Growing & Using Herbs Successfully


By Betty E. M. Jacobs

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Bursting with straightforward information on growing and using herbs, this illustrated guide will help you cultivate and maintain a thriving and fragrant garden. Betty E. M. Jacobs draws on years of experience running a commercial herb farm to provide clear instructions for planting, propagating, harvesting, drying, freezing, and storing 64 popular herbs. Whether you’re interested in keeping a few container plants or want to start a profitable business growing herbs, you’ll benefit from the expert advice in this practical guide.








Do you want to plant a garden of culinary Herbs, lay out a garden of fragrance, make a modest profit from your Herb garden, or start a cottage industry? This book tells you how to do all that and more.

It is a book for the beginner and the established Herb grower alike. No matter if your garden is big or small this book will show you how to make good use of all the Herbs you grow.

In 1965 my husband and I started Canada’s first commercial Herb farm on southern Vancouver Island. Our experience running this farm for eight years and a lifetime interest in Herb growing assure you of practical and accurate information to help you grow and use Herbs successfully for both pleasure and profit.

The term “Herb” covers many different plants from several botanical families. No matter what people tell you, Herbs are not “just weeds.” They need as much care in cultivation as any other garden plants, so a basic knowledge of gardening is essential to the would-be Herb grower. In this book you will find all the basics of good husbandry and much hard-to-find information about Herbs and Herb growing, plus the professional secrets of eight years of successful commercial Herb growing and marketing.

There are many different ways to use Herbs in your home and many profitable ways to sell them. For instance, you can grow fresh culinary Herbs for your kitchen or for sale to restaurants. You can dry the Herbs, both culinary and medicinal ones, for your own use or package them attractively for sale. You can make Catnip toys for your own cats or sell them to a pet shop. You could even start a line of gourmet salad dressings.

Whatever aspects of Herb growing interest you, with the help of this book, they can be a source of pleasure or profit—or both!

ANGELICA (Angelica archangelica)

Starting Your Herb Garden

The fact that the merest pinch of one or two culinary Herbs will change a dish from ordinary and dull to delicious and tasty has given these Herbs unjustified glamor and mystery. Many people think of them as exotic plants that are difficult to grow. Very few of them are.

A friable soil, enriched with compost and lime to sweeten it, will grow most Herbs well. With few exceptions they are not fussy, and a garden where vegetables grow well will grow good Herbs. Some people maintain that if your soil is too “rich” the Herbs will lack flavor....that any of the Thymes must be grown in poor and stony soil. In nearly thirty years of Herb growing, in parts of the world as different and as far apart as Canada, Britain, and Argentina, we have never found this to be so.

In a patch four feet by six feet you can grow enough Herbs to give you fresh leaves to flavor the food for your family. If you want to dry some for winter use a patch twice that size will be enough. Even if you want to grow a few Herbs to sell you can do it on very little more ground.

In this chapter thirty-two Herbs are listed and all the horticultural data you need to grow them are given. These data include the Latin name, whether the Herb is perennial, biennial, or annual, and whether it is hardy or tender to frost. The height of the mature plant is given, as well as the type of soil and situation in which it thrives best. Methods of propagation and any special cultural needs are indicated, also, how far apart your plants should stand. Some uses for each Herb are also given. Finally, under “Quantity to buy” you will find the number of plants to give you an economical start in your home garden. You should double or triple this number if you want to grow any Herb commercially. If it is practical to grow plants of any Herb from seed, this is also indicated. If you are not in a hurry to increase your stock, wait until the plants you have bought have grown large enough to use for vegetative propagation.


In Chapter 3 you will find a reference list of forty-six perennial Herbs and how each one can be propagated vegetatively by one or more methods. Appendix A is a quick reference chart of cultural recommendations for growing sixty-four annual, biennial, and perennial Herbs.

Angelica (Angelica archangelica). Though considered to be a biennial, this Herb will often not flower until its third summer, but once it has flowered and seeded, it will die. It may have produced side shoots in its second year, and these will live on. In a moist, rich soil, preferably in partial shade, Angelica will sometimes reach a height of 84 inches (over 2m.).

It is propagated by seed, which must be fresh and planted in fall. The seedlings are unlikely to appear before the following spring. Once you have established a plant, and it has self-sown its seeds, you will never be without it. If, to get started, you are able to get a few seedlings when they are very small, do so. They transplant quite well, but they must be very young, while their roots are less than two inches (5 cm.) long.

Angelica is used in the kitchen, in medicine, and in the perfume, wine and liqueur industries.

Quantity to buy: Two seedlings or one plant. Plant 36 inches (90 cm.) apart. Better results, though they will take a little longer, are obtained from plants grown from seed.

Anise (Pimpinella anisum). A dainty 24 inches high (60 cm.) annual plant grown for its seed, needs 120 days of frost-free weather, and should not be sown till the days and nights lose their chill. It requires ordinary, well-worked soil, and full sun. As soon as the seeds begin to ripen, they should be treated like Caraway. Seedlings should be thinned to 4 inches (10 cm.) apart.

It is used in the kitchen, in medicine, and in the cosmetic and liqueur industries.

Basil, Sweet (Ocimum basilicum). A tender annual; heat loving and frost shy. Basil should be sown in late spring at a minimum temperature of 60° F. (15° C.). Germination is quick, especially at higher temperatures. As seedlings tend to “damp off,” take preventive measures as outlined later in this chapter.

It grows to a height of 18 inches (45 cm.), needs rich, well-composted soil, and plenty of sun. If you have sown the seed in a greenhouse, do not transplant the young Basil plants into the garden until the nights (as well as the days) are warm. Mature plants should stand 12 inches (30 cm.) apart.

CARAWAY (Carum carvi)

It is used in the kitchen for flavor, in medicine, and in perfumes.

Borage (Borago officinalis). In ordinary, well-drained soil, in sun or partial shade, this lovely plant will grow to a height of 36 inches (90 cm.). I have seen one plant cover two square feet (1800 sq. cm.) of ground, and have literally hundreds of deep blue flowers on it. So give it room, and it will be a real conversation piece.

Plant seed in late summer, and a rosette of leaves will form. By early summer the next year, the plant will be in full flower. Self-sown seedlings will appear after the first seeding, and there will be no need to sow seed ever again! Leave at least 18 inches (45 cm.) between plants.

Borage is used in the kitchen, and in medicine.

Caraway (Carum carvi) is a biennial which germinates easily. It can be sown in fall to produce the seeds the next year, or a spring sowing one year will produce the seeds the following year. It grows to a height of 24 inches (60 cm.).

Caraway needs an ordinary, well-worked soil, with plenty of sun. The plants should be thinned to eight inches (20 cm.) apart. The seed ripens unevenly, and care must be taken to harvest them all before the first begin to fall. The plants should be cut at ground level, and hung in bunches in a cool, dry place—over paper, to catch the seeds as they fall.

It is used in the kitchen for flavor, in medicine, and by the perfume and cosmetics industries.

Catnip (Nepeta cataria). There’s no trouble with the germination of this hardy perennial. The theory is that your cats will not worry a new seed bed, but will trample and/or eat your transplanted seedlings. Perhaps our cats had never been told the difference . . . . they liked them all! So protect your beds from the cats . . . . just in case. Plant where it is to grow, and thin out to 12 inches (30 cm.) apart. The plants will reach a height of 36 inches (90 cm.) the second year. For the maximum flavor and smell, plant them in a dry, sandy, sunny situation; however, they will thrive in most soils, except badly drained clay.

Propagation can also be done by division of the plants, and cuttings. Self-sown seedlings can be transplanted where wanted. I have read that Catnip will sometimes die after flowering, like a biennial, though this was not our experience.

Chervil (Anthriscus cerefolium). This delicately flavored annual Herb thrives in cool weather, requires some shade, and an ordinary, well-drained soil. The leaves grow about six inches (15 cm.) high, but the flower heads reach about 18 inches (45 cm.) or taller. Plants from self-sown seedlings will often over-winter successfully. The seed must be fresh to germinate well.

Your first sowing can be made in very early spring. Allow a plant or two to go to seed, and you will be assured of a continuous supply. Seedlings should be thinned to eight inches (20 cm.) apart. Do not transplant, or they will “bolt0.”

It is used in the kitchen for flavor.

Chives (Alliurn schoenoprasum). This hardy perennial plant will grow from eight to 12 inches (20 to 30 cm.) high. Preferring a rich, well-composted soil, it will tolerate some shade in summer. Grown commercially it should have full sun. Propagation is by division of the whole plant or by seed. (See Chapter 8, “Growing Chives.”)

Chives are used in green and potato salads, omelets, and egg dishes; they can be sprinkled on soups, and baked or mashed potatoes, in fact, they can be used fresh on any dish which will benefit from a mild onion flavor.

Quantity to buy: Five plants.

Comfrey, Russian (Symphytum peregrinum). It is a hardy perennial growing some 24 to 36 inches (60 to 90 cm.) high. It grows well in a clay soil. Lighter soils need constant manuring to achieve heavy growth. It will tolerate any fresh manure—in fact, thrives on it. It is propagated by offsets or pieces of root with a bud attached—in fact, any piece of root will grow.

Plant out from early spring to fall, watering young plants if the location is dry. It should be planted away from the rest of the Herb garden in an area of its own. In a few years you can have many plants that will give you heavy crops for making compost.

Quantity to buy: Five pieces of root. Plant them 36 inches (90 cm.) apart.

Note: Recently I have seen seed of Comfrey advertised. This is Symphytum asperum (not S. peregrinum).

CHERVIL (Anthriscus cerefolium)

See Appendix E for specialist growers of plants, and for a book about Comfrey production see Appendix D.

Coriander (Coriandrum sativum). This is another annual grown for its flavorsome seeds, though its foliage has an unpleasant smell. Plant in late spring (it is quite slow to germinate) in ordinary, well-worked soil and in the sun. It should not be transplanted, but thinned to four inches (10 cm.) apart. It will grow to a height of 36 inches (90 cm.), but often doesn’t reach this height. The seed will ripen in late summer to early fall, turning to a fawn color when ripe. The plant should then be cut off at ground level, and laid in a dry, sunny spot to thoroughly dry the seeds.

It is used in the kitchen for its flavor, in medicine and industrially in gin and liqueur production.

Dill (Anethum graveolens). This annual plant, which flavors Dill pickles, thrives in a lightish, sandy soil, in full sun. It is quick to germinate. It does not transplant well, and should be thinned out to ten inches (25 cm.) apart. The plant grows to 36 inches (90 cm.) in height, and as it is somewhat “weedy” in growth, winds can do it damage. So, if a sheltered spot is available, use it for your Dill.

It is used in the kitchen for flavor, in medicine, and in the perfume industry.

Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare). This is another easy perennial to start from seed. Liking a well-limed soil in a sunny spot, it will grow some 60 inches (1.50 m.) high. The seedlings should be thinned to 18 inches (45 cm.) apart.

Seedlings can be transplanted, when very small, into pots for sale, but they will grow so fast that only a few should be done at a time. (Be careful that you do not get the Sweet Fennel seed, which is an annual, and a vegetable.)

Fennel is used in the kitchen, in medicine, and in the cosmetic and perfume industries.

Garlic (Allium sativum). The bulbs should be gently separated into the little cloves, which can be planted 6 inches (15 cm.) apart, 2 inches (5 cm.) deep, in mid fall or very early spring, in rich, but not freshly manured ground. They like plenty of sun, and a well-drained situation, but should be kept well watered in dry spells, until they begin to ripen. Then water should be withheld.

DILL (Anethum graveolens)

When the leaves have turned yellow, the bulbs should be lifted, and dried in the sun. They are best stored at 60° F. (15° C).

Garlic is used in the kitchen for flavor, and in medicine.

Garlic Chives (Allium tuberosum). Like Chives, it is a hardy perennial, but appears a little later in spring. The flower stalks reach a height of 30 inches (75 cm.), though the green leaves are somewhat shorter and triangular. They are not hollow like ordinary Chives. Propagation is by division of the whole plant in spring or early summer, or by seed in spring.

Garlic Chives are used raw in the same dishes in which ordinary Chives are used, but where a Garlic flavor is wanted. They also discourage many insect pests.

Quantity to buy: Two plants and start more from seed. Plant 10 inches (25 cm.) apart.

Lavender (Lavandula officinalis). Tall-growing varieties. There are two main types of tall-growing Lavenders, the Mitcham and Grey Hedge types, (within these two types there are several varieties). It would be pointless to suggest that one or the other should be selected, as different districts have different varieties which are most suitable to their climates and soils.

These Mitcham and Hedge types grow about 30 inches (75 cm.) high, requiring a light, well-drained soil, and full sun. Previous liming is advisable. Propagation should be carried out by cuttings from two inches (5 cm.) to four inches (10 cm.) long, as soon as the new growth has attained that length, either in early summer or after harvesting, in early fall. The dwarf and semi-dwarf are faster growing.

Lavender is distilled and used in the perfume and cosmetics industry.

Quantity to Buy: Two, preferably different varieties. Plant 36 inches (90 cm.) apart.

Lavender (Lavandula officinalis) —Dwarf and Semi-Dwarf Varieties. Lavandula spica and Lavandula vera used to be considered two distinct species. They are now often grouped together as Lavandula officinalis. All are hardy perennials.

There are a number of different varieties. I suggest that you start with Mustead Dwarf, which grows about 18 inches (45 cm.) high, and Hidcote Purple, which grows about 12 inches (30 cm.) tall.

They produce the best perfume when grown in soil which is poor and gravelly; they require full sun. Propagation of these dwarf and semi-dwarf varieties can be by seed (which is very slow to germinate, and the plants are very slow-growing), or by cuttings, as early in the year as material becomes available.

GARLIC CHIVES (Allium tuberosum)

But the best and quickest way is by division of three-year-old plants, in spring. They should be lifted and torn apart. Any piece with roots attached should be replanted deeply, so that all the woody stem is buried.

The oil distilled from the flowers is used in the perfume and cosmetic industries. It also has medicinal uses.

Quantity to buy: Two of each variety. Plant 24 inches (60 cm.) apart.

Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis). A hardy perennial which will grow 48 inches (1.20 m.) high. This delicious, lemon-scented plant is not unlike a small-leaved nettle. It prefers a well-drained, light, sandy soil, full sun or partial shade. It can be propagated by cuttings, by plant division, and by seed. Though the seed is slow to germinate, the resulting plants seem to be the sturdiest—especially when the seed is self-sown. The seedlings, when small, can be lifted and replanted where needed.

There seems to be a misapprehension that Lemon Balm spreads itself like mint—it doesn’t. The clumps get larger each year, but I have never seen underground runners—it will not “take over.”

Lemon Balm is used in the kitchen when a lemony flavor is required, in medicine, and in the perfume and liqueur industries.

Quantity to buy: Two plants. Grow more from seed, or allow these plants to flower and self-sow. Plants should stand 18 inches (45 cm.) apart.

Marjoram, Sweet (Majorana hortensis or Origanum majorana). Under completely frost-free conditions Sweet Marjoram is perennial, but where there is any frost, it must be treated as a half-hardy annual. It should be started in a temperature of 60° F. (15° C.), and the little plants not put in the garden until all risk of frosts is over, and when the nights are beginning to warm up. Follow the directions given later in this chapter, “How to Start Herb Plants from Seed Indoors.”

It needs a rich, light, well-worked soil, and a sheltered, sunny position. Plant 12 inches (30 cm.) apart. It grows to a height of 8 to 12 inches (20 to 30 cm.).

Note: When putting up for sale as plants in pots, put three little seedlings in each three-inch square pot; this will give you a salable item quickly.

LEMON BALM (Melissa officinalis)

The Herb is used in the kitchen for flavor, in medicine, and the perfume industry.

Mints. All Mints are hardy perennials. Start with the two varieties listed below.

Most of the Mints grow to a height of about 36 inches (90 cm.). They need rich, though not freshly manured, soil. Some shade is preferable, though if the ground retains moisture well it is not essential. Propagation is by runners, although cuttings can also be taken.

English or Lamb Mint (Mentha cordifolia) is an excellent early Mint. It has crinkly, almost heart-shaped leaves, and an excellent flavor. It may be hard to find, but is well worth looking for.

Quantity to buy: One plant or five pieces of rooted runners. Plant 18 inches (45 cm.) apart.

Peppermint (Mentha piperita crispula). This is the curly-leaved Peppermint. The leaves are very dark with purple tones, and the stems are purple too. It smells rather strong when fresh, but dried its flavor is excellent. The cultivation is the same as for any other Mints. It is used in medicine, for flavoring, and in the cosmetic, perfume and liqueur industries.

Quantity to buy: One plant or five pieces of rooted runners. Plant 18 inches (45 cm.) apart.

Oregano (Origanum vulgare).


On Sale
Jan 4, 1981
Page Count
240 pages

Betty E. M. Jacobs

About the Author

With her husband, Betty E. M. Jacobs started Canada’s first commercial Herb Farm in 1965 on a southern Vancouver Island. Their experience running this farm for eight years and a lifetime of interest in herbs led to Betty’s book, Growing & Using Herbs Successfully.

Learn more about this author