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Gardening in Gwinnett: Herbs make a great addition to the home garden

Some of the easiest plants to grow in the garden are herbs, such as rosemary, thyme and oregano.

They are often forgotten when selecting plants and planning a garden. Herbs are grown for their fragrance, for cooking or for aesthetics, and are often hardy plants that can survive the hot, dry conditions of Georgia summers.

Many herbs are attractive in perennial borders and foundation plantings. Herbs in containers, such as urns, hanging baskets and window boxes, add to the appearance of a porch or patio.

Most herbs prefer well-drained soil and part shade to full sun. They require only moderate fertilizing, although herbs that are heavily harvested, such as basil, chives and parsley, require higher amounts of fertilizer.

Herbs generally require minimal water and can thrive in dry conditions. The oils inside the plants that give them fragrance and flavor are more concentrated when the plant is dry. They are generally resistant to most garden pests and diseases.

The many types of herbs offer many possibilities for landscaping. Often, they can be combined with annual or perennial flowers. Most are small plants, so they can be grouped for impact. Herb leaves provide various textures - fine, coarse or broad.

Numerous species of thyme are available for the garden. Some grow upright, while others grow flat on the ground and are often used on stone paths between the stones. They are evergreen, with silvery, woolly leaves.

Rosemary is a small evergreen shrub with very fragrant foliage. There are a multitude of varieties of rosemary - some have a weeping growth, and others have a pine scent.

Parsley is often used as a garnish. It comes in two forms - the flat-leafed, Italian parsley, and the curled, French parsley. Oregano is used in a multitude of foods, and the leaves are best used dried.

Mints are a very large group of herbs. They are vigorous growers, and some can become invasive if not confined. They grow best in rich, moist or even damp soil areas with part shade. Grow mints from cuttings, roots or transplants because the mint seeds do not come true to type.

Dill is one of the easiest to grow from seed. It is a cool-weather annual that will quickly go to seed with the onset of warmer weather. Swallowtail butterfly caterpillars love to feed on dill.

Scented geraniums are not grown for their flowers, but for their scent. They are not hardy, so they are best grown in containers so they can be brought indoors during the colder weather. Many types of scented geraniums exist, with scents including rose, apple, apricot, cinnamon, lemon, peppermint and spice.

Harvest herbs when their fragrance oils are at their peak in the morning - after the dew dries, but before the heat of the day. Herbs can be preserved by drying or freezing.

With a little planning, you can grow herbs that will be a great addition to your garden. Grow herbs for their form, color or fragrance - or for all. These plants are versatile and are easy to grow.

Timothy Daly is an agricultural and natural resource agent with the Gwinnett County Extension Service. He can be reached at 678-377-4010 or timothy.daly@gwinnettcounty.com.