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Spice of life
Spice of life

The days are sunny and warm. The earth is thawing, warm to a touch.

It's time to till the garden and plan where to grow your favorite vegetables - and herbs, of course.

Growing herbs is not difficult, say two area gardeners who suggested some tips for making herbs a part of the garden and kitchen.

Just give them a lot of sun - more than four hours a day - and plenty of room, they said.

To grow, many herbs need at least 1 square foot between them and any other plant.

"Enough room so they can do what they do," said Lori Parr-Campbell of Kinship Garden in Missoula.

"If you buy perennials in a pot, stick them the same depth in the garden as they are planted in the pot. Not too deep but not (so shallow) that the root ball is sticking out," she said.

Parr-Campbell also advised watering new plantings really well.

"Most of them don't need water (later)," she said, citing sage as being drought-resistant. She waters her herb garden once a week, giving it a good soaking for the plants' roots.

Basil, however, isn't as hardy and probably could benefit from a little more water.

Garlic should be planted in the fall and harvested in July when the tips of its leaves start to turn brown, according to many planters.

An organic gardener, Parr-Campbell composts her herbs, putting a 2-inch layer of compost around them at the beginning of the season.

She also advised planting herbs in easy-access areas. Hers are in her kitchen garden right out her back door. "It's handy and easy to go out to clip them," she said.

Some herbs can get out of hand without proper tending. Those with roots - oregano, chives, tarragon and mint among them - can take off on gardeners. Plant them in pots to contain the roots.

"Basically, that helps curb the wandering tendency," she said. Every other year, pull the pot up, split the plant in half and either give half to a friend, take it to the garbage dump (where it may grow and beautify the dump) or take it to the Farmer's Market to sell.

If the plant does get out of hand and spreads, Parr-Campbell advised growers to get the shovel out and do some side-cutting, dividing it in size.

"It seems a shame to have to do away with something so prolific," she said. "Nothing is easier than herbs to grow. They're a piece of cake."

Luci Brieger of Lifeline Produce in Victor advises growers to stop harvesting their herbs by mid-September, depending on the size and vigor of the plants.

"You don't want to be … making the plant grow leaves to feed its roots," she said. "If you chop off the leaves, it won't be as vigorous getting through the winter. You have to let it rejuvenate itself. You want to leave a good bit of plant there going into the fall and winter."

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