A Convenient Size Is 10 X 10 Feet
After the stalks have been removed the seed should be allowed to remain
for several days longer in a very thin layer--the thinner the
better--and turned every day to remove the last vestige of moisture. It
will be even better still to have the drying sheet suspended so air may
circulate below as well as above the seed. Not less than a week for the
smallest seeds and double that time for the larger ones is necessary. To
avoid loss or injury it is imperative that the seed be dry before it is
put in the storage packages. Of course, if infusions are to be made all
this is unnecessary; the seed may be put in the liquor as soon as the
broken stems, etc. are removed subsequent to threshing.
TTITLE HERBS AS GARNISHES
As garnishes several of the culinary herbs are especially valuable. This
is particularly true of parsley, which is probably more widely used than
any other plant, its only close rivals being watercress and lettuce,
which, however, are generally inferior to it in delicacy of tint and
form of foliage, the two cardinal virtues of a garnish.
Parsley varieties belong to three principal groups, based upon the form
of the foliage: (1) Plain varieties, in which the leaves are nearly as
they are in nature; (2) moss-curled varieties in which they are
curiously and pleasingly contorted; and (3) fern leaved, in which the
foliage is not curled, but much divided into threadlike parts.
The moss-curled varieties are far more popular than the other two groups
put together and are the only ones used especially as garnishes with
meat dishes in the hotels and restaurants of the large cities. The
plain-leaved sorts cannot be compared in any way except in flavor with
the varieties of the other groups. But the fern-leaved kinds, which
unfortunately have not become commercially well known, surpass even the
finest varieties of the moss-curled group, not only in their exquisite
and delicate form, but in their remarkably rich, dark-green coloring and
blending of light and shade. But the mere fact that these varieties are
not known in the cities should not preclude their popularity in suburban
and town gardens and in the country, where every householder is monarch
of his own soil and can satisfy very many aesthetic and gustatory desires
without reference to market dictum, that bane alike of the market
gardener and his customer.
Several other herbs--tansy, savory, thyme, marjoram, basil, and
balm--make pretty garnishes, but since they are not usually considered
so pleasant to nibble at, they are rarely used. The pleasing effect of
any garnish may be heightened by adding here and there a few herb
flowers such as thyme or savory. Other flowers may be used in the same
way; for instance, nasturtium.
There is no reason why herbs so used should not be employed several
times over, and afterwards dried or bottled in vinegar if they be free
from gravy, oils, fats, etc., and if in sufficient quantity to make such
a use worth while. Other pretty garnishes which are easily obtained are
corn salad, peppergrass, mustard, fennel, and young leaves of carrot.
But surpassing all these in pleasing and novel effects are the curled,
pink, red and white-leaved varieties of chicory and nasturtium flowers
alone or resting upon parsley or other delicate foliage. So much by way
Most herbs may be readily propagated by means of seeds. Some, however,
such as tarragon, which does not produce seed, and several other
perennial kinds, are propagated by division, layers, or cuttings. In
general, propagation by means of seed is considered most satisfactory.
Since the seeds in many instances are small or are slow to germinate,
they are usually sown in shallow boxes or seed pans. When the seedlings
are large enough to be handled they are transplanted to small pots or
somewhat deeper flats or boxes, a couple of inches being allowed between
the plants. When conditions are favorable in the garden; that is, when
the soil is moist and warm and the season has become settled, the
plantlets may be removed to permanent quarters.
If the seed be sown out of doors, it is a good practice to sow a few
radish seeds in the same row with the herb seeds, particularly if these
latter take a long time to germinate or are very small, as marjoram,
savory and thyme. The variety of radish chosen should be a turnip-rooted
sort of exceedingly rapid growth, and with few and small leaves. The
radishes serve to mark the rows and thus enable cultivation to commence
much earlier than if the herbs were sown alone. They should be pulled
early--the earlier the better after the herb plantlets appear. Never
should the radishes be allowed to crowd the herbs.
By the narration of a little incident, I may illustrate the necessity of
sowing these radish seeds thinly. Having explained to some juvenile
gardeners that the radish seeds should be dropped so far apart among the
other seeds that they would look lonesome in the bottoms of the
rows--not more than six seeds to the foot--and having illustrated my
meaning by sowing a row myself, I let each one take his turn at sowing.
While I watched them all went well. But, alas, for precept and example!
To judge by the general result after the plants were up, the seedsman
might justifiably have guaranteed the seed to germinate about 500 per
cent, because each boy declared that he sowed his rows thinly.
Nevertheless, there was a stand of radishes that would have gladdened
the heart of a lawn maker! The rows looked like regiments drawn up in
close order and not, as was desired, merely lines of scattered
skirmishers. In many places there were more than 100 to the foot!
Fortunately the variety was a quick-maturing kind and the crop, for such
it became, was harvested before any damage was done the slow-appearing
seedlings, whose positions the radishes were intended to indicate.
No herbs are so easy to propagate by means of cuttings as spearmint,
peppermint, and their relatives which have underground stems. Every
joint of these stems will produce a new plant if placed in somewhat
moist soil. Often, however, this ability is a disadvantage, because the
plants are prone to spread and become a nuisance unless watched. Hence
such plants should be placed where they will not have their roots cut by
tools used close to them. When they seem to be extending, their borders
should be trimmed with a sharp spade pushed vertically full depth into
the soil and all the earth beyond the clump thus restricted should be
shaken out with a garden fork and the cut pieces of mint removed.
Further, the forked-over ground should be hoed every week during the
remainder of the season, to destroy lurking plantlets.
The other perennial and biennial herbs may be readily propagated by
means of stem cuttings or "slips," which are generally as easy to manage
as verbenas, geraniums and other "house plants." The cuttings may be
made of either fully ripened wood of the preceding or the current
season, or they may be of firm, not succulent green stems. After
trimming off all but a few of the upper leaves, which should be clipped
to reduce transpiration, the cuttings--never more than 4 or 5 inches
long--should be plunged nearly full depth in well-shaded, rather light,
porous, well-drained loam where they should remain undisturbed until
they show evidences of growth. Then they may be transplanted. While in
the cutting bed they must never be allowed to become dry. This is
especially true of greenwood cuttings made during the summer. These
should always have the coolest, shadiest corner in the garden. The
cuttings taken in the spring should be set in the garden as soon as
rooted; but the summer cuttings, especially if taken late, should
generally be left in their beds until the following spring. They may,
however, be removed for winter use to window boxes or the greenhouse
Often the plants grown in window boxes may supply the early cuttings,
which may be rooted in the house. Where a greenhouse is available, a
few plants may be transplanted in autumn either from the garden or from
the bed of summer cuttings just mentioned, kept in a rather cool
temperature during the winter and drawn upon for cuttings as the stems
become sufficiently mature. The rooting may take place in a regular
cutting bench, or it may occur in the soil out of doors, the plantlets
being transplanted to pots as soon as they have rooted well.
If a large number of plants is desired, a hotbed may be called into
requisition in early spring and the plants hardened off in cold frames
as the season advances. Hardening off is essential with all plants grown
under glass for outdoor planting, because unless the plants be inured to
outside temperatures before being placed in the open ground, they will
probably suffer a check, if they do not succumb wholly to the
unaccustomed conditions. If well managed they should be injured not at
Several of the perennial herbs, such as sage, savory, and thyme, may be
easily propagated by means of layers, the stems being pegged down and
covered lightly with earth. If the moisture and the temperature be
favorable, roots should be formed in three or four weeks and the stem
separated from the parent and planted. Often there may be several
branches upon the stem, and each of these may be used as a new plantlet
provided it has some roots or a rooted part of the main stem attached to
it. By this method I have obtained nearly 100 rooted plants from a
single specimen of Holt's Mammoth sage grown in a greenhouse. And from
the same plant at the same time I have taken more than 100 cuttings.
This is not an exceptional feat with this variety, the plants of which
are very branchy and often exceed a yard in diameter.
Layering is probably the simplest and most satisfactory method of
artificial propagation under ordinary conditions, since the stems are
almost sure to take root if undisturbed long enough; and since rooted
plants can hardly fail to grow if properly transplanted. Then, too, less
apparent time is taken than with plants grown from cuttings and far less
than with those grown from seed. In other words, they generally produce
a crop sooner than the plants obtained by the other methods set in
operation at the same time.
Division of the clumps of such herbs as mint is often practiced, a sharp
spade or a lawn edger being used to cut the clump into pieces about 6
inches square. The squares are then placed in new quarters and packed
firmly in place with soil. This method is, however, the least
satisfactory of all mentioned, because it too frequently deprives the
plants of a large amount of roots, thus impairs the growth, and during
the first season or two may result in unsymmetrical clumps. If done in
early spring before growth starts, least damage is done to the plants.
Artificial methods of propagation, especially those of cuttage and
layerage, have the further advantage over propagation by means of seeds,
in the perpetuation of desired characters of individual plants, one or
more of which may appear in any plantation. These, particularly if more
productive than the others, should always be utilized as stock, not
merely because their progeny artificially obtained are likely to retain
the character and thus probably increase the yield of the plantation,
but principally because they may form the nucleus of a choice strain.
Except in the respects mentioned, these methods of propagation are not
notably superior to propagation by means of good seed, which, by the
way, is not overabundant. By the consumption of a little extra time, any
desired number of plants may be obtained from seed. At any rate, seed is
what one must start with in nearly every case.
No more care is required in transplanting herbs than in resetting other
plants, but unless a few essentials are realized in practice the results
are sure to be unsatisfactory. Of course, the ideal way is to grow the
plants in small flower pots and when they have formed a ball of roots,
to set them in the garden. The next best is to grow them in seed pans or
flats (shallow boxes) in which they should be set several inches apart
as soon as large enough to handle, and in which they should be allowed
to grow for a few weeks, to form a mass of roots. When these plants are
to be set in the garden they should be broken apart by hand with as
little loss of roots as possible.
But where neither of these plans can be practiced, as in the growing of
the plants in little nursery beds, either in hotbeds, cold frames or in
the garden border, the plants should be "pricked out," that is,
transplanted while very small to a second nursery bed, in order to make
them "stocky" or sturdy and better able to take care of themselves when
removed to final quarters. If this be done there should be no need of
clipping back the tops to balance an excessive loss of roots, a
necessity in case the plants are not so treated, or in case they become
large or lanky in the second bed.
In all cases it is best to transplant when the ground is moist, as it
is immediately after being dug or plowed. But this cannot always be
arranged, neither can one always count upon a shower to moisten the soil
just after the plants have been set. If advantage can be taken of an
approaching rainfall, it should be done, because this is the ideal time
for transplanting. It is much better than immediately after, which is
perhaps next best. Transplanting in cloudy weather and toward evening is
better than in sunny weather and in the morning.
Since the weather is prone to be coy, if not fickle, the manual part of
transplanting should always be properly done. The plants should always
be taken up with as little loss of roots as possible, be kept exposed to
the air as short a time as possible, and when set in the ground have the
soil packed firmly about their roots, so firmly that the operator may
think it is almost too firm. After setting, the surface soil should be
made loose, so as to act as a mulch and prevent the loss of moisture
from the packed lower layer. If the ground be dry a hole may be made
beside the plant and filled with water--LOTS OF WATER--and when it has
soaked away and the soil seems to be drying, the surface should be made
smooth and loose as already mentioned. If possible such times should be
avoided, because of the extra work entailed and the probable increased
loss due to the unfavorable conditions.
When herbs are grown upon a commercial scale the implements needed will
be the same as for general trucking--plows, harrows, weeder, etc.--to
fit the soil for the hand tools. Much labor can be saved by using
hand-wheel drills, cultivators, weeders and the other tools that have
become so wonderfully popular within the past decade or two. Some
typical kinds are shown in these pages. These implements are
indispensable in keeping the surface soil loose and free from weeds,
especially between the rows and even fairly close to the plants. In
doing this they save an immense amount of labor and time, since they can
be used with both hands and the muscles of the body with less exertion
than the hoe and the rake require.
Nothing, however, can take the place of the hand tools for getting among
and around the plants. The work that weeding entails is tiresome, but
must be done if success is to crown ones efforts. While the plants are
little some of the weeders may be used. Those with a blade or a series
of blades are adapted for cutting weeds off close to the surface; those
with prongs are useful only for making the soil loose closer to the
plants than the rake dare be run by the average man. Hoes of various
types are useful when the plants become somewhat larger or when one does
not have the wheel cultivators. In all well-regulated gardens there
should be a little liberal selection of the various wheel and hand
Only one of the hand tools demands any special comment. Many gardeners
like to use a dibble for transplanting. With this tool it is so easy to
make a hole, and to press the soil against the plant dropped in that
hole! But I believe that many of the failures in transplanting result
from the improper use of this tool. Unless the dibble be properly
operated the plant may be left suspended in a hole, the sides of which
are more or less hard and impervious to the tiny, tender rootlets that
strive to penetrate them. From my own observation of the use of this
tool, I believe that the proper place for the dibble in the novices
garden is in the attic, side by side with the "unloaded" shotgun, where
it may be viewed with apprehension.
In spite of this warning, if anyone is hardy enough to use a dibble, let
him choose the flat style, not the round one. The proper way is to
thrust the tool straight down, at right angles to the direction of the
row, and press the soil back and forth with the flat side of the blade
until a hole, say 2 or 3 inches across and 5 or 6 inches deep, has been
formed. In the hole the plantlet should then be suspended so all the
roots and a little of the stem beneath the surface will be covered when
the soil is replaced. Replacing the soil is the important part of the
operation. The dibble must now be thrust in the soil again, parallel and
close to the hole, and the soil pushed over so the hole will be
completely closed from bottom to top. Firming the soil completes the
There is much less danger of leaving a hole with the flat than with the
round dibble, which is almost sure to leave a hole beneath the plant. I
remember having trouble with some lily plants which were not thriving.
Supposing that insects were at the roots, I carefully drew the earth
away from one side, and found that the earth had not been brought up
carefully beneath the bulbs and that the roots were hanging 4 or 5
inches beneath the bulbs in the hole left by the dibble and not properly
closed by the careless gardener.
I therefore warn every dibble user to be sure to crowd over the soil
well, especially at the lower end of the hole. For my own part, I rely
upon my hands. Digits existed long before dibbles and they are much more
reliable. What matter if some soil sticks to them; it is not
unresponsive to the wooing of water!
TTITLE LOCATION OF HERB GARDEN
In general, the most favorable exposure for an herb garden is toward the
south, but lacking such an exposure should not deter one from planting
herbs on a northern slope if this be the only site available. Indeed,
such sites often prove remarkably good if other conditions are
propitious and proper attention is given the plants. Similarly, a
smooth, gently sloping surface is especially desirable, but even in
gardens in which the ground is almost billowy the gardener may often
take advantage of the irregularities by planting the moisture-loving
plants in the hollows and those that like dry situations upon the
ridges. Nothing like turning disadvantages to account!
No matter what the nature of the surface and the exposure, it is always
advisable to give the herbs the most sunny spots in the garden, places
where shade from trees, barns, other buildings and from fences cannot
reach them. This is suggested because the development of the oils, upon
which the flavoring of most of the herbs mainly depends, is best in full
sunshine and the plants have more substance than when grown in the
TTITLE THE SOIL AND ITS PREPARATION
As to the kind of soil, Hobson's choice ranks first! It is not necessary
to move into the next county just to have an herb garden. This is one of
the cases in which the gardener may well make the best of however bad a
bargain he has.
But supposing that a selection be possible, a light sandy loam,
underlaid by a porous subsoil so as to be well drained, should be given
the preference, since it is warmed quickly, easily worked, and may be
stirred early in the season and after a rain. Clay loams are less
desirable upon every one of the points mentioned, and very sandy soils
also. But if Hobson has one of these, there will be an excellent
opportunity to cultivate philosophy as well as herbs. And the gardener
may be agreeably surprised at the results obtained. No harm in trying!
Whatever the quality of the soil, it should not be very rich, because in
such soils the growth is apt to be rank and the quantity of oil small in
proportion to the leafage.
The preparation of the soil should commence as soon as the grass in the
neighborhood is seen to be sprouting. Well-decayed manure should be
spread at the rate of not less than a bushel nor more than double that
quantity to the square yard, and as soon as the soil is dry enough to
crumble readily it should be dug or plowed as deeply as possible without
bringing up the subsoil. This operation of turning over the soil should
be thoroughly performed, the earth being pulverized as much as possible.