Grow Your Own Herbs

Bill Zuback
Grow Your Own Herbs
By Susan Belsinger and Arthur O. Tucker
Published by Timber Press
133 SW 2nd Ave. #450
Portland OR 97204
7"x 9"
204 pages
Price: $16.95
Herbs can serve three functions in the railroad garden. Not only are they attractive plants, they smell wonderful and–bonus—you can eat them too!

The first 50 pages of the book packs in a lot of information. You’ll learn about growing conditions for herbs (not all are equal), using containers, propagation techniques, and growing herbs indoors. I appreciated the six pages devoted to plant health problems and treatments. Each symptom includes a photograph and diagnosis of its ailment, and how to best address the issue.

Co-author Susan Belsinger has written a fair number of cookbooks, so it’s not surprising she’s included several herb-related recipes here. Most herbs can be air dried or frozen, and she includes harvesting and storage instructions too. Don’t forget to share extras with friends or co-workers!

The remainder of the book includes the “best” 40 varieties of herbs. My guess is that the best translates to “easiest to grow.” I found 13 varieties that grow 12" high or less. About half grow to the 2-3 foot range. Some are quite large—Mexican oregano (Lippia graveolens) can reach 9 feet tall.

How does this translate to usable plants for garden railroaders? Black cumin (Nigella sativa) has fine foliage that could work next to structures, and though it’s short lived, the seed pods could add continue to add interest after it’s done flowering.

I’ve seen scented geraniums (Pelargonium sp.) in a number of railroads over the years, but never considered them herbs. But their leaves are indeed edible!

Some medium-length varieties, like stevia and parsley, would add a nice backdrop to a scene. If cut back a bit, lemongrass (Cymbogogon citratus) could replicate a crop of Sudan grass or sorghum. The possibilities are limited only by your imagination.

One note of caution: The book suggests planting mint (Methna sp.) and while it’s a delicious and easy-to-grow option, mint spreads quickly if not kept in check. I’d suggest keeping mint in pots instead.

If you’re looking for ways to incorporate herbs into your garden, check out this book. Soon you’ll have both interesting plants and tastier food!


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