Spice up your life with an herb garden

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Pensacola is a hotbed of activity when it comes to vegetable and plant varieties, including herbs and spices.

Master gardener Terry Henry’s passion is herb gardening. And while herbs can usually be planted year-round in Pensacola’s climate, she says now is the perfect time to start your garden.

“Plants will thrive in spring and summer and can be started from seeds or transplants carried by many nurseries in our area,” says Henry.

Most grasses do well in our climate, but need good soil, drainage, occasional watering, and plenty of sun. These specifications may seem simple, but depending on where you are planting, they may not be. Henry says she prefers container gardening in order to control the soil and move her herbs around as needed.

After: Explore 6 unique and lush gardens on an annual tour

While many herbs can be stored and dried to create spices at home, some will change if left too long before harvest. For example, in our warm climate, cilantro will bloom and turn cilantro.

“The flowers can then be dried and the seeds can then be stored or ground for coriander,” says Henry.

“If you’re a cilantro fan and want it just for that, there’s now a ‘slow bolting’ cilantro that was developed for warmer climates and doesn’t bolt as quickly into cilantro. It allows a longer harvest of cilantro to add some spicy flavor to salsa and other dishes,” added Henry.

In addition to the herbs that thrive in our region, gardeners also love bell peppers – bell peppers (sweet peppers), jalapenos, habaneros, and ornamental peppers.

Even if you don’t want to eat them, hot peppers can still be fun to grow, according to the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

“Their colorful fruits can be red, purple, yellow or orange and they easily add interest to landscaped beds and containers. For those who love the heat, you can add the hot peppers to different types of vinegar to make your own pepper sauce, or dry chili peppers and grind them to create powdered seasonings,” the Institute explains.

With so many herbs and spices loving our climate, it may come as a surprise to know that the ever-popular lavender isn’t so happy here, despite having “Spanish eyes” or Spanish lavender.

Henry notes that this is changing as “a new variety of lavender has been developed to thrive in humid climates like ours, even surviving our winters here. It is called ‘Phenomenal Lavender’ and has been named the one of Southern Living Magazine’s new plants for 2017.”

Popular herbs in the Pensacola area include:

• Basil

• Rosemary

• Oregano

• Thyme

• Coriander

• Borage

• Dill

• Garlic

• Various mints

Terri S. Tomasini