these, you can just enjoy the pretty flowers in your garden or add tasty color to your cooking. All herb flowers are edible.
I make Dill Pickles every year. My dill is almost ready to cut, but my cucumbers are just starting to vine out. How can I keep my dill until my cucumbers are ready to pickle? KS
You can extend the life of your dill plants by pinching off any flowers as they bud. Dill grows so quickly, you might want to start a few more plants to ensure a continuous supply.
Hi, I was just wondering if you tell me what kind of herbs and spices can I plant that will come every year. I'm new at this and I want to start my own little garden. Thanks SS
Most herbs are perennials, meaning they come back every year. Some of the more popular ones, like basil, dill and parsley, are annuals that live out their life cycles in one season. My suggestion is to decide what herbs you would enjoy growing and then research their individual needs. Check our Reference Desk for links around this site to information about individual herbs and herb gardening in general. I encourage you to have fun with it!
 
How do I keep bugs from eating holes in my basil plants? J
First you need to identify the pest. It's hard to know how to treat the problem until you know what it is.
Is it possible to grow a peppercorn plant? If so, can they be grown indoors? C
The peppercorn vine thrives in the jungles of India and Indonesia where the average rainfall is about 100 inches. Propagation is accomplished through cuttings. Even if you could duplicate these conditions in a greenhouse, I doubt if you would be able to find a cutting of the plant to start with.
 
In regards to the question about a person trying to grow a tree from seeds taken from a jar of store-bought spices. I'd be curious to know if s/he has any success at all. Many store-bought spices (i.e., mass-produced types), especially imported ones (most spices) are irradiated before they can be shipped to the USA. They are subject to fairly high-intensity (I believe gamma) radiation via industrial sterilizers. This ensures that the spices do not carry either diseases (molds, fungi, E.coli, etc.) or pests (insects, spores, cysts, etc.) and also industrially-prepared spices often contain a fairly high amount of "bug parts"! But I digress (yet another argument for growing your own!!!) Anyhow, the irradiation in addition to sterilizing the material will also typically disrupt the genes of any seeds in the mix to the point where they will not germinate. BTW, I work in the nuclear industry (health physics, specifically) and once in college did an experiment of subjecting chia seeds to various levels of radiation to see the effects on germination (high doses hindered it). For more info. there was an excellent article about spice irradiation in the Journal of Health Physics.
Thanks for your comments and information. This is a good point I hadn't thought of in trying to grow seeds from the spice aisle. The whole topic would be worthy of an article, wouldn't it? I always wonder how many people are aware of the irradiation of spices.
 
I just bought a basil plant from the grocery store and planted it in my windowsill. How do you trim a basil plant to make it most full or do you need to trim it at all? I once saw a basil plant at a friend’s house that looked more like a basil bush with thick stems and very full leaves. I’d love to be able to have such a plentiful plant but I find that my plants always grow tall and scrawny. Any ideas? H
Basil plants thrive on being pinched so be sure to add leaves to your cooking frequently. Pinch off a stem just above a spot where more leaves are emerging. I have had good luck with basil plants by feeding with an organic seaweed based fertilizer every other week.
 
Hello there, I have some sort of weird brown spots showing up on my oregano plant. I am wanting to get rid of them, but want to do it organically. Do you know how I can? I scrolled through your Q&A section, but couldn't find an answer. Would appreciate any info on this and how to get rid of it. Thanks, JA
Hard to say what this might be without knowing more or seeing the plant. Oregano is prone to root rot so make sure it is planted in well-drained soil. The spots could also be from water saturation--try not to get the leaves wet when watering and water the plant early in the day when possible.
 
My basil plant is inside and is doing great. I have taken most of the leaves off of many stems, and was wondering if leaves will grow back where I pulled the previous ones off, or if I need to cut the stem, which will then regrow to produce more leaves? No flowers have come yet. Please email me with any information. Thanks. A
It is better to remove entire stems, not just leaves, when harvesting herbs. This will encourage more bushy growth.
 
How easy is it to plant and grow melaleuca? NY
Trees are a bit out of my element but I found this interesting article about the "paperbark tree." Sounds like they might be too easy to grow.
 
I watered my garden midday. When I went to "visit" it again I noticed the leaves on my
cucumber plants and a few of my collards were turning white on the edges. Did I water at the wrong time or is this some kind of fungus? Thanks. Goofy Gardener
Since it came up so quickly, it is probably safe to assume that it is some sort of residue left from the water. Keep an eye on the situation to make sure it doesn't get any worse. "They" always say to water gardens in the morning and container plants between 3 and 6 p.m.
 
The two most important crops in my garden are the tomatoes and bush beans. I just planted some fennel in the herb garden which is about 30 feet from the tomatoes and beans. Is the fennel close enough to interfere with the tomatoes and beans? Should I get rid of the fennel? I just found your website and I love it. Thanks, CL in Ks.
Your tomatoes and beans should be safe. In the book The Moosewood Restaurant Kitchen Garden, David Hirsch suggests that poor companions be separated by a distance of two rows.
 
I grow herbs for use but primarily for interest in my garden. The blossoms on one sage are to my waist. They are now spent. How should I remove them, or should I remove them? Thank you.
Oh nice--I would have loved to have seen that! You should go ahead and remove them so that the plant can concentrate on growing foliage rather than seeds.
 
I'm having a problem with my dill plants. I grow them indoors in spot that gets plenty of indirect sunshine. I say indirect because I'm in Arizona and the heat is too much for them to be outdoors. Unfortunately, now I'm down to one plant from three. The leaves are drying up and becoming brittle. How do I save my remaining plant? They were transplants from a store, and thrived beautifully for the first 2-3 weeks. That is when I noticed that the first one didn't look very good. Within a week, it was completely dead and the roots just pulled right out of the dirt. I've sprayed them with 'Safer' soap dust, but my second one died last week. What am I doing wrong, and how can I prevent this from happening again when I get new ones to replace them? I'm also growing Oregano (which barely showed two leaves before dying on me), Basil which never grew, Parsley which is doing beautifully, Chives which started nicely but now stopped growing and bell peppers. I had four (everything is from seeds), but now they have all died. Please help, I'm at a complete loss! Thanks. MF
Sorry you are having such troubles. Indoor herb gardening isn't nearly as easy "they" make it out to be, in my humble opinion. The biggest problem is getting enough sunlight-most herbs need at least six hours. Be sure you are using a high quality potting soil, that the plants have good air circulation and look into each plant's water needs individually. Specifically, I would guess your dill was damaged in the transplanting. They have a long taproot that makes them hard to repot. You might try planting seeds where you want them to grow next time around. You will want to keep oregano a bit on the dry side. Try fertilizing your chives with some used coffee grounds and keep any flowers snipped back. Bell peppers, and chiles, benefit from planting a book of matches (remove the cover) in the soil.
 
I wanted to know if I could plant strawberry plants in a garden box with either Roman or German Chamomile. I live in Tn and I thought Chamomile would "look" nice with red. Goofy Gardener.
I don't see why not. Chamomile is said to enhance the growth of plants that are around it so you will probably have excellent strawberries.
 
I plant pimento in a bed outside each year in the spring. In the late summer I get one or two peppers. In the fall they begin to really produce but it is too late for them to ripen before the weather gets too cold. My question is will they grow in south central
Alabama, and if so what can I do to get better results? GA
You might want to see if you can find a pepper that matures more quickly than the varieties you have tried in the past. I suspect your real problem, however, is your  summer heat. Peppers don't like to be too cool or too hot. If your temperatures get into the 90's try giving the plants some shade, if possible. Peppers also like well-nourished soil that is high in phosphorus, calcium and sulfur. I had a very nice crop of chile and bell peppers last year in Louisiana. I worked bonemeal (phosphorus) into the soil before planting and then put a book of matches with the cover torn off (sulfur) into each hole before planting.
 
Hi..can you give me some info on how I can get my Lemon Balm to grow more? It's been one height now for some time (approx. 4") I looks healthy, gets plenty of sun in our sun room. Does it need a fertilizer? Thanks! SK
A good dose of fertilizer would surely help. You might consider the size of the pot as well. If you think the plant might benefit from transplanting, go up to a pot size that is only an inch or two larger than the one that it is in.
 
Hello. I feel like an idiot but I sure hope you can help me. I planted carrots and summer savory in my garden, side by side. Then we had a torrential downpour and all my seeds got washed away from where they had been planted. Throwing my hands up in disgust, I allowed them to grow wherever they settled. Now I have something growing that looks very much like carrots above the ground but nothing like carrots below the ground. I have never planted savory before this summer and have absolutely no idea what it's supposed to look like. I'm not even sure what it's supposed to taste like but I've been told it's a very good herb to use. Can you help me? Dummy from Ontario
Don't be so hard on yourself. I salute you for experimenting. Savory is a great herb to use! The seedlings will have oval leaves that don't really look anything like carrots. As it grows, however, summer savory develops into thin leaves on slender stems that are sort of like a soft rosemary. You have seen "All About Savory," right?
 
We are just New England people. We have chamomile which has bloomed and appears to now be dying. Should we cut off the flowers, perhaps close to ground level, will they produce more growth and flowers or is the first bloom the last? They are the 18 -20" type. I have never harvested the blooms for tea and have been growing only 2 years but may do so in future. Have 3 plants in pots and 2 in beds at this time. One's in beds have yet to bloom. Ones in pots have bloomed and blooms are dying. Seed from NK. Any info. appreciated on second bloom or no. Chamomile an experiment, we mainly grow and hybridize hosta. Some day-lillies also. Also, what is your opinion on horseradish? How deep should a barrier be dug? Thanks, DJ
Sounds like an interesting experiment with the chamomile. Regular newsletter readers know that I love an experiment.  I don't know a lot about it but I did a little surfing. One important thing to know is that there are two types, German which is an annual and Roman which is a perennial. Seems that most people prefer the Roman chamomile for the herb garden. Most of the pages that I read recommended harvesting the flowers individually as they bloom but didn't mention a second blooming. Apparently if you cut back the dying foliage, more green will grow back. Sorry I can't be of more help. I have chamomile on my list of things to learn more about!
As for the horseradish, I'm not sure about a barrier. One of my source books recommends furrows that are 3-6 inches deep at two-foot intervals. I hope that is what you were wondering.
 
Hello...I have a nymph type black dotted bug on my dill. I live in upstate New York and this is the first year I've grown dill. These "bugs" are 1/4 - 1/2 inch in length and are killing the tops of my dill as it grows. I grow organic veggies so please, please help me. Barb in Middleburgh
As bad as it may seem for your dill, these bugs might actually be good for the rest of your garden. Take a look at this article about beneficial bugs from the Brooklyn Botanical Garden and follow the link at the end of the article for maybe help in identifying your culprit.
 
Hi! I'm hoping you can help me figure out what is attacking my garden and how to best tackle the problem...I live in Western NY and have a small herb garden at the side of my house. The herbs have been growing wonderfully, until today when I realized there are great BIG holes in my echinacea. Upon further watch for the culprit, I did find a few aphids, but nothing else. I thought aphids sucked rather than chewed, however. Any ideas of what it could be? None of my other plants (such as parsley, rosemary, thyme (ha-ha) oregano, lavender and chamomile seem to be affected. Thanks! L
Sounds like caterpillars or slugs to me. Caterpillars are hard to spot but can just be picked off by hand. You can check for slugs by putting out a saucer of beer at night. They are drawn to it but can't get out.
 
Hi. I am hoping you can help me... We have been growing nasturtium since Oct. 2003 and they are just beginning to bloom. Why? What is the best way to grow this plant? Also, we are planning on selling the flowers at our local farmer's market. Could you tell me the best way to pick them to sell, how to store them, length of edible time and a suggestion as to a price to sell them at. I would be so grateful for your help. Thanks, K
Nasturtiums are annuals that can't take the heat. If you are having a problem with lack of blooms, you may be over-fertilizing. This causes the foliage to grow rather than putting energy into flower production. As for the farmer's market, good idea! I'm no expert on selling flowers but I would clip them with a few of the tasty leaves just as close to sale time as possible. You might pack them in plastic bags with holes or just bag them up as people buy. I've always just clipped as I wanted to use them so I'm not sure how long they will keep. Price will depend on what the market will bear. Ask a few of the other vendors what they might suggest and then gauge your customer's reactions.
 
I have a rosemary plant in a container and some basil planted in the ground. They are both developing a white sticky substance--it's not powdery, it looks like foam and it is somewhat sticky in minute areas of the plants. Can you tell me what this might be. I rinse it off, but it keeps coming back. B
My first guess is spider mites. They are tiny insects that are hard to see but leave a visible web. Depending on how advanced the problem is, you might be able to eliminate them by wiping the stems with a cotton ball soaked in rubbing alcohol. If things have gone too far, your best bet is to replace the plants. While treating you should isolate the plants to prevent the problem from spreading to others nearby.
 
We are growing cilantro only to make salsa and the cilantro is budding flowers now but nothing else is ready yet. It looks very healthy but someone said it is not called cilantro after it blossoms? Can you help. DV in KY
You might want to plant more seeds because after flowering, your cilantro will probably be on the way out. The seeds of the cilantro flowers are called coriander. You can use them green in cooking or dry them. Read more about them both at "All About Cilantro" and "All About Coriander."
 
I am growing dill and am not sure how far down to pinch it off when harvesting it. Am I supposed to leave a bit of the frons, or do I pinch it off close to the bottom? My stalks get too heavy and often slump over as they are very tender. What can I do to prevent this? I have read your article "All about Dill" but didn't see an answer to this question. Thanks for your help. SW
Sounds like you have some nice healthy plants there! When the dill plants are about five inches high you should pinch down to the base of the plant but as they get older you want to snip the fronds at the point where they are emerging from the stalk. To prevent slumping, you might want to try stakes or a small trellis. If you choose to do this, poke the support into the soil when you sow the seeds or put in place when you are transplanting bedding plants. If you did it later, when it became necessary, you run the risk of disturbing the roots, something dill plants don't like.
 
I've just moved to hot, dry Phoenix, Az. I've created a special place in my yard for a herb garden. Please tell me what herbs will grow here. I'm hoping to plant basil, chives, parsley, oregano, and mint. Am I in the right ballpark?
I suspect you will have a challenge with your plants in the dog days of summer but you are certainly on the right track with the herbs you mentioned. Others you might experiment with are epazote, lavender, rosemary and tarragon. You will probably want to wait until fall to plant sage, dill, chervil, arugula and thyme. A field trip to the botanical gardens there in Phoenix would probably give you lots more information about what to grow and when.
 
Hi there. Some of my plants have a white powdery/cottony substance. Are these insects?? What can I do to get rid of this in a safe way that won't harm the plant and be toxic to us?? Thanks GB
Oh dear, sounds like you have a bad case of mealy bugs. The first thing to try is rubbing the infected areas with a cotton ball soaked in rubbing alcohol. If this doesn't work, you might try spraying an insecticidal soap product. Depending on the extent of damage, you might just have to replace the plant. I have had this trouble in the past and sometimes I just couldn't get rid of them. Be sure to separate the sick plants from your healthy ones right away. Mealy bugs can spread quickly.
 
Purchased a bottle of whole Allspice and one of whole dill seeds, I live in San Diego and soaked the allspice and removed some plump large seeds from the pods, will these grow in full sun if I start the indoors cause it is rainy and pretty cold outside in the fifties. Would an Allspice tree grow as slowly as my Bayleaf trees...DS
Your experiments sound interesting. I've never tried starting the seeds from the spice aisle--just those from the garden center or flowering plants. My best resource about allspice tells me that the commercial trees are grown from fresh ripe fruit of established plants. Germination will take at least two weeks, maybe longer. After about one year they may be 12 inches high. Flowering generally takes about 7 years.
 
I need to know when is the best time to spray my strawberry plants and what should I use?
You don't say why you want to spray your strawberry plants so it is difficult to give you a direct answer. From what I understand, strawberries are fairly easy to grow as long as you water and feed them regularly. If you want to spray a fertilizer, be sure to use one that is labeled as safe for produce. Just to be sure, you might ask your local garden center or agricultural extension office about specific recommendations for growing strawberries in your area.
 
Concerned Authority ,this is one farmer from Maharashtra one of the states of India. I have read about vanilla and its importance and its value as a money making capacity. I want to know, can I cultivate it in Maharashtra and if yes please give me some details about its cultivation or tell about any institution in my state which can give me details about its cultivation?
Dear Sir/Madam, I am from India. I would like to grow vanilla in my field. Can you please help me. I would like to know what type of soil and climate is suitable. Where will I get the necessary items to grow this crop. Looking forward for your reply. Regards, RR
I wonder if both of you have heard about the recent vanilla seminar held in your area. I found an interesting site called India Together that you may find useful. I hope you have the best of luck with this endeavor.
 
I have bought some Garlic in a pot and have planted this within my herb patch, in the garden. How do I know when to dig it up to use it? Also I have planted some Chervil in the same area but it is starting to go a red colour. Before planting it I broke up some of the roots in case it was a little pot bound and I am also keeping it well watered. Any Ideas??
After the plants shoot up flowers you will want to cut the stalks back to allow the heads of garlic to use all that energy to develop. Leave a couple of flowers as a guide; when they begin to brown and wilt you know they are almost ready. Stop watering for a few days and then pull the heads out of the ground. Allow to dry out of the sun for a few more days. One reference book tells me that chervil does not take well to transplanting and doesn't really like full sun. Perhaps your plant is experiencing shock that it may or may not recover from or it's just getting too much sun? Can you check back with the place you bought it from to ask questions?
I have two questions about cardamom. First, I sometimes see it spelled cardamon. which is it? Secondly, I recently bought a cardamom plant (at Home Depot, believe it or not!) and it says it is non-flowering and tropical. It doesn't tell me about sun exposure or watering. Can you help? What can I expect from this plant? Will it get very big. I bought it in a 3 gallon container and have replanted it. Thanks. TH
Either one of the spellings for cardamom is correct. You don't say if you are keeping your new plant as a houseplant or if you replanted it outdoors. Since it is a tropical plant, you will need to keep it fairly warm, the low 60's (F) at a minimum. It likes a rich, moist soil and partial shade. Cardamom is in the ginger family so it will likely spread by throwing up more shoots and, in the wild, will grow leafy stalks that can reach 18 feet. The only one I have seen under cultivation is more a manageable bushy plant about 2 feet high.
Hi, I was told I could grow arugula in my kitchen window all winter long. I live here on the East Coast and I have a nice sunny window in my kitchen perfect for growing herbs.
Do you sell the plants or only the seeds. Do you sell the small plants for replanting? Thanks, JD
We just talk about herbs at this site, I  don't sell plants or seeds. Arugula is fairly easy to grow although it does best in cooler temperatures. Read more about one of my favorite herbs at "All About Arugula." You should be able to find the fast-growing seeds at most garden centers. Some nurseries will sell transplants in the Spring and the Fall.  
Hi, I have a small herb garden, located in a sunny spot, in Brisbane. I use the herbs mostly for culinary purposes but do resort to them if suffering from any ailment rather than heading for the chemist. Today I bought, from a school fete, a herb called five spice. I have heard about this Chinese herb, but only used in powder form and mixed using herbs and spices. I have been unable to find anything from the internet in regard to cooking with the fresh herb and caring for it. Can you help, or know anyone who can? KM
The term "five spice" must be a nickname for this plant. Chinese Five Spice Powder is a blend of well, five spices. Star anise is the dominating flavor and is combined with Szechuan peppercorns, fennel seeds, cinnamon and cloves. Perhaps  your local government's agricultural office would know the botanical name for it.
Hello- I'm doing some research, and would like to know if you could help me in finding some information about rooting allspice cuttings. I live in Orlando, Florida if that helps! Thanks, K
Most of my references do not even mention growing allspice. The one that does says it is most often grown from seed. Since it is a tree, propagation is probably done through grafting as well. I'll bet the people at the Fruit and Spice Park in Homestead, Florida will be able to provide you plenty of information. I know they have allspice trees there.
What brand of soil should I use for my rosemary plant. LM Lake Forest, CA
Rosemary likes a well-drained soil with a pH of 6.5-7.0. Plant it in a sunny place that you want to keep it for awhile because it doesn't take well to transplanting. If you are going to plant it into a container, work a bit of sand into an all-purpose potting soil mix. Before planting in the ground, work the soil with sand and compost or other organic matter.
Hi-I planted dill weed in my garden this year for the first time and they have become quite tall. I'd like to start canning pickles and I wasn't sure when the dill is ready to use. Some bunches of them have yellow flowers on them-does that mean they're ready to be cut? Could you please let me know? Also, once they're cut off do they keep growing back year after year? Thank-you for your time. KJJ
You can, and should, take trimmings from your dill plant throughout the season. Snip the fronds at their base from the main stem. You will also want to trim the flowers to encourage more leaf growth. Dill is an annual herb so it will only last  for one season.
First, let me say I get your E-mail and I love it and your page. It's the most comprehensive I've found. I'm the girl that can kill silk plants, but my herbs ... well, they're thriving! I'm growing chives, 4 types of Basil, Rosemary, Oregano, Dill, Cilantro, Thyme, Arugula, Marjoram and Italian Flat Leaf Parsley. Now, for my question ... Can you root the parsley? Why I'm asking is that when my Basil got too big, I cut off the tops, plunked it in water and rooted new plants! Can I do this with my parsley? I'd like to make more plants. Thanks for your help. SW
Well, gosh! Doesn't sound like you need my advice at all! I did not know and have never seen any mention of rooting basil in water. I'm going to try it. As for the parsley, this may be more difficult because the roots don't generally like to be moved. But you are on a roll--give it a try. Thanks for your compliments, too, I am glad you are enjoying the monthly newsletter and the site.
Hi, Thanks for all the info on your website. Someone had written you asking about drying the cardamom they were growing. I am wondering if they ever wrote you back. I am interested in growing a few plants, but do not know how to start. Do you have any advice? Thanks, S
No word back from the cardamom-growing reader but I am guessing he or she lives in a tropical part of the world. Cardamom is apparently a difficult plant to grow which is why it is an expensive spice. The Richters catalog sells plants and seeds, reporting that it is a pretty houseplant but rarely flowers as such. They also say that the seeds are difficult to germinate but that the plants will grow in zones 8-10 (on the US Hardiness Scale). Another of my resources does not recommend it for the home garden. If you do decide to try it, be sure to give your plant a steady supply of water and seek out a local expert for site specific growing advice. And let us know how it goes!
I recently planted my first herb garden...I would like to know the best way to cut my herbs...for instance in the middle of a stem, from the base of the plant etc. I have planted basil, chives, oregano, thyme, parsley, and dill...all the plants seem to be thriving but I don't want to kill them or prevent them from further sprouts by cutting them the wrong way. Any help would be appreciated. Thank you, CO
Your garden sounds great! Snipping herbs is like pinching other plants back to encourage growth. For most of them, pinch sprigs about half way down a stalk at a point just above a pair of leaves. Keep in mind the shape of plant you are creating as you do it and never take more than one third of the plant at a time. For the chives, clip the leaves at the base of the plant.
What are the effects of thips on a paprika plant and are the effects long term and what pesticides do you recommend?
We cover thrips on indoor plants a little bit in a question below.  I can't seem to find much information about thrips in my own references but found a great resource for organic pesticides.  Oddly enough, it is included in a site called tracker-outdoors that is mostly about hunting.  They suggest making a nicotine tea concoction that might help with thrips. That link should take you there. 
I have several herbs and I use a safe insecticide but I have a problem with little flying insects that look like gnats. They seem to live in the soil and when I spray it only lasts a day and they're back. Because I live in an apartment my herbs are potted indoors. Do you know what these pests might be and how I can get rid of them without harming my plants? Thanks - Vi --Qld, Australia
Hmmm, maybe you have "thrips" or "flea beetles." Thrips cause the leaves to get yellow, and then brown, spots. Try rinsing them away with lukewarm water. They like dry, warm conditions so you might increase the humidity around your plants. Flea beetles eat tiny holes in the leaves. Outdoors they can be prevented with a layer of mulch around the base of the plants so maybe you could come up with an attractive indoor mulch. They thrive on weeds and plant debris so be sure to pick up any dead leaves that fall onto the potting soil.
If you don't think it's either of these pests, maybe you could take one of your pots over to a local garden center for identification.

I have tried to grow dill and cilantro two summers now.  I also put out basil and thyme.  The basil and thyme are thriving, but the others have "burnt" and dried up.  What did I do wrong?  What type of growing conditions do dill and cilantro require. Thanks.  CJ in KY

At first glance, it would seem a bit odd that you are having this problem because all four of the herbs you mention require the same growing conditions: full sun, soil pH of around 6 and moist, well-drained soil. The key may be the one thing cilantro and dill have in common: They do not take to transplanting well because of long roots.  If you are buying established plants now maybe you should try seeds next time.

Why do I have trouble growing purple sage? I leave it in the original pot it wilts, I plant it in my garden & it still wilts. I have good soil, lots of worms & everything else goes crazy. Does it not like me? Help Char
After looking at several sources I have discovered that sage is susceptible to wilt. Two different diseases, Verticillium wilt and Bacterial wilt, can harm plants. You might want to look into the symptoms and remedies for each of these to see if they might be your problem. But I also wonder if maybe you are overwatering. Apparently sage likes to stay a bit on the dry side. It needs well-drained, neutral to alkaline soil and full sun. NationalGardening.com says the sage plant "...does better if not planted in soil that is too fertile." Who knew that could be a problem but if all your other plants are thriving you must have good soil. I encourage you, and all gardeners, to find a high-quality nursery to buy your plants from and then ask a million questions. A local nursery is an excellent source because they are familiar with your particular growing conditions and challenges.
 

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Other articles you might enjoy:

1. The Simple, Essential Herb Garden

2. An Herb Gardener's Diary--Part Three

3. All About Chervil

4. What's the Buzz About Bees?

5. Unusual Gifts for Herb Lovers (or Yourself)

 

 

 

 
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