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Matthew.Brendan

Growing a herb garden, advice?

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I am planning a herb garden for the spring and need some advice on, well, just about everything.

Can you recommend a botanist or nursery in the Charlotte area? I'd rather skip over the guy working at Home Depot/Lowes, although if nothing else I could use that as a jumping off point.

I live in the Matthews/Mint Hill area, but am willing to travel anywhere in the Charlotte area for knowledgeable help.

If this is way out of range for this forum, I apologize, but would be very grateful if you could point me to any other Charlotte related discussion boards. Thanks!

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Most herbs require at least 6 hours direct sun/day. So plant them in a sunny location. My experience is that it is pretty easy to start most herbs from seed. You can get them off the internet and start them in potting soil yourself. I have done this for some varieties that are hard to find like like thai basil. I can't speak much for what is available around the Matthews area, but there are several places at the Lake that sell herbs if you don't want to grow them yourselve.

Because of our climate, some herbs are perennials and only need to be planted once. Oregano, thyme, and rosemary are examples. In fact rosemary will grow into a rather large bush. Others will need to be replanted each year like basil. Sage will also over winter, but its usually only good for two seasons at the most. Some herbs like cilantro are problematic because they don't like the heat in the Charlotte area and will bolt to seed fairly quickly once it gets hot. I've never had that much luck with it.

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Probably easiest to just buy an herb book, they will detail each herb and it's needs, but in general, depending on what you select, be sure to separate them in the bed or plot you use at least 6 inches down into the soil with a divider as some are pretty invasive. Mint is an obvious one, though my basil, oregano and thyme tend to overly flourish as well. I've had difficulty growing garlic, though I really do think it keeps some of the insects (and critters) away from the other herbs. Otherwise use SevenDust (on any beleaguered plant you grow), the stuff is magical. You also want [generally] to plant them in a place that has morning sun as opposed to evening sun, otherwise water/dampness sits on the plants all day causing a variety of problems.

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I successfully grew garlic once. Because of our climate here in Charlotte, you have to plant it here in December and January for a June harvest. It needs to go through a cycle of cold weather and this is the only time of the year here that it will work. The other thing you have to do is to cut off the center stalk before it forms its characteristic curl, else the growth of the bulbs will be stunted.

The nice thing about growing your own garlic is that you can grow varieties that are not available in the stores here.

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^ True, you can generally only find elephant and the other variety in the store (whatever it is called), my local Farmers Market is decent, but don't think I've seen anyone selling garlic there. Interesting you've been able to grow it in a single year, I've had several people tell me it is really a two year plant, but I haven't been able to keep them alive that long. :angry:

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I recommend rosemary. Mine has grown well with no effort whatsoever and is great for cooking.

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Yeah, rosemary is failsafe, and is really more an evergreen shrub than a traditional herb anyway, I have re-transplanted my rosemary bush twice now and taken it with me when I've moved (rather attached to it..), it just stops growing for a couple of months until it recovers and then resumes it's normal pace. If you can grow enough of it like shrubbery, your yard, porch, etc. will eventually smell incredible all the time, and would only take a few years to grow to a sufficiently large size. That is my plan one day.

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Thank you all very much for the information, especially about the garlic - it looks like I'll want to get that in the ground soon. I should have given a little more information in my original post. The area I have in mind is a brick circle that is on the side of my house. It looks like it probably had plants of some sort in it many years ago, but had been neglected and was all over-grown. I cleared it out and plan to fill it with topsoil.

The thing is, it sits in between my neighbors house and I, and while it does get good early morning sunlight, by noon or so it is no longer in direct sunlight and is fairly shady on that side of the house. So my concern is that most plants will not get enough sun in that location.

The alternative is to plant in the backyard, where I could be very specific with the place I choose to plant, and the herbs would have the ability to be in full sun for most of the day.

I am also curious to learn about any plants that thrive in very wet conditions. My backyard borders the floodplain of a creek and the whole area is basically a marshy ecosystem. I would love to find something that can thrive in those conditions.

Thanks again for all the help!

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Mint would survive in those kind of conditions, but keep in mind that it is an invasive plant. You will want to plant it where it can be contained or you will have to spend a lot of time keeping it from taking over the rest of your garden.

It does's sound like you might not want to plant those herbs in the shady area. What you can do is go to the seed catalogs online, and look for herbs that do ok in low sunlight. They are usually pretty good at giving a good description for that is required to grow that particular herb. Charlotte is in agricultural zone 7 so you want to look for varieties for that area.

About the garlic. There are two types. Soft neck and Hard neck. The difference is as it sounds. Soft neck garlic really does not have a center stalk and is surrounded by a disorganized number of bulbs. The white artichoke garlic that is commonly sold in Harris Teeter and other grocery stores in the Charlotte area is a soft neck. Hard neck garlic has a very hard stem in the middle and it is usually surrounded by 6 very defined large bulbs and most of the time it will have a red hue to the skins. Hard neck is the more desirable type of the two varieties and very difficult to find in this area. It has much better flavor and is easier to cook with than those white grocery store bulbs. If you want to grow this kind of garlic you will need to search the internet for a source and I would hurry as most suppliers will sell out by this time of the year.

BTW, elephant garlic is not a garlic, but is actually a leek. It is misnamed that because of it's look.

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I was lucky enough to find some hard neck garlic (red) at the Matthews Farmers Market near the end of the season. I did enjoy the taste quite a bit.

Mint will grow well in the shady area, or marshy area?

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Mint is practically a weed, so it isn't very picky, but metro was likely referring to the shady areas with it. I've seen lawns completely overtaken with mint - smells great, but not a substitute for grass.

For the marshy areas of your yard, that really depends on how marshy you are talking about. Peppers, bells, jalapenos, etc. do well with wetness, though not sure about actual swampiness. We had a very swampy yard at our house in CLT, we mainly combated this with bamboo. I think sunflowers can survive in it as well. Sweetflag is supposed to grow naturally in marshes though it is considered unsafe to eat. I've always wanted to experiment with some of the questionable herbs like sweetflag - they did use it for thousands of years, and was found in a variety of products up until 50 years ago.

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I think Cilantro would probably do well in that environment, Dill and Parsley would probably handle sunny and wet as well. You have a great resource in Renfroe Hardware in Downtown Matthews - old school general/hardware store with a good veggie/herb selection in the spring and a knowledgeable staff - they even sell live guinea fowl if you need to control the insect population in your yard!

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This going to sound SUPER helpful...but there is a nursery off of Old Pineville Road that is hands down the BEST place I have found to purchase the best variety of herb/plants. I think it is called Roundtree...but I'm not 100% sure. The plants are always healthy and they are exceptionally knowledgable to boot!

I have been a container gardner for a few years in Charlotte. I've been successful with the Italian 4, Parsely, oregano, thyme and basil. Many different varieties. I don't like cilantro that much..it goes to seed on me too fast. My german chamomile did EXCEPTIONALLY, but I think it might rank up there with mint and invasiveness. Lemon grass was easy, as were garlic chives...

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