HERBS Kitchen garden POLLINATORS

Spring and Summer Herbs

Colorful tiny flowers everywhere, a lovely fresh fragrance in the air, with butterflies, bees, and bumblebees all busy collecting nectar and pollen. Spring is here!

Together with spring the flavor of the freshly cut herbs has come back.

Nothing compares to the aroma of fresh herbs on a spring salad! It tastes good and it is also good for our health.

In fact,  adding fresh herbs to your dishes helps you reduce your salt intake, providing you, at the same time, with the many benefits of aromatic plants.

Herbs can be easily grown in spring and summer.

In this post, I share with you useful information on how to choose and grow aromatic herbs for your garden, even in the smallest piece of soil.

This is the perfect time to start your zero-kilometer production. And because aromatic plants are also rich in nectar and pollen, you will also contribute to bees’ and other insects’ wellbeing.

Ready to become a “Fresh Herbs’ Hero”?

Let’s get started!

Cooking herbs, fresh herbs, or aromatic plants?

Don’t get confused: cooking herbs, aromatic plants, medicinal plants, fresh herbs often refer to the same plants used for different purposes.

We talk about herbs when we refer to an aromatic herbaceous plant without a woody stem. These aromatic plants often have medicinal qualities. In this case, we talk about medicinal plants. Many of the herbs we describe here, and many others, are widely used in the pharmaceutical, food, perfumery, and cosmetics industries.

All these plants are rich in essential oils, which confer to these plants their typical aroma and flavor as well as their medicinal properties when used in the right quantities and modalities.

Let’s take mint as an example. Actually “mint” is the name of more than fifteen species, but let’s take it as a general example. Mints can be used to flavor a green tea or a fruit salad, as a condiment chopped raw in salads. In this case, it is referred to as fresh herb or cooking herb. It can also be used to make digestive infusions. In this case, we focus on its medicinal benefits.

In this article, we mainly call these plants aromatic herbs, knowing that all of them have not only smell and taste good, but can also improve our well-being.

What to grow in  Spring and Summer

First things first. What to plant? There is a vast choice of aromatic plants. From sage, thyme, and rosemary, which grow all over the year (perennial), to  persil and basil, mainly growing in spring and summer in the temperate regions (seasonal).

You can either sow seeds or plant seedlings directly in the ground. It is best to wait until the frost period is over, such as at the end of April and May.

In temperate regions, some plants such as sage, rosemary, and bay laurel keep their leaves in winter, and then restart growing in spring and summer.

Others, such as verbena, lose their leaves, but start again in spring. Others plants such as basil have to be sown again.

You can keep growing herbs like basil at home even during winter with the right temperature and light. In this post, we focus on the outdoor kitchen garden, but you can plant the same herbs in a pot as well and grow them on your balcony.

To choose which herbs to grow, first, you need to think about why you want to do it. Do you want to add flavor to your dishes? Making herbal teas? Or attracting pollinators? We grow herbs for all of these reasons combined.

Then you need to evaluate sun exposure. Some plants like to be in full sun, others prefer semi-shade.

In general, the aromatic plants we present here love sun exposure and a rather rich, moist, and well-drained soil.

Let’s have a look at the perennial and seasonal aromatic plants we grow in our garden.

Perennial aromatic plants

Perennial aromatic plants, such as bay laurel, sage, rosemary, and lavander grow all over the year. They are all native to the Mediterranean basin. They love the sun and well-drained soil. Our sage and rosemary plants are all in the “Mediterranean” part of the garden, which is in a very sloping and also rather rocky area of the garden.

Bay laurel

Species: Laurus nobilis L. (Lauraceae)Common name: EN Bay laurel, IT Alloro, FR Laurier, ZH 月桂 (pinyin Yuèguì)

Description: Bay laurel a small shrub and tree that can reach up to 10 meters. It has aromatic evergreen leaves. It blooms from late winter to april-may. It has inflorescences of little yellow flowers, from which bees and other insects collect both pollen and nectar. Male and female flowers are on separate plants.

Origin: Native to the Mediterranean basin.

Benefits: Boosts appetite and promotes digestion. In external use, it is traditionally used against rheumathism.

Uses: Ornamental plant and condiment. Bouquet garni, court bouillon, meat, baked root vegetables like baked potatoes.

Cultivation: In a warm, sunny place protected from winds.

Popagation in the garden: cuttings.

Notes: Researchers are currently studying the potential use of bay laurel extract as antiviral treatment for honeybees.

Up to Perennial aromatic plants

SpeciesLavandula spp. (Lamiaceae)

Common name: EN Lavander, IT Lavanda, FR Lavande, ZH 薰衣草 (pinyin Xūnyīcǎo)

Description: Many species and varieties belonging to the genus Lavandula. They all have the characteristic of beautifully fragrant foliage and flower spikes.

Origin: Mediterranean regions.

Benefits: The flowering spikes are traditionally used to relieve headaches, stress, and painful periods.

Uses: Herbal teas, salads, bags to perfume the linen. Pick the flowers and dry them before the end of the season in a cool, aerated place.

Cultivation: Being a Mediterranean plant, lavender needs well-drained, rocky soil in full sun. Some varieties also withstand colder climates.

Propagation in the garden: Semi-woody cuttings in summer.


Did you know? The words lavander and lavandula come from the latin word “lavanda”, which means “used to wash”.

Notes: Lavandula angustifolia is mainly used in phytotherapy. Lavandula x intermedia (lavandin) and Lavandula spica are used in the pharmaceutical industry.

Up to Perennial aromatic plants

Rosemary

Species: Rosmarinus officinalis L. (Lamiaceae)

Common name: EN Rosemary, IT Rosmarino, FR Romarin, ZH 迷迭香 (pinyin Mí dié xiāng)

Description: Perennial, evergreen bushes with with woody stems and aromatic foliage. Spring-summer flowering.

Origin: Native to the Mediterranean basin.

Benefits: Stimulates circulation, the nervous system, and digestion. The essential oil is antioxidant, antimicrobial, and anti-inflammatory. Like laurel, rosemary is traditionally used to soothe rheumatism pain.

Uses: Rosemary leaves are used to make digestive herbal teas, in barbecue meat, and baked root vegetables like potatoes.

Cultivation: Light , well-drained soils with proper sun exposure.

Propagation in the garden: Summer cuttings .

Up to Perennial aromatic plants

Sage

Species: Salvia officinalis L. (Lamiaceae)

Common name: EN Sage, IT Salvia, FR Sauge, ZH 药用鼠尾草 (pinyin Yào yòng shǔ wěi cǎo)

Description: Perennial, evergreen bushes with woody stems and aromatic foliage. Its leaves are typically greyish  and the flowers are blue to purplish.

Origin: Native to the Mediterranean basin.

Benefits: Tonic for the digestive tract and nervous system. Anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial. Traditionally used to soothe a sore throat, cold, cough.

Uses: herbal teas, “burro e salvia”, Provençal sage soup.

Cultivation: Light well-drained soils with proper sun exposure.

Propagation in the garden: By seed or spring-summer cuttings.


Did you know? The Latin name of Sage, Salvia, most likely comes from the word “Salus”, which means “safety”, “salvation”, referring to the medicinal qualities of the plant.

Up to Perennial aromatic plants

Thyme

Thyme leaves and flowers

Species: Thymus vulgaris L. and Thymus serpyllum L. (Lamiaceae)

Common name: EN thyme, IT Timo, FR Thym, ZH 麝香草 (pinyin Shèxiāng cǎo)

Origin: Native to the Mediterranean basin.

Description: evergreen shrub of about 20-30cm tall.

Benefits: Boosts appetite and promotes digestion. Reduces flatulence. Soothes cough and cold, particularly combined with honey and lemon.

Uses: bouquet garni, infusions, ratatouille together with bay laurel.

Cultivation: Dry and rocky soils.

Propagation in the garden: Cuttings and root division of the mother plant.

Up to Perennial aromatic plants

Annual aromatic plants

Seasonal plants need to be replanted or sowed every year. Sometimes, the plant reproduces itself by producing seeds that fall to the soil and then sprout in the spring of the following year.

For annual plants, depending on what your purpose is, you will need to take some precautions.
If you grow aromatic plants to use their leaves, you have to cut off the ends of the stems to avoid flowering. When the plant flowers, the leaves take on a more bitter taste and the plant quickly dies after reproducing itself.
If, on the other hand, your aim is to attract pollinating insects and produce seeds, then you can leave the plant to flower.

We are updating our kitchen garden with new plants. Here is a list of what we have planted so far and their uses.

Basil

Basil

Species: Ocimum basilicum L. (Lamiaceae)

Common name: EN Basil, IT Basilico, FR Basilique, ZH 罗勒 (pinyin Luólè)

Description: Origin: India.

Benefits: The fresh leaves are traditionally used to relieve indigestion.

Uses: Fresh or dried leaves of the Genovese variety (also called Sweet Basil) are used in Provencal and Italian cuisine for salads, pesto and tomato sauces, pizzas, and bruschettas. Thai basil is used for spring rolls, thai curries and other soups. In temperate regions, basil season is summer, from May to the end of season.
Cultivation: Basil fears the cold. It fears bad temperatures below 10-15°C. grow in the sun, in semi-shade in warm areas, in moist and well drained soils. Propagation in the garden: by seed or by cuttings.

Did you know? Basil is a sacred herb in India. Its name “Basil” comes from the Greek word “Basileus” meaning king.

Notes: The genus Ocimum includes more than 60 annual and perennial species. In temperate latitudes, basil is a seasonal plant. At home, it can be grown all year round, provided it has light and warmth. The aroma of basil is given by a volatile aromatic principle. So don’t cook it to keep its flavor intact 😉

Up to Annual aromatic plants

Cilantro

Cilantro

Species: Coriandrum sativum L. (Apiaceae: same family of carrot, celery, and fennel)

Common name: EN Cilandro, Coriander, or Chinese parsley, IT Coriandolo, FR Coriandre, ZH 芫荽, commonly called 香菜 like parsley (pinyin Yánsuī or Xiāngcài)

Description: Herbaceous plant of about 50 cm, blooming in June. The little white flowers are grouped into inflorescences. The fruits, achenes, are used as spices.

Origin: Middle eastBenefits: Dried fruits help against flatulence and bloating.

Uses: Asian cooking.Cultivation: keep the soil humid to avoid early bloom.

Propagation in the garden: by seed.

Up to Annual aromatic plants

Estragon (Tarragon)

Tarragon

Species: Artemisia dracunculus L. (Asteraceae)

Common name: EN Estragon or Tarragon, IT Dragoncello, FR Estragon, ZH 龙蒿 (pinyin Lóng hāo)

Description: Herbaceous plant that can reach up to one meter in height.

Origin: Central Asia, Caucasus.Benefits: Traditionally used to sooth tooth pain. Uses: Flavors eggs, cheese, poultry, fish, vegetables, and vinaigrette.

Cultivation: In a sunny place with a humid and well drained soil.

Propagation in the garden: root division or cuttings.
Did you know? The species name, dracunculus, comes from the shape of its roots, which look like a twisted snake.

Up to Annual aromatic plants

Fennel

Species: Foeniculum vulgare Mill. (Apiaceae: same family of carrot, celery, and cilantro)

Common name: EN Fennel, IT Finocchio, FR Fenouil, ZH 茴香 (pinyin Huíxiāng)

Description: The plant can grow up more than 2 meters in height. The leaves are finely dissected and as light as feathers. It produces small yellow flowers gathered in  terminal compound umbels, which is a typical characteristic of Apiaceae family.

Origin: Europe and South Asia.Benefits: The infusion of fennel fruits (commonly called seeds) helps against stomach pain, indigestion,  flatulence and bloating.

Uses: It flavors salads, fish, soups, and vegetables. The bulb is usually eaten as raw vegetable or cooked into gratin.

Cultivation: Rich, moist and well-drained soil in a sunny place.

Propagation in the garden: by seeds.

Up to Annual aromatic plants

Lemon beebrush

Lemon beebrush

Species: Aloysia citriodora/ Lippia citriodora (Verbenaceae)

Common name: EN Lemon beebrush, Lemon verbena, IT Verbena odorosa, FR Verveine citronnelle, ZH 柠檬马鞭草 (pinyin Níngméng mǎbiān cǎo)

Description: Shrub with pointed deciduous leaves and a pleasant lemon scent, growing up 2–3 meters. It can withstand temperatures below zero down to -5°C.

Origin: Native to South America.

Benefits: Improves digestion.

Uses: herbal teas with lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) or thyme, salads, cooked with poultry.

Cultivation: Well-drained soil and not in direct sunlight. At the end of winter, it is good to prune the plant to strengthen it.

Propagation in the garden: By cuttings.

Up to Annual aromatic plants

Lemon balm

Lemon balm

Species: Melissa officinalis L. (Lamiaceae)

Common name: EN Lemon balm, IT Melissa, FR Mélisse, ZH 蜜蜂花 (pinyin Mìfēng huā)

Description: Shrubby plant. Wrinkled, dense, and intensely lemon-scented leaves.

Origin: Mediterranean basin, South Central Europe

Benefits: Anti-stress. Digestion. Bloating.

Uses: Herbal teas, salads, sauces, and desserts.

Cultivation: In shady or sunny locations but not too hot. Moist but well-drained soil.

Did you know? Its name comes from the Greek word μέλισσα (melissa) which means “honeybee”. In fact, its white flowers attract bees and other insects in search of pollen and nectar.

Notes: Pick the leaves before flowering and dry them for winter use.

Up to Annual aromatic plants

Parsley

Petroselinum crispum, var. neapolitanum

Species: Petroselinum crispum (Apiaceae, same family of carrot, celery, fennel, and cilantro)

Common name: EN Parsley, IT Prezzemolo, FR Persil, ZH 香菜  (pinyin  Xiāngcài)

Description:  Herbaceous plant with flowers arranged in umbels, as in all Apiaceae. It can be up to 40-60 cm in height.

Origin: native to the Mediterranean basin.

Benefits: The leaves are rich in vitamine C. It boosts appetite and improves digestion.

Uses: trifolate greens, mushrooms, tomato sauces, fish.

Cultivation: Parsley fears intense cold. It is a biennial in temperate zones, annual in tropical zones. It requires rich, moist and well-drained soil, in a sunny or semi-shady place .

Propagation in the garden: By seed.

Notes: The name of the genus, Petroselinum, comes from the words “petra” meaning rock and “selinon” meaning “celery”. The flat leaf variety is tastier than the curly leaf variety.

Up to Annual aromatic plants

Summer savory

Bee pollinating Summer savory

Species: Satureja (Lamiaceae)

Common name: EN Summer savory, IT Santoreggia, FR Sarriette, ZH 香薄荷属 (pinyin Xiāng bòhé shǔ)

Description: Up to 25 cm in height.

Origin: Mediterranean basinBenefits: Uses: herbal teas, salads, barbecue.

Cultivation: Well-drained soil, in a sunny place.

Propagation in the garden: By seed.

Notes: The extracts and essential oils from summer savory show anti-inflammatory, anticancer, antimicrobial, antioxidant, antiparasitic, analgesic, hepatoprotective and pesticidal activity. Current research is studying the antidiabetic and anticholesterolemic properties of Satureja.

Up to Annual aromatic plants

Spearmint

Mentha spicata

Species: Mentha spicata L. (Lamiaceae)

Common name: EN Spearmint, garden mint, and common mint,  IT Menta, FR Menthe, ZH 留兰香 (pinyin Liú lán xiāng)

Description: Perennial herbaceous plant about 50 cm high, the stem is square-shaped as in all Lamiaceae. The leaves are typically perfumed thanks to the essential oils they contain. The bilobed, pinkish flowers are arranged in cylindrical spikes.

Benefits: Digestive. Widely used in both fresh and dry forms, for herbal infusion and culinary preparations.

Cultivation: Rich and moist soil, in a sunny or semi-shady place.

Propagation in the garden: Apical cuttings in spring and summer. Separation of rhizome fragments.

Up to Annual aromatic plants

More plants are coming soon!

We are soon starting our seasonal kitchen garden. Along with it, we plan to plant more herbs. We want to plant herbs close to our vegetables for two reasons. One is because we love herbs, so the more the better. The other reason is that we want to protect our vegetables from pests. The essential oil of certain herbs helps keep phytoparasites away. I will tell you more in one of the upcoming posts.

Last, but not least

Before saying goodbye, I invite you to join our beautiful Instagram community at DaybydayPlants_blog for updates and more tips on how to have a lovely aromatic herbs’ garden for you and all our little friends, bees, and Co. See you there!

Disclaimer. The purpose of this article is solely and exclusively to inform you about herbs and their uses. The information provided is not medical advice and may not be accurate. Should any of these herbs be used for their medicinal properties, it is recommended that you seek medical advice before any medical use.

Photo credits: valentinacurzi.com

About Valentina

Valentina is a natural scientist, communications consultant, and the founder of Day by day Plants. She is passionate about plant-based food and she is always looking for new ideas for living more sustainably. She finds inspiration locally as well as from other cultures.