At Airlie we have been cultivating produce, flowers, and herbs in our on-site organic garden for 20 years. Founded in 1998 as our most delicious commitment to the environment, the garden has been providing the best possible ingredients for our kitchens long before the phrase “farm-to-table” became restaurateur canon.
Season after season, the garden has become about so much more than food. Our community garden plots are buzzing with area neighbors, we’ve welcomed new animals (and bees!), hosted events, and utilized every opportunity to educate our guests and visitors about the importance of sustainable agriculture.
As we introduce Harry’s as part of the Airlie family, the role of the organic garden is more important than ever. Guests have the opportunity to enjoy fresh ingredients — in both food and drink — seven days a week. In addition, the role of Airlie Berkshire Farm as a 25-acre production operation has allowed the organic garden to sharpen its focus on specific elements to compliment the large harvest. One of those elements is a thriving herb garden.
To get a better understanding of what it takes to grow and maintain a bountiful herb garden, we turn to Helen Ordile, Airlie’s organic gardener.
When do we start growing herbs for the season?
Certain herbs like rosemary, mint, and sage are considered “evergreen,” and grow year-round in our hoop house. In early spring, oregano will begin to develop new growth. mint, sage, dill, fennel, cilantro, lavender, and thyme (among others) will also bloom, and grow strong through late summer. Airlie is located in Hardiness Zone 7a, which allows many herbs to continue as perennials instead of having to be planted from seed year after year.
What are some tips for starting herbs?
Most herbs enjoy full sunlight and like to be watered constantly. It is important to research each and every herb you plant in order to create the appropriate environment and maintenance plan. For example, mint is an herb that can grow anywhere and everywhere, but if you’re not careful it willtake over the garden quickly. Lavender is an herb that prefers well-drained soil. In Virginia, our clay soil is not ideal for growing an herb like lavender, so we have to make some amendments to it, like mixing in pebbles and adjusting the Ph levels. Another option for fussy herbs is planting in a raised bed environment.
Dormant Lavender in the Airlie Organic Garden
What are some tips for the at-home herb gardener?
Most all herbs can be grown in containers, which is nice for the at-home gardener because you can then bring them inside and have them all year round. Rosemary can be a challenge to transfer from pot-to-garden, so timing is a key factor. Transfer in spring to early summer to allow for root establishment before the winter season. For all herbs, be sure to cut your plants back as they grow, as this will allow them to keep producing through the season.