If you enjoy Italian cooking, you will know that the Italians are not shy with their herbs. This is one of the best known secrets of Italian cuisine. It is not surprising either, since we can trace most of the herbs that we use today to the early gardens of Italy that were established centuries ago. But what if want to establish your own Italian herb garden?
It is not just the herbs that we identify with Italy. It is also the way that these herbs were grown in traditional gardens that is so appealing. Italian garden design, with its firm lines and symmetry, its use of water and use of sculptured foliage and statuary, has also made its mark.
So if you want to grow popular Italian herbs in a traditional-style herb garden, you will need to firstly design your garden in a formal and symmetrical way, and then plant those herbs that are commonly used for Italian cuisine. If you look at photographs of famous Italian herb gardens, you will see that there are often hedged parterres, which are ornamental beds that look just as good as the herbs that grow in them. Clipped hedges were planted to create geometric patterns, and then low-lying herbs were planted in between.
If this approach does not appeal to you, do not worry too much. There are many Italians today who favor a more casual and informal approach.
Whichever type of Italian garden you decide to plant, you do need to be sure you prepare your soil correctly and pay attention to the needs of all the herbs you are going to grow. Here are some hints that will help you to succeed.
Rosemary, which can be successfully clipped to form hedges, or grown into a bush, is a perennial, half-hardy evergreen shrub that is easy to plant from cuttings. In the right conditions, you can break off a twig, stick it in the ground and it will quickly grow into a pretty shrub. It does like well-drained soil, and it should be protected from frost.
Oregano is another perennial herb, and one that also grows in well-drained soil, in a sunny position. There are various types, all of which grow close to the ground and seem to creep. Origanum majorana (often called marjoram) is sweeter than ordinary oregano, and a popular variety for Italian food.
Sweet basil, a delicious annual herb, is a must in Italian cuisine. It is not difficult to grow and will thrive alongside rosemary and oregano. To promote new growth you will need to pinch out the little flowers before the plants mature. There are also various perennial basil plants, but they are not quite as flavorsome or soft-leafed as the annual type.
Parsley comes in a variety of guises, some of which are easier to grow than others. Flat-leafed parsley is common in Italian cuisine, but curled leaf and other types may also be used. Parsley is a biennial species that grows best in a sunny position. It should be harvested before the plant begins to flower.
Sage is yet another perennial herb, and it also likes a sunny position in well-drained soil. It is not always that prolific as the other herbs, and it should be harvested before the pretty purple flowers appear.
The perennial fennel is often grown primarily for the use of its seeds in Italian cooking. It is not a difficult herb to grow, but should not be grown near dill, because they can cross-pollinate. The fennel seeds should be gathered when they are hard and a grey-green color, and they should be left to dry indoors before you use them for cooking.
Garlic is part of the onion family and is grown from a bulb. Once you get the plant going, it will continue to produce new heads for quite some time.
Once you have established your Italian herb garden, why not learn a bit more about Italian cooking so that you can reap the full benefits from your labors?
By: Henry Thomas
Henry Thomas is an herb gardening enthusiast who has grown herbs for over 15 years and enjoys helping others get started in this amazing activity. For great information on "Italian herb garden" go to herbgardening-ultimatesecrets.com/italian-herb-garden/, or visit herbgardening-ultimatesecrets.com/. His newest book, "Herb Gardening - Ultimate Secrets", teaches beginners herb gardeners everything they need to know about.