Herb Garden in Southwest Florida
If you’re the type of person who doesn’t like the full-time job of having an elaborate tropical garden, you might want to try an herb garden. It will only consume a small portion of your well-maintained landscape or even less when growing in pots.
If you’re like me, you’ll probably dig the entire side yard and start a herb farm. Large garden, small garden in pots, in the ground or in raised beds (at least 6 inches high) everything is fun. Some herbs can be very aggressive, like mint. For better growth control, grow them in pots, but be careful that they don’t leak out of the drainage holes at the bottom of the pot.
For starters, I’m going to pick some easy-to-grow herbs that work really well here in South Florida. They are also probably herbs that we use fresh most of the time in our cooking. You’ll not only save money – herbs can be expensive if you buy these little jars from the supermarket every time you want a little fresh basil in your salad – let’s face it, food really tastes better with fresh herbs. . In addition, the scent is exceptional.
When you’re ready to start, the seeds are easy to start. I need instant gratification so I buy my already started pots. Make sure they have good drainage and that they are not overwatered. Like most plants, herbs have not learned to swim.
Unlike the north, where we grow herbs in the sun, here in Florida I have found the spotty sun best – where they get a little bit of sun, but not full sun all day, the plants on fire. In fact, mine are in pots on my screened porch facing west. Hot sun, right? Not really. The screen cuts out the sun’s rays enough to be the perfect light for the herbs. I water a little every day, which seems to work well, and they are close to the kitchen for convenience.
I planted rosemary directly in the garden, also under a dappled light, and it grew into a small tree. Rosemary is quite rustic.
Parsley and dill are just great, but don’t forget that they are also host plants (plants that female butterflies lay their eggs on) for the black swallowtail that we have here in Florida. So be on the lookout if they are planted outdoors for small white eggs the size of a pinhead or maybe even caterpillars.
I have to tell you a funny story: a friend bought some parsley to use in his dinner one night. She still had a bouquet left, so put it in a glass of water on the counter just like you would with flowers. Dinner was great and the next day she left for the weekend. Back home Monday, she found caterpillars on the kitchen counter! The parsley must have had butterfly eggs on it when they used it, and then the caterpillars emerged. Just a little extra protein, no problem. So they had to have their butterfly and eat it too. So, advice to the wise … inspect and rinse with water. Is it me or what? It seems that no matter what plants I’m talking about, it always comes down to butterflies. Too bad.
Basil is perhaps the most widely used herb in my house. My wife is Italian and she is only second behind garlic. Keep your basil out of direct sunlight and don’t overwater it, it can grow into a beautiful little shrub. Excellent on pizza, used fresh in salad and anything Italian.
These are just a few examples of easy to grow herbs. Go out and experiment. This is the best part. We always learn more from our failures than from our successes.
Don’t forget to help save the monarch, plant milkweed, and keep fluttering!
Mike Malloy, known as the “Butterfly Guy” of Naples, sells butterfly host and nectar plants, as well as tropical plants, at the Third Street South Farmer’s Market every Saturday morning.