How to Grow an Easy Sensory Garden with Herbs

Herbs offer many sensory experiences in the garden.

By Anne Nagro

Herbs are the easiest “sensory” plant to grow in a garden.  Children are amazed these plants can smell so good (or bad!) and impart flavor to our food.  Many enjoy chewing chives or mint sprigs, touching fuzzy sage and frilly dill, and crushing basil and thyme between their fingers and inhaling the aroma.  Pollinators like herbs, too.  Parsley, dill and fennel are favorites of swallowtail butterfly caterpillars.

Many herbs are perennials or biennials, and most thrive from spring to fall. Generally, they taste best before they flower.  Herbs can be tucked into any garden spot, as long as it receives six to eight hours of sun a day.  

At the Woodland Elementary School garden in Gages Lake, Ill., we’ve planted herbs along garden paths so they’re easy to reach and touch.  We also have a dedicated herb patch.

A fun guessing game.

Crush the leaves of an herb and ask children to guess the smell.  Sometimes students are spot on; other times their answers are a bit more interesting.  Who knew lemon basil smells like Fruit Loops?  Here are some scents they might identify:

     •    Lemon – lemon balm, lemon basil, lemon grass

     •    Pizza – oregano

     •    Pickles – dill 

     •    Sausage – fennel

     •    Chewing gum – peppermint, spearmint

     •    Soap – cilantro, lavender

Don’t forget to smell the soil, which has its own unique, damp, “earthy” odor – a scent easy to identify in early spring. 

A quick life cycle study. Cilantro (or coriander) is easy to grow from seed.  Plant an extra row to watch how it quickly moves from leaves to flowers to seeds.  Harvest the dried seeds for planting next season, or start another row of this tasty annual.  Thanks to School Garden Weekly for this awesome idea!

Copyright Anne Nagro

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