by Pam Tate, Guernsey County Master Gardener

Every time I mention doing something with herbs, my husband wants to know who is this Herb, and why do I spend so much time with him.  Actually, that is a very good place to start.  Who or what is an herb?  There are several definitions, but the one I like best is an herb is any plant we use.  This is a broad definition that not only many annuals and perennials, but also trees like hawthorn (Crataegus) or juniper (Juniperous), shrubs like roses (Rosa) or witch hazel (Hamamelis), vines like passionflower (Passiflora) or hops (Humulus lupulus) and even something we call weeds, like dandelions (Taraxacum).  The most common use we think of is culinary, but there are many other ways to use plants including medicinal, crafts, clothes, and dyes. 

Using herbs in your landscape and garden is no different than using any other plant.  First you need to know your site.  You must examine the amount of sun and shade your site receives, the type of soil you have, the soil pH, what kind of drainage the site has, and are there any other plantings, structures, or utilities that might affect this planting.  You also need to know the requirements of the plants.  Do they need sun, shade, or a bit of both?  Do they have soil type and pH preferences?  What is their hardiness zone?  Are they annual, perennial, or biennial?  What is their drainage requirement?  Lavender is an example of an herb that needs very good drainage, especially in winter.