7 unusual uses for easy-to-grow herbs; you can plant them all summer

rue at Mike Weber Greenhouses in West Seneca NY
Rue can help prevent cats from using your garden as a litter box. Photo by Connie Oswald Stofko

by Connie Oswald Stofko

Everybody knows you can use herbs to season your food, but there are many other uses for these wonderful plants, said Jen Weber, retail manager at Mike Weber Greenhouses, 42 French Rd., West Seneca.

Today we’ll talk about just a few of the 90 varieties of herbs grown by Mike Weber Greenhouses.

What I like most about herbs is that they’re easy to grow.

“They just don’t want to be overwatered,” Weber said.

As I’ve said before, gardening in Western New York doesn’t start and end on Memorial Day, and there’s still have plenty of time to get herbs into your garden.

“You have until Labor Day, really,” Weber said. If you wait until July or August to plant herbs, you’ll just have to water them more.

After Labor Day, the nights are cooling off and the ground is cooling off, so it’s getting too late to plant them.

pennyroyal at Mike Weber Greenhouses
Pennyroyal can help keep ants away. Photo by Connie Oswald Stofko

Get the perennial herbs in the ground before Labor Day and they should come back next year.

What’s nice is that most annual herbs will come next year back, too, because they reseed themselves and you’ll get new plants, she noted.

Many herbs are pretty, too, so even if you don’t plan to cook with them or use them in any other way, you can use them as ornamental plants in your garden.

Here are seven more ways you can use herbs.

Keep cats from using your garden as a litter box

This is the tip that Weber always shares first because so many people have this problem. If a cat is using your garden as a litter box, plant rue within a few feet of the spot. They don’t like the smell of it, she said.

Rue is one of those herbs you might not be familiar with. It’s a medicinal herb, Weber said, that grows hip high and gets a yellow flower.

Keep ants away

If you have a problem with ants, plant pennyroyal. It’s in the mint family, and ants don’t like the smell. (Don’t worry; to humans the aroma is minty and pleasant.)

borage at Mike Weber Greenhouses in West Seneca NY
Borage is great for attracting bees. Photo by Connie Oswald Stofko

Pennyroyal is a ground cover that will spread about a foot in each direction. Try to figure out where the ants are getting into your house, perhaps by a cracked foundation or under the porch, and plant the pennyroyal there.

Attract bees to your garden

Bees are one of our most common pollinators. Here are Weber’s top five herbs for attracting bees:

1. Borage

2. Fennel

3. Dill

4. Lavender

5. Chamomile

While you’ve probably heard of the others, borage might be new to you. Weber said you can use the tender fresh leaves in salads. Borage gets a tall blue flower, which many people like because blue flowers are rare. It reseeds and will spread, but not invasively. Hear the pronunciation of borage.

Attract butterflies to your garden

hyssop at Mike Weber Greenhouses in West Seneca NY
Hyssop can attract bees to your garden. Photo by Connie Oswald Stofko

Butterflies are pollinators, too, and many of us like them because they’re so pretty. I saw a butterfly fluttering around when I was at Mike Weber Greenhouses, but it was too quick for me to get a photo. (That’s why I photograph plants. They don’t move.)

“In our greenhouse in July and August, they’re hatching all over our dill,” Weber said.

Great herb plants for butterfly incubator gardens are hyssop, dill, fennel and parsley.

Hyssop is another herb you might not be familiar with. Hyssop grows in a short mound and gets purple or white flowers, so many people use it as an ornamental plant.

“I use it in cold drinks,” Weber said. Other people use it to make candy, like cough drops. You can also use horehound in your homemade cough drops, she added.

Make sachets as gifts

Dried lavender is nice for sachets that you can place in a dresser drawer or closet, and they make lovely gifts.

rosemary at Mike Weber Greenhouses in West Seneca NY
Add rosemary to your bath water for a soothing experience. Photo by Connie Oswald Stofko

Weber usually picks it when the flowers are fully open, then hangs it upside down to dry. Put the flowers in a gauzy bag to create the sachet.

“You can use the leaves, but the sachets are prettier with the flowers,” she said.

Make air freshener

Pick large branches of lavender, tie them together with a ribbon and hang them upside down in your kitchen. They will add a nice aroma to your room.

Make a soothing bath

Put a branch of lavender and/or rosemary along with and some epsom salts in your bath. It’s supposed to relieve aches and pains, but even if it doesn’t, it will smell good and be relaxing.

That’s a perfect way to end a strenuous gardening day!

5 Comments on “7 unusual uses for easy-to-grow herbs; you can plant them all summer

  1. I use herbs for both bees and butterflies and also have written on their use for wildlife. Great for caterpillars and nectaring too.

  2. I’ve found our native herb, Anise Hyssop (Agastache foeniculum) is an incomparable attractant for native bees and butterflies, along with Bee Balm (Monarda didyma), which brings in the Ruby-throated Hummingbirds. Both are excellent for medicinal and culinary uses, too. I also interplant lavender and tarragon in flower beds where White-tailed Deer and Eastern Cottontails tend to forage (like the Daylily beds) and it works as a repellent. I’ve not had a nibble in the beds where these herbs are planted. By the way, the lovely blue flowers of Borage are also edible and add a lovely garnish to salads.

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