Extension Vegetable Crops
Mimeo Report 67-1
GROWING HERBS IN FLORIDA
Joseph D. Norton
James M. Stephens
Assistant Vegetable Crops Specialists
University. of Florida
Most of the savory herbs can be grown throughout Florida in sufficient
quantities for home use. In the southern area of the state many herbs may be
grown in the home garden throughout the year. Because of their importance in
the preparation of foods in the home, no garden should be considered complete
without at least a few of those most commonly used. Herbs grown here do not
develop as strong aromatic flavor as in dry, western areas. There are
exceptions such as dill.
A great deal of interest and pleasure can be derived by the person who
plants a few well-chosen herbs for the first time, as he soon becomes familiar
with their forms and growth habits and learns to use them to best advantage in
seasoning the various foods.
Herbs are flavoring agents and, like spices, are used in cookery to
season, enrich, or otherwise alter the flavor and odor of certain foods to
make them more pleasing to the taste. Parts of the plants--leaves, fragrant
seeds, fruits, buds, barks, and roots--have been used for this purpose since
ancient times. Most of the spices--black pepper, nutmeg, mace, cinnamon, cloves,
and allspice--are derived from tropical plants. Savory herbs are aromatic plants,
the various parts of which possess pleasing odors and taste.
GROWTH HABIT OF PLANTS
Common Name Scientific Name
Anise Pimpinella anisum
Basil Ocimum basilicum
Chervil Anthriscus cerefolium
Coriander Coriandrum satinum
Cumin Cuminum cyminum
Dill Anethum graveolens
Summer Savory Sateruja hortensis
Common Name Scientific Name
Caraway Carum carvi
Celery Apium graveolens
Parsley Petroselinum crispum
Common Name Scientific Name
Chive Allium schoenoprasum
Costmary Chrysanthemum majus
Fennel, common Foeniculum vulgare
Fennel, sweet F. vulgare var. dulce
Garlic Allium satinum
Lemon balm Melissa officinallis
Lovage Lervisticum officinale
Marjoram, sweet Origanum marjorana
Marjoram, pot Origanum onites
Marjoram, wild Origanum vulgare
Mint, spearmint Mentha spicata
Mint, peppermint Mentha piperita
Rosemary Rosmarimus officinallis
Sage Salvia officinallis
Tarragon Artemisia dracunculus
Thyme Thymus vulgaris
Winter savory Salureja montana
LOCATION AND SOIL PREPARATION
In addition to furnishing a variety of flavors for use in the kitchen, the
savory herbs, because of their ornamental appearance may be used to good advantage
in landscaping to add beauty and fragrance to the home surroundings. They can be
conveniently arranged in flower beds, borders and rock gardens, or assembled in a
small formal herb garden convenient to the kitchen.
If they are grown in rows in the vegetable garden, only a small section will
be required to produce enough for family use. The perennials and biennials come
up early in the spring in North and Central Florida and some of them bloom before
the annuals are planted. In South Florida herbs may be grown throughout the year.
If perennials and biennials are planted to one side of the garden, or if they are
planted in flower beds or rock gardens, they will not interfere with the preparation
of the garden soil for planting each season. The annuals may be seeded along with
other vegetables or they may be arranged in separate beds.
In general, one short row or only a few feet of row of each of the annuals
or half a dozen plants of the perennials will supply enough herbs for the average
Such plants as thyme, winter savory, and pot marjoram can be easily propagated
by layering, which merely consists of covering the side branches with soil, leaving
much of the top exposed. When the covered parts of the stems have rooted they can
be cut from the parent and set as individual plants.
Other plants such as chive, costmary, and tarragon, can be expanded by
dividing the crown clumps into separate bulbs, individual plants, or cloves after
one or more seasons' growth. This can be done in fall or early spring. These
subdivisions can be set directly in permanent locations if made in the spring or
in protected places, if made in the fall.
The mints spread rapidly by means of surface or underground runners that may
grow several feet from the parent plant, usually at a depth of 1 to 2 inches below
the surface. New plants spring up at the nodes of the runners during the season.
These plants, with roots attached, can be taken up and transplanted, or the runners
alone can be planted in rows and covered to a depth of 2 inches.
DISEASES AND INSECT PESTS
Herbs are not usually bothered by insects or diseases. Should they be, dust
or spray with malathion or sevin (insecticides) plus zineb, maneb, or copper
HOUSE GROWN HERBS
A few of the savory herbs can be grown fairly successfully indoors during the
winter in North Florida, provided favorable growing conditions can be maintained.
The annuals mature their fruits or seed and die at the end of the growing season.
They are not so easily grown Indoors during the winter as some of the perennials,
as chive, geranium, thyme, mint, rosemary, sage, sweet marjoram, and winter savory,
because new plants must be started from seed and this requires considerable care
and most favorable growing conditions.
For best results, start new plants in fall by means of rooted cuttings or by
crown or root divisions, rather than attempt to pot or move old plants indoors.
In order to make sufficient leaf growth for flavoring purposes during the winter,
these plants must have plenty of sunlight and a temperature maintained well above
freezing at all times.' The"annasl"and taprb6ted biennials that are to be
grown indoors in winter should be started from seed sown in outdoor beds
sufficiently early in the fall to allow the seedlings to become large enough.
for transplanting before frost. The perennials can be started as described
under propagation, either outdoors early in fall or later in plant beds or
HARVESTING AND CURING
The seeds, leaves, flowering tops, and'occasionally the roots of the
different plants are used for flavoring purposes. Their flavor is due for the
most part to a volatile or essential oil contained in leaves, seeds and fruits.
The flavor is retained longer if the herbs are harvested at the right time and
properly cured and stored. The young tender leaves can be gathered and used
fresh at any time during the season, but for winter use they should be harvested
when the plants begin to flower and should be dried rapidly in a well-ventilated,
darkened room. If the leaves are dusty or gritty, they should be washed in cold
water and thoroughly drained before drying.
The tender-leaf herbs--basil, costmary, tarragon, lemon balm, and the mints--
which have a high moisture content, must be dried rapidly away from the light
if they are to retain their green color. If dried too slowly, they will turn
dark and/or mold. For this reason a well-ventilated, darkened room, such as an
attic or other dry airy room, furnishes ideal conditions for curing these herbs
in a short time. The less succulent leaf herbs--sage, rosemary, thyme, and
summer savory--which contain less moisture, can be partially dried in the sun
without affecting their color, but too long exposure should be avoided.
The seed crops should be harvested when they are mature or when their color
changes from green to brown or gray. A few plants of the annual varieties should
be left undisturbed to flower and mature seed for planting each season. Seeds
should be thoroughly dry before storing, to prevent loss of viability for planting
and to prevent molding or loss of quality. After curing for several days in .an
airy room, a day or two in the sun will insure safekeeping.
As soon as the herb leaves or seed are dry they should be cleaned by
separating them from stems and other foreign matter and packed insuitable
containers to prevent loss of essential oils that give to herbs their delicate
flavor. Glass, metal or cardboard containers that can be closed tightly will
preserve the odor and flavor. Glass jars make satisfactory containers, but
they must be painted black or stored in a dark room to prevent bleaching of
the green leaves by light.
SOURCE OF SEED AND PLANTS
Seed and planting stock of the savory herbs can be obtained from a number
of established-herb gardens and seedsmen in various parts of the country. Some
dealers make a specialty of handling rooted plants, while others handle both
plants and seed. Usually the seed of the more common herbs--sage, dill, fennel,
parsley, celery, and chive--can be obtained from local seed houses, while the
less common ones probably can be purchased only from those specializing in
The following are herb specialty houses from which you may obtain a catalog
of available herbs and/or herb seed. In addition, three brochures on growing
herbs may be obtained from your county agricultural extension office. They are:
(1) "Savory Herbs, Culture and Use," USDA F 1977, (2) "Growing Herbs in Florida,"
Extension Service Mimeo, and (3) "Herbs," Extension Service Circular 164.
Greene Herb Gardens Logee's Greenhouses
Greene, Rhode Island 55 North Street
The Tool Shed Herb Nursery
Turkey Hill Road Caprilands Herb Farm
Salem Center Silver Street
Purdys Station, New York Coventry, Conn. 06238
The Herb Cottage Cottage Herb Farm Shop
Washington Cathedral 311 State Street
Mt. St. Alban Albany, New York
Washington, D. C. 20016
Burgess Seed and Plant Company
Havalook Gardens Galesburg, Michigan 49053
10045 W. Grant River
Fowlerville, Michigan 48836
Sunnybrook Farms Nursery Reuter Seed Company, Inc.
9448 Mayfield Road New Orleans, La.
1. Atlee Burpee Company
Merry Gardens Philadelphia, Pa. 19132
Camden, Maine 04843
The mentioned establishments are not endorsed here to the exclusion
of other establishments providing similar products.
1. "Herbs," Florida Agricultural Extension Service Circular
No. 164, April, 1957.
2. "Herbs for Florida," University of Florida Press Bulletin
No. 600, October, 1944.
3. "Savory Herbs, Culture and Use," United States Department
of Agriculture Farmers Bulletin No. 1977, May, 1946.
4. "Grow Your Own Vegetables," Florida State Department of
Agriculture Bulletin No. 52, April, 1957.
5. Various catalogs from herb specialty houses.