How To Grow Tarragon

Tarragon is one of my most easily grown herbs. I say this because it wasn’t always this way. Our home garden soil tends to be wet and cold in winter. Tarragon dies back in winter and is often the slowest plant to reappear in late spring. After a particularly cold wet winter we may not see it at all. The photo below was taken in early November shortly before harvesting.

Tarragon container

The solution is to grow it in a container. Drainage when using potting soil is no longer a problem, the container warms early in the spring and you’ll harvest tarragon all season. Best of all, if you have a division or a small container bring it indoors in January when foliage has died back and soon vigorous delicious shoots will appear.
Tarragon’s roots will tightly intertwine and it can choke itself out if not divided every one to two years. If planting in the ground pick a sunny well-drained location. Plants benefit from a good fertilizing at the start of the growing season. Work some crab meal or aged chicken manure into your soil. I recommend container gardeners fertilize with fish emulsion
French tarragon does not set seed, so don’t be tempted to buy a seed packet. It will be Russian tarragon which is nearly tasteless. Regular using and cutting of plants early in the season develops a desirable compact growth habit. Later I will post some cooking hints for this classic herb

Those Terrifying Thai Peppers

Some days begin with a good chuckle. This morning I opened BBC news and read about a terrorist alert in London. You can go to this url for the full story:Burning chilli sparks terror fear. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/england/london/7025782.stm It really does sound right out of Monty Python. However, since this blog is The Gardener’s Pantry, I remembered my container planting of Demon Red Thai Peppers surrounding a plant of Thai Basil. This container will move indoors for a few months as I continue to harvest those little red hots and basil.

Thai Pepper and Basil

When I bring a container indoors I check it for insects and anything that might be living near the drainage hole. Insects on peppers and basil aren’t usually much of a problem outdoors but may emerge inside your home or greenhouse. Keep an eye on plants and wipe off any eggs you see on the underside of leaves. if you see those little round pillbugs coming out of the drainage hole place the container on a tray filled with cornmeal. If something is flying around or on the leaves figure out what it is before trying to treat the problem.

Salvia guaranitica Anise Scented Sage

Of all the plants in our little herb garden, the lovely and long blooming Salvia guaranitica is the one most favored by hummingbirds. Our home herb garden is primarily culinary herbs. It includes edible flowers and a few herbs attractive to pollinators, butterflies and hummingbirds. I went out in the late afternoon with a book and camera in hand hoping if I sat quietly the hummingbirds would appear. After about ten minutes I heard the little buzzing “chewit” call of the Rufous hummingbird. She made a dive for the blue sage with the large hooked flowers.

Salvia guaranitica with hummingbird by Helen Hilman

This photo is compliments of Helen Hilman who took it at our nursery. My own attempt was about as successful as photographing fairies in the garden.

To grow this sage, select a well drained spot in full to half sun. This plant will grow 4’to 6’tall. When winter temperatures fall below 20 degrees plants often do not make it through the winter. Nevertheless, it is worthwhile to simply treat this plant as an annual for all the joy it brings. A light fertilizing during the growing season is all that is needed. Like all my perennial herbs, I stop fertilizing in early August to help the plants harden off for winter. Clip it back close to the ground in late winter for best summer blooms. The foliage is edible but relatively flavorless. Cathy Wilkinson Barash, author of Edible Flowers: From Garden to Palette assures me the flowers are safely edible. Their beauty, moderate water needs and lure for hummingbirds make them a valuable garden plant. When grown in container plants rarely exceed 3′ but will grow and bloom vigorously. They may become potbound after one season and need a larger pot. Divide to start another container or share with a friend.