Group sows seeds of herb cultivation in desert - East Valley Tribune: Living Green

Get Out Group sows seeds of herb cultivation in desert

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Posted: Wednesday, August 18, 2010 4:15 am | Updated: 1:56 pm, Mon Sep 13, 2010.

That $3 plastic container of wilting tarragon sitting in the fridge could be your last.

Growing your own herbs is easier than you think, whether you have a big backyard, an apartment balcony or a sunny windowsill. And, over the long haul, it could be more economical than buying fresh-cut sprigs every time a recipe calls for them.

“They’re so much more forgiving than a lot of plants,” says Doreen Pollack, a master gardener and garden design consultant who teaches classes through the Phoenix Permaculture Guild, a nonprofit network devoted to helping everyday urban and suburban dwellers learn to cultivate sustainable gardens and carry out other eco-friendly projects around the house.

Pollack will lead a class on growing herbs Aug. 25 in Mesa.

“They’re a great way to start out, especially for new gardeners in the desert. They like warmer soil, so the desert is an ideal environment for growing them. Most of the common culinary herbs are small leafed, and small leafed plants sweat less; they need less water,” she says.

“They also grow really well in containers, so for people who want to grow something but don’t have any space to put a plant in the ground, they’re pretty easy.”

You can also grow herbs indoors, provided you place them in a very sunny window — sometimes a difficult feat in Arizona, since we typically block sun and heat from entering through our windows.

Indoor plants can be started most anytime. September and subsequent cooler months are ideal for starting many outdoor herbs.

“What I like about herbs is that every part is used. You can use the flowers and the leaves, and they give you food right away; you’re not waiting for something to ripen,” says Pollack.

But the plants’ uses aren’t limited to the kitchen.

“You can use low-growing ones, like oregano and thyme, for groundcover in a garden bed of flowers. People make potpourri or sachets with lavender for their bureau drawers. Their flowers are pretty, and you can cut them and use them in flower bouquets around the house. I have friend who crushes fresh rosemary and puts it in a cotton bag and soaks it in her bathtub and just luxuriates in that,” says Pollack.

If you go

What: Learn tips and tricks for growing herbs in the desert with master gardener Doreen Pollack.

When: 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. Aug. 25

Where: Lady Bug Pest Control, 1641 E. University Drive, Mesa

Cost: $10 suggested donation; space is limited to 40 participants, so call ahead to reserve your spot.

Information: (602) 509-3356 or

Upcoming classes

The Phoenix Permaculture Guild regularly holds lectures and workshops, such as the ones listed below, all over the Valley. The guild typically requests a $10 donation per event, and you often need to reserve your spot ahead of time since classroom space is limited. For more information, call (602) 509-3356 or visit

• Introduction to Permaculture: 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. Aug. 18, Tempe Transportation Center, 200 E. Fifth St.

• Raising Chickens in Your Backyard: 1 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. Aug. 21, Central Slope Eco-Design Center, 8801 N. Central Ave., Phoenix.

• Composting Made Easy: 1 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. Aug. 28, Central Slope Eco-Design Center, 8801 N. Central Ave., Phoenix.

• Fall Garden Planning & Design: 1 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. Sept. 4, Central Slope Eco-Design Center, 8801 N. Central Ave., Phoenix.

• Rainwater & Greywater Harvesting: 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. Sept. 8, Lady Bug Pest Control, 1641 E. University Drive, Mesa.

• Sustainable KIDS!: 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Sept. 11 at a private 2.5-acre home in Phoenix; address available upon RSVP. Suggested $10 donation per child; free for parents.

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