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Fun Ways to Use Your Garden Herbs

Updated: Nov 18, 2023

Watch this informative video on the many ways you can use the herbs from your garden. Learn how to make everything from seasoning salts to sachets!

Video Transcript

Hi everybody, welcome. I'm Marilyn Buehler.

I've grown herbs for probably 60 -- I've grown just about everything, but I've loved herbs for 60 plus years and I love gardening and that herbs are my favorite to grow dry use. And just have them. There's so many things you can do with them.

In this session today, we're going to talk about growing, planting, growing, and harvesting 'cause you will be harvesting your basil at least and probably your -- we don't have any oregano because we've sold out.

But your sweet marjoram, your basil, and your Mexican mint Marigold, you'll be harvesting that you'll be in about 2 to three weeks all summer long, depending on, you know you can dry it in. By mid July, your bushes of basil will be -- you'll be cutting them a lot.

But basically, you've all said you've been growing herbs of what  are some of your favorite herbs that you grow?

Rosemary. Rosemary. Dill, yeah, I love dill too. Thyme, yeah and basil. Yeah those are all good herbs to grow.

I'm originally from the St. Louis, MO area and the growing conditions there --It took me 12 years to -- No 10 years. The last two years I've really been successful with growing plants in Texas.

How many of you start your plants from seed?

Starting your plants from seed is not hard. There's some you really don't want to start because Basil, Rosemary -- they need special conditions. They need light, for one thing. So you don't bury them in the dirt. And they need bottom watering and top misting.They need a certain amount of bottom heat. And you know, even though I do that, I've I have done that.I don't do it anymore. It's simpler to to buy the plants.

And it's it's not a lot of -- well, anyway.

The first plant we're going to talk about is basil -- sweet basil. There's hundreds of different kinds, literally, of basil. Basil is a member of the Mint family and it just like your mint,it cross breeds prolifically. If you've got Thai basil or Cinnamon, basil or any of the other Basils, it will cross.And it will produce a different type of basil. Your Opal basil in extreme conditions, will turn green.

Basil is also good to plant with -- It's a great companion plant to plant next to your tomatoes and your potatoes.

If you're growing potatoes . . .I'm growing sweet potatoes this year and I've got a basil plant right in the middle of them. I'm not growing a lot, but and they're their companion plants, and they grow well together.

Another plant is good to grow is sweet marjoram. I love sweet Marjoram. It's as you'll see on one of the sheets I gave you, it's a great substitute for -- It's sweeter, it's got a sweeter, more mellow taste than oregano. Oregano can be sharp, but it's still good. I'm not saying it's not a good herb, and unfortunately we've sold out of oregano.

Getting back to oregano and sweet marjoram, it's normally an annual. But with protection I've had mine winter over for two years now and it gets bigger and bigger. And it's -- I'm going to pass this around.

Can somebody come and get it 'cause I'm hooked up here. Just rub the leaf and smell it.

It is -- It's just a really -- If you've ever -- Yes?

Audience Member: Is there are good sized pot to put that in? Like what's a good sized pot?

I would I would put that in easily an 8 inch pot. That size and not too deep, the roots the roots don't go very deep, but we'll talk about planting in a minute.

But it's it's -- I just love -- And I don't use it for just cooking. We've also got French tarragon, which is kind of hard to grow here in Texas. But you can grow it. I've done it the last two years.

What you want to do is, you want to plant it in a pot. Bottom water it with just a little bit misting and when it gets really hot, like the end of June and July, find the shadiest spot in your garden and put it there.

French tarragon. Yeah, it's a perennial.

And you know, and then during, when the heat goes down here in Texas, the end of September and the 1st of October -- I mean, mine got like 3 foot tall. In Missouri they get about 6 foot tall, but that's because the weather is so totally different. But they're -- I'm going to pass this around too. I just love the smell of them. It's a licorice smell.

Now we've got another herb that is -- that you can use similar to French tarragon.It's called Mexican Mint Marigold. It grows very well here in Texas, and it's a perennial and it doesn't require a lot of care.

The one thing you want to remember about it is you want to harvest it before it goes -- you know, it begins flowering and you really want to do that with most of your plants, but we'll talk about that later.

I love it with carrots.I love carrots. I love sweet potatoes. In any of the orange vegetables and the yellow beets. I will, if I've got fresh, I will cut some fresh and just put it all over and bake my carrots or if if I'm cooking them in the microwave or in water on the stove right before they're done. I'll add it into the pot of water if you're using dried herbs, you know these little bags -- gift bags with little ties.

You can also buy the muslin bags. Either one works.I prefer the the gift bags. The little ones.I'll put my herbs in there and put them in the pot. Except when I'm baking carrots 'cause I love them all over my carrots.

And experiment. That's how I found out it was good with carrots. And in Missouri you can't ask for Mexican Mint Marigold because they'll correct you and say no, it's Mexican Marigold mint.And they're wrong 'cause it's actually Mexican Mint Marigold.

OK Another herb that I love -- It's called bergamot, monarda, or bee balm. It's bergamot or bee balm or Oswego tea. It's got many different names. The Indians called it Oswego tea.It's known here by bee balm, or bergamot or monarda. I've seen it labeled. All here in Texas.

How many of you have drank or heard of Earl grey tea? This is the main ingredient in Earl Grey tea.

I'm going to pass it around.

Thank you, honey, and you can dry it and use it in teas and that's really basically the only thing I use it for. It's called bee balm because bees love it. Butterflies love it. And it's got a really pretty flower summer pink summer red.

You harvest all of your herbs before they flower. Although we will talk about that later on.

Here in Texas, it'll get about 2 foot. And you need to take it out of the hot sun and put it in the shade from about the end of June through September.

Normally I have little packets of my dried herbs that I give out.I don't have them today because I'm almost out of them, but I'll be harvesting and I take it, you know, saving more for my next class that that I give here.

There's many different kinds of lavender. My favorite and the one that I've always grown is no longer available to the public, and I don't know why. It's called Angustifolia. If you can ever get a lavender, the species ANGUSTIFOLIA. Angustifolia.


It produces year after year, and I haven't had no trouble growing it in Texas in the ground or in a pot.

These are some this fernleaf. You're different lavenders will have different aromas in their leaves. Some some lavenders will actually smell like turpentine. But as you dry it, that turpentine scent goes away.

This is called a sweet lavender. It's also known as Spanish lavender or French lavender. It has really pretty flowers that aren't that they aren't your usual spike with little bitty nodules on them.They kind of have little dresses that come down.Or skirts, as they bloom.

Now this is Provence Lavender is a good lavender to grow here in Texas. It grows really well and it provides lots and lots of flowers.

German chamomile is a low growing plant.

The flowers are -- They look like little tiny daisies and you can harvest the leaves, but I prefer to harvest the flowers to make tea with. I don't know of any other uses, and I've been growing and using herbs for most of my life.

My grandmother was from Denmark and she she taught my sisters and I a lot about herbs.

You want to grow this in a pot here in Texas. It doesn't have a smell. I can pass it around so you can look at it.

Thank you honey.

I've got one of these long pots -- you want to grow German chamomile in -- I've got one of these long pots. Yeah, but you can grow it in any pot.

You just want a shallow pot, no, no more than five inches deep. I prefer a plastic pot to a clay pot simply because you don't want to let chamomile dry out something I've recently learned from a colleague of mine that his son has since taken over their herb farm in Athens, OH.

He has taken sponges, natural sponges. Of course you can use the sponges, you know, that you buy at the store. But Peter and I and Christine, his wife, we've always done organic growing so we buy the natural sponges and we put them --

Have you put your rocks down or whatever or your holes in your pots. You don't always need rocks. And you put them down. And then you put a layer of dirt. Depending on you know if you're using the five inch, you want to put about an inch of dirt, potting soil, and then you want to space your -- You know natural sponges come in different shapes and you want to put a piece like that all across that, or around if you're using a round pot and then put and wet that really good and that will help. That will help put your, keep your chamomile pretty moist.

Full sun until we get the heat and then partial morning sun after that.

She wanted to know if I've ever used an Olla -- OLLA -- in growing my herbs and when I'm growing them in a pot. And, no, I have not. I've heard of them and I've heard people have good results. But I like to play in my garden and I'm out there several times a day. First thing in the morning with my coffee and my book.

It's really not to late here in Texas to start seeds.

The question is, do I put the chamomile in partial morning sun.

Only after the temperatures get hot, like mid to late June through -- and then watch it because if it starts curling up and looks like it's dying then you definitely want to put it in more shade. And then when it flowers -- when chamomile flowers, you want to harvest your flowers. The more you harvest your flowers -- And you can just, you know, I use cardboard flats that soda comes in and plants come in and I clean the dirt out and put paper towels down and then, you know, I'll put my herbs there to dry.

We'll probably have a session -- Have -- were any of you here when I had the big bowl and I showed you how to harvest your herbs and cut, wash them and dry them?

Ok, I will briefly explain.

You can use your kitchen sink. You want to fill it with water and right after you harvest your herbs. You want to throw them in and slosh them around really good. And then I take them and I have towels, dish towels or whatever towels you want, and I just take them out and I look at them.

If any of them have leaves I don't want or flowers that are past their prime that I don't like, I just throw them on the side to go back into the compost.

But I'll put them on the towels and I'll -- put another towel on top of them. Just to pat them dry. And then I take that towel off and I'll let them dry two to three hours.

Some of them dry -- like your chamomile flowers will dry really quick in like 30 to 40 minutes. And then that's when I take the flats and I put them in there.

That's one way to do it.

And I put them in my garage. We have a solar fan that kind of keeps the temperature my favorite way for certain herbs.

Your oregano, your sweet marjoram, your Mexican Marigold mint, your sweet basil -- any of your basils, your lemon verbenas, you take a paper lunch bag. You write on the bag what it is sweet basil and the date.

You take -- We're going to pretend this is cut. You take after you've cleaned them. You take a bunch about so big. And you stick head first into the bag where the stems are just coming out on the end.And then you just close up that bag.And you can use a string or a rubber band. And I put them in the top part of my refrigerator.

Your herbs will come out so green and so tasty. To me, and that's really that's the only way to dry lemon verbena.

Sweet basil, it will sweet basil will turn a dark gray or even black if you dry it in too much heat.

Your sweet marjoram, your bergamot, I have had fairly good luck, but you know, drying it in the in my garage.

The question is what about drying cilantro?

That's very hard to do. It loses its flavor.

Now coriander, which is the seed you can, you can harvest that and dry it. But cilantro is so easy to grow indoors. In the winter, you may just want to have yourself a pot on your windowsill somewhere. But drying it -- it will turn like a blonde color. And no flavor.

I use the top part of my refrigerator, because if you use the vegetable drawers you've got humidity.

You put them in the fridge. Yeah.

Audience Member: When you said top, I --

Oh, I'm sorry. I'm sorry I put them in the refrigerator. Yeah. Yeah, you just just put him in there and basil takes almost three weeks. The top shelf. Yeah, 'cause it's less humidity. Thyme will dry in about two -- 10 days to two weeks.

Sweet Basil takes a good three weeks.

You just open them up and you know crinkle them.

The lady asked if we could lay our basil our drying bags in the refrigerator flat.

Yes you can.

And after you've cleaned them and put them in the bag and secured the bag with a string or rubber band and marked the bag with the contents like basil, thyme, etc., you want to put it in your bag, flat down in the top shelf of your refrigerator, and then.

You just want to check them. Depending on at least wait at least two weeks, except for thyme. Thyme will dry really quick.

Lemon verbena, which is a good tea herb, I also like to dry that in my refrigerator.

No, you can use a dehydrator. Yeah, I just don't because I had a dehydrator once and I never used it. It was easier for me to do that, but sure you can use a dehydrator, the question was.

Can you use a dehydrator to dry your herbs?

And yes, you can use the directions for the proper temperature that come with your dehydrator and make sure that if the if you're using the trays with slots or holes in them, you you really don't want to mix them.

What you might want to, but if you don't, just make sure that they're whole and they don't go down into the next tray.

Uses of lavender.

I have and I'll make it this year for one of my talks, lavender cookies.

Lavender is edible.

I'm all out of lavender now.I have to wait till they grow you.

The question is can you use any kind of lavender? Yes u can.You can use any kind of the flowers.

I'm not, you know the flower buds is what you use.

I also do sachets, I think they're called. There are different herbs, like, you can take the leaves of lavender. Not the flowers. The leaves. And put them in one of your sachet bags, or you know whatever you want to use to put them in.

And, yes, I do talk to them and tell them how pretty they are and everything.

And if you've got a big closet, you'll probably want to use the five inch bags. Two or three of them. For your drawers, you can use the little ones, but I love the smell.

I will take sweet Marjoram, lemon verbena, lavender and bergamot, and just what different herbs I have - the spicy globe basil -- That's the little rounded basil that -- it's short -- that has a really sweet smell. That you can use also. And I just mix that all together and put that in my drawers.

You know it's an old fashioned thing to do, but I just, you know, I grew up with it and my sisters and my daughter -- and my daughter my almost to be daughter-in-law, my son became engaged finally -- They all use it and it's just nice. I think it's just something nice to do and it doesn't take a lot of effort or time.

The question is how to use and grow borage.

Borage is known as a Bible herb, it was -- It's been around that long. It's mentioned in the Bible. I don't know which verse or section, but it's there. I have looked it up in the past.

It's a lovely plant with lovely blue flowers and I've never used it for anything but tea.

It's a shade plant. Partial shade yeah. It will grow well. I say shade plant here in Texas because the sun will just fry it.

Okay, you've started your seeds and they're ready to go into the ground.

The best way to plant your herbs -- most of them.

I'm going to use this Mexican mint Marigold because it's small and won't make too big of a mess.

Just squeeze your pot. You bring it out. You've dug your hole a little deeper than this. You put water in it. And then you put this in it, and then you press it down. And you take and cover it up to the bottom line of leaves really good.

And then you make sure, you want to press it down so the dirt covers the roots. And press down against them because air against the roots will set it back or even kill it.

And then you want to give it a good watering and it should just grow.

Sorry, I made a mess Joyce.

But then you just, you know I checked my plants every day. And, yes, I do talk to them and tell them how pretty they are and everything.

You want to check them periodically and make sure they have enough water.

And about the potting soils, which -- I'm going to stand up, Joyce. Which we've got some here.

I used the Happy Frog because I love it. My plants do so well with it, but any of these work great.

You don't have to fertilize them for they say at least three months. And you really don't.

I like to begin half fertilizing my plants because it boosts them. It gives them a nice, you know, just a nice burst of growth and there's different fertilizers you can use.

This garden tone is a good one and I do all organic so you know I mean if if you choose. There are other options for you, but it's whatever you decide to do.

It's -- like here it says 3 tablespoons of this wet in the soil when you're planting. That that you can use if you're planting in the ground.

I have raised beds so I don't put this right away, but I'll mix it up with water. And then are some of it. You can just sprinkle around the plant after two 2 1/2 months and that gives it a really nice burst of growth and it gives it the vitamins it needs to produce like calcium, iodine, different things like that and those of you that are growing in pots. I swear by this stuff.

After a while, your pots will fill with -- They'll get salty, They'll get sodium -- mineral that could be too much for your plants, and it can even kill them. And if you don't want to change your soil, which I don't like to do. I change my soil in my pots about every three years. And I put it in -- I've got this big wash tub, but I think they call them wash tubs, otherwise they're made of galvanized metal. And you know, I fill it with my dirt. And I use this. This will get rid of it.

It's called Bush Doctor. The Sledgehammer. They sell other products.

And use it according to directions and just mix it thoroughly in and it will get rid of the minerals and your soil is ready to use again.

A bottle this size will last -- well, unless you're cleaning an acre's worth of soil -- it will last you a couple of years at least. Sledgehammer.

OK, you've got them planted.They're growing and it's time to harvest.

If some of them are going to flower before then, catch it in the bud stage.

I use my sage buds, which are blooming now, and I dry them and I mix them with salt. Different salts, which I was going to bring samples of today, but I I just I just didn't have time to get to them. I'm sorry.

But you can take -- I use a cup of salt to 1/4 cup of my sage flowers. Your Mexican Marigold mint flowers.Your sweet marjoram flowers. Any of your flowers. And like the sage is the one I make the most of and oregano.

I use that a lot for salting fish by vegetables.You know it's got the flavor. And to do that

You harvest your herbs fresh and you take your salt -- and I use a mortar and pestle. You can use a blender.

But you you put your your herbs in first. Your salt in next and you just crush them in there. You put -- you can either dry them just naturally or I put mine in the oven at 250 for about 30 minutes. You can tell when the sage or the oregano is dry and then I just put it in a jar.

Well, I let it cool for about an hour.

The question is, do I put the salt and the herbs in the oven, and yes, you put them in the oven together after you've mixed it up, for about 20-30 minutes at 250 degrees

And you can experiment. If you don't want to make that much. Cut it in half and you'll be harvesting all summer long on most of your plants. If you're going to dry them for tea, after you've dried them, store them in an airtight container.

And that -- We will have a class on mixing blends for teas if you're interested in that and with Joyce's approval.

This is another good fertilizer. Although I prefer this, it's just -- it's also good, and it's organic.

The question is, are there herbs that should never be in the sun? Or are there herbs that should always be in the sun?

Herbs that should be in the shade. Comfrey which -- comfrey. COMFREY. That's a medicinal herb. And you probably --

It's a beautiful plant and it has beautiful flowers, but it's only used medicinally. It's known to heal broken bones and bruises, which I have used, but I -- even though I'm a master herbalist, I refrain from doing that because the penalties for practicing medicine without a license are severe and I'm too old to go to jail.

Know you can grow comfrey. And like I said, here in Texas your your German chamomile and your French tarragon, morning -- early morning sun and the rest shade.

Plants that that should get a lot of sun are your basil, your Mexican Marigold mint, your marjoram, your lemon verbena, your oregano, your thyme, your lavender, your dill.

The question is do I have a favorite book to recommend that has all this information? And I don't really have a favorite book.

If you're going to, if you want a book, you don't need a big book. Growing herbs are very -- It's very basic.

If you want a book on how to use your herbs after you've harvested them, there are several on the market. I just don't shop for books. So I don't know.

Maybe. It's kind of iffy.

Other butterflies -- the swallow -- black swallowtails will also come to that and fennel they love. But no, I will be planting -- I've got dill growing --

Let me add something about dill, which we're out of, but we will get more.

I don't use dill seed. I quit using it years ago when I discovered dill weed and dill flowers.

You know, the little yellow umbrills? Harvest those before they go to seed and dry them.

And the weed -- Dill weed is not the weed that I was asked a question about earlier here. It is the weed. The ferney parts of the leaves. And you just you just cut them and dry them and it dries really good in the refrigerator. And they come out as green as these do, and it's so tasty. I just -- I love using the dill weed. To me the dill seed is kind of bitter, but that's my opinion.

So is there anything I've missed? Any --

Yes, Ma'am --

Audience Member: So because you have to switch to part shade when it gets really hot, should -- do you feel like all of our herbs should be grown in pots?


Audience Member: Or can I do a raised bed and then do a shade screen.

Yes, you could do that. You can use a shade screen rather than that If you're growing it in a raised bed or a garden plot, you can use a shade screen.

I use golf umbrellas. I have them. My son made me a stand to put them on. But shade screen would work well too.

Yes, ma'am.

Audience Member: Do you have a solution to limiting mint in the garden?

I have never had that problem in Texas. I grow my mint in pots. And what I do every year -- it could be the soil in my yard, but they just, you know. I don't think it's me, Maybe they don't like me, but they grow really well in pots for me.

I have a big -- several big 24 inch pots and I'll plant them in there and they -- and I'm harvesting them now and what I do after I harvest my first harvest, when they get to the pots 'cause once herb become or once mint becomes root bound, they die off. They won't spread anymore. And I dig some of them out and I put it in another pot. And then I just cover the the pot I dug them from with dirt. And I'll get another harvest from them in the fall when the weather cools.

But to stop them in the ground -- What kind of mint are you growing? Just spearmint? Peppermint? Spearmint?

I wish I had that problem, believe me.

You just have to pull it up. When we lived in Missouri I had that problem. And I bought these -- my husband got these -- they were about 10 inches and 4 inches. They were some kind of shingle thing. But they were metal. And we hammered them into the ground. The Mint found a way around them. Then inches down they found a way around them. So I would just say pull them up.

So are there any other questions? Is there anything I've missed?

On one of the sheets that I gave you, there's substitutions that are -- they -- the substitutions will give you a little different flavor. But it's good. And it's good to try different items, or different spices.

We're out of lemon verbena, but when we get more, get some. They are a wonderful tea herb, a wonderful sachet bag herb. Mine has -- mine made it through the winter Armageddon in 2020. It made it through the winter last year.

I do protect it. I do put straw around it.

Lemon Balm is another good one, yes. Lemon Balm is a perennial and it's also a member of the Mint family. And it will spread by seed and by runners. It's a prolific spreader.

The question is: Is it better to plant your herbs in plastic pots or other clay pots or stone pots?

The plants you know the the plants that require water -- frequent water -- like your sweet marjoram and your chamomile, you want to plant those in plastic pots because they hold the water better.

The plants that you don't want to plant -- or that you do want to plant in clay pots are plants that like to be a little dry, like your French Tarragon, your basil, your bergamot.

Well, thank you all for coming and I love to talk about herbs and I hope I gave you some new ideas about growing them.

Thank you all for coming. Bye bye.

Marilyn's Herbal Recipes

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About Marilyn Buehler

Marilyn has been gardening and growing and foraging for herbs, veggies, wild flowers for many decades. She was the sole proprietor of the Oakdale Herb Farm in Southern Illinois. In the early 1980’s greenhouses were added and she started selling over 40 different varieties of herbs and wildflowers to the public. Her culinary herbs graced the Illinois State Fair for several years where she won several blue ribbons for them. She was active with the University of Illinois at Champagne-Urbana in their Specialty Growers Forum to educate and promote the use of herbs for other growers. She was also President of the Illinois Herb Association and a founding member of the International Herb Growers and Marketers group. She has traveled around parts of the country educating and enchanting people with her knowledge of herbs and wildflowers. Her main interest is in culinary herbs and some proprietary medicinals.



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