Smell, taste, touch, sigh, and hearing … these five senses help us to perceive and experience our world. Planting herbs in your Arizona garden covers all these senses in different ways, and you can enjoy them for many years. The climate in the foothills of Arizona is perfect for planting herbs in the backyard or in container gardens to spice up your senses.
Another plus when it comes to growing herbs? They’re easy to plant. It’s the perfect way to get the kids involved in gardening. Let them know that herbs are essential for their favorite foods, such as pizza. You’ll be surprised how eager they’ll be to help!
Here are six must-have herbs for your garden.
This aromatic herb thrives in USDA hardiness zones 5 to 10 and prefers late-day shade in the hot, dry air of Arizona. Lavender grows well in moderately fertile garden beds but you’ll want to test the soil before neutralizing it with lime. Plant seeds in containers or buy young seedlings from a garden store. Space them about 1 to 3 feet apart. Plant in the fall so that roots can establish themselves before winter. Lavender is great for cooking and healing — and the scent repels mosquitoes.
Mint spreads easily and its fragrance is unmistakable. Plant mint in a single bucket and bury it in the garden to keep it (somewhat) contained in one area. The aroma is lovely, and you can grow a variety of mouthwatering varieties. Embed in well-draining soil and water the plants often so that leaves stay green (they’ll turn yellow if not hydrated). Take care not to get the roots too-saturated. Mint prefers morning sun and afternoon shade. There are more than 600 varieties of mint from which to choose. The kids might enjoy orange, chocolate, banana and pineapple — as well as the standard favorites, peppermint and spearmint.
Depending on the type, rosemary grows upright or as a spreading groundcover. This herb thrives in sunny areas but is not all that hardy in high altitudes. Upright, rosemary resembles an evergreen bush; it has blue flowers that bloom in March, attracting bees and butterflies. Mountain-hardy cultivars include Roman beauty, barbeque and Tuscan. Creeping rosemary spreads on the ground and looks nice in raised garden beds.
Color and spice and everything nice, sage is a hardy herb that works well as a filler around tall garden plants. This perennial herb comes back each season, even after harsh winters. Growing sage is fairly easy. Plant small seedlings two feet apart in well-draining soil where they’ll receive full sunlight each day. Sage plants grow from 12 inches to 30 inches high.
Thyme is a hardy perennial that grows just about anywhere and is great for those who don’t want to fuss with the garden every week. Thyme spreads in trailing habitats and upright, and there are types to fit any garden design. This herb has a slightly pungent taste for spicing up pizza, grilled meats, vegetables and soups. This herb also attracts pollinating bees and butterflies. It loves hot weather and is perfect for the Arizona climate. Plant thyme in well-draining soil and alongside other drought-tolerant perennials.
More commonly known as purple coneflowers, they grow everywhere in Arizona and will enhance the beauty of your garden. This wildflower herb is well known for its healing properties. The perennial grows about 1 to 5 feet tall and spreads up to 2 feet acoss; it has green, ovate leaves and pinkish-purple blooms. Echinacea herbs don’t do well in the severe summer heat, but they enjoy the climates of Flagstaff, Prescott, Chino Valley, and nearby cities. Echinacea herbs prefer full sun to partial shade. Roots are used, dried or fresh, to brew teas and make juices and extracts for external use medicines.
Herbs touch the five senses in various ways. Smell the aromatic essence. See the beautiful colors. Touch the soft stems and variegated foliage. Listen carefully to hear the bees and butterflies that buzz and flutter around. And taste the tangy and spicy flavors that herbs bring to your eager palate.
—Kelly Holland. Holland is a gardening and landscape design writer who loves experimenting in her kitchen. Her quirky nature loves a bright color palette so naturally, her coveted garden is covered in a rainbow of fruits, vegetables, herbs and flowers.