Growing Herbs in Central Florida

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For the purpose of this blog, the botanical term “herb” is used to refer to the gardening of plants used for food preparation, medicine, or in essential oils for their fragrance. Herbs can be grown inside in small pots set on windowsills or surfaces where there is the sun for at least part of the day. Herbs can also be grown outside in containers on porches and patios or in gardens with other types of plants. When studying history, you can read about what was called “kitchen gardens,” which both rich and poor had to continually provide their meals with herbs for seasoning. Today, many homemakers, including apartment dwellers, continue the practice of year-round kitchen gardens. If you are growing herbs outside in Central Florida, March is considered the best month to begin planting.

For folks living in Central Florida, there are a number of herbs which can be grown even with the concern of high heat, hurricanes, year-round insects, and weeds. It just takes a little more vigilance to grow herbs outside in Central Florida than up north. One significant advantage to Southern growing is there is small danger of frost or freezing. Prepare a rich soil for your herbs, monitor the moisture content, regularly check for insects and disease, and make sure the sun reaches the plants and herbs will thrive.

Some of the best herb varieties to grow in Central Florida include:

  • Anise is a herb with a licorice taste to it and is used in dessert recipes. In fact, there is a delicious cookie recipe named Anise Seed Cookies.
  • Nasturtiums are not only pretty flowers to look at, but their petals and leaves also add a colorful and zesty touch to salads. These flowers are also used as decoration on cakes. (wait until April to plant this herb)
  • Basil, Rosemary, and Mexican Tarragon are best planted in June. To improve branching of these herbs and to prevent flowering, keep the plants pinched back. Meat dishes, especially those with a tomato-based sauce, (often Italian style) use these herbs.
  • The herbs that can be planted from plants, not seeds, such as ginger and bay laurel can be planted as late as August. Both of these herbs are used in a variety of culinary dishes.
  • Mint is usually planted in September and will often be a part of cooling drinks, meant sauces, ice cream, candy, and other desserts.
  • Herbs used in main course dishes, often with meat, fish, or fowl include parsley, chives, garlic, sage, and cilantro. October is the best month for planting these herbs either by seed or established plant.
  • Other herbs which prefer cooler weather and are used in a variety of salads and meat and fish dishes can be planted in November and December and include thyme, fennel, and dill.

Growing herbs can be fun and certainly is a great way to spice up the daily menu. Living in Central Florida means most herbs are easy to grow for most months of the year. And, herbs grown inside can be grown all year long. An excellent way to enjoy herbs all year is to start your plants outside in pots and bring them inside during the coldest months of January and February or if there is a cold snap in December or March. As herb plants are attractive to look at as well as enjoyable to use to season food, bringing them inside can be a win, win the event.