We moved from Ireland to Rogers, Arkansas a couple of months ago and we purchased a lovely family home with a large back yard. The backyard is currently lawn, with a couple of medium sized trees and a few beds set away from the grass with low stone walls around the house. I used to be an active gardener back in Ireland, but I am new to this area and don't know what grows well here and when one starts planting. Once spring starts here I would love to do some gardening in those beds. I am interested in planting some herbs and maybe some berries as I love raspberries and blackberries especially, but they are so expensive to buy in the shops. I won't be able to spend very much time gardening though, as I have one year old twins and they are a handful! Can you suggest some herbs and fruit plants for our new home?
Herbs are very easy to grow, and you can do a variety of both annuals and perennials. For dry, sunny areas consider the perennial rosemary and thyme. Oregano, fennel, garlic and sage are also very easy to grow. Cilantro is best grown in the fall as a winter annual. Parsely is a biennial and does well for a couple of years. Basil and dill are both summer annuals and thrive in Arkansas summers with a little bit of water. Blackberries and blueberries are both easy to grow and require little care, other than occasional pruning and water. Raspberries are a tad trickier, but they can be grown. As you have time, you might consider joining the Benton County Master Gardeners. They have a very active group of gardeners in your area. You will learn a lot and get to know fellow gardeners in your community.
Every year, I plant a lot of basil. I plant in the front yard that gets sun from noon till sunset, and in a pot in the backyard that gets sun all day long. I feed them every week or two. By midsummer, the stems begin to harden off and turn brown to black, at which time, of course, the plant is dead. What is my problem? I pick them often but not constantly. I pick from the top, usually.
When you say harden off, do you mean the stem gets woody or when it is black or brown does it feel soft to the touch? Basil is usually a pretty tough plant, but it can suffer from root rot. Fusariam wilt is another disease that can attack it. This disease will usually lead to a pretty quick death once it hits. The disease is soil-borne, so crop rotation is important. I can't imagine having it in a container however, especially if you use fresh potting soil every year--which you should. Let basil dry out slightly between watering, and make sure to plant in a new location and see if that helps.
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