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Celebrate herbs during National Herb Week

A grouping of herb plants in a garden including nasturtium with red flowers, bright green basil, spiky dark green rosemary, and purple and green leafed sage.
Plant herbs in groups: Nasturtium, Summerlong basil, rosemary, purple sage

My first gardening book was Rodale’s Illustrated Encyclopedia of  Herbs. With its broken spine and pages falling out, it is a well-used, well-loved tome of everything about herbs. I was hooked from the start. And to this day, my garden and containers are always filled with herbs.

The International Herb Association established National Herb Week the week before Mother’s Day. This year, it is May 3-7.

A great resource for herb growers, the Herb Society of America defines herbs as “plants (trees, shrubs, vines, perennials, biennials, or annuals) valued historically, presently, or potentially” for their use to humans.

Minnesota has its own herb society too. It’s active members plan and plant the herb garden at the MN Landscape Arboretum each year.

Long shot of a fenced in area surrounded by a planting of many kinds of flowers and green-leafed plants, and a center planting edged in brick with a tan and gray flagstone walkway.
The herb garden at the MN Landscape Arboretum

Easy to grow

Herb gardening is one of the easiest and oldest types of gardening. Before modern medicine, herbs were used for medicinal purposes and still are today.

As garden plants, herbs are kind and forgiving and grow well under conditions that other plants would find difficult. Dry soil, poor soil, full sun - herbs do well in all of these conditions.

They are great plants for containers and gardens alike — whether you have a few pots on an apartment balcony, some planters on a patio, or a full-blown garden bed. Herbs are easy plants to love.

Visit Vegetables A-Z to learn more on how to grow various herbs.

Herbs as food

Green leafy plant in a vintage terracotta pot painted with decorations.
Mints are a versatile herb. Grow in pots so they don't invade other parts of the garden.

Herbs feed us too. Who doesn’t love fresh basil with tomatoes and cheese? Or garden sage (my personal favorite) in wild rice? How about lavender or mint-flavored sugar in your tea or cilantro on your arrachera? Herbs can be used to flavor vinegar and oil, for hot and cold teas, as dyes and personal products, and featured in arts and crafts.

Herbs also feed pollinators, birds and animals. Let some of your herbs flower to provide nectar for the all-important native and honey bees. Butterflies flit from flower to flower, drinking nectar. Syrphid flies hover over edible flowers like bachelor buttons, alighting to forage. Hummingbirds drink nectar and birds feed on seed heads.

Celebrate all the wonders of herbs this National Herb Week by including them in the plant list for your garden, whether big or small or somewhere in between!

Author: Julie Weisenhorn, Extension educator, horticulture 

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