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.
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.)
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:
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
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.
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!