Herbs are easy to grow if you follow some simple rules.
"Almost all herbs require at least five hours of sun a day and well-drained soil," said Pat Stewart, co-owner of Possum Creek Herb Farms (www.possumcreekherb.com), which sells organic herbs through mail order and at Chattanooga Market.
"Herbs are susceptible to root rot if they are overwatered," said Stewart, who offers the following tips for growing five popular herbs.
1 Basil. The most popular basils are the pesto varieties Genovese and Sweet Italian. The plants are sun-loving annuals, susceptible to temperatures 40 F or below. They require well-drained soil and should be pruned or used regularly to prevent premature blooming and promote leaf production. A staple of pesto and pasta dishes, basil is also used to flavor soups, stews, vegetables, poultry, meat and vinegar.
2 Rosemary. This sun-loving evergreen perennial is a great shrub in the landscape. The plants are heat-loving, drought-tolerant and require well-drained soil. A good source of fiber, iron and calcium, rosemary is used in chicken, lamb, pork, salmon, tuna, soups and sauces. Rosemary-infused syrups can be used to sweeten lemonade.
3 Lavender. Grow in a dry, sunny location with warm, well-drained soil. Plant lavender in an elevated area. Use stones around the plant base to absorb and transfer heat back to the plant. It is good for companion planting because deer will avoid it.
4 Thyme. This perennial bush requires plenty of sun and prefers sandy, dry soil. Prune or use it regularly to promote tender leaf production. It can be used in meat, fish, poultry, dressings, herb butters and in cottage cheese.
5 French tarragon. This perennial prefers rich, sandy, well-drained soil and will do well in full sun or light partial shade. This variety is considered the "true" culinary tarragon. Russian tarragon also can be used in cooking, but the flavor is not the same. Tarragon is used sparingly because of its intense flavor.