Herbs are Gabriel LoCoco’s thing.This Hahnville High School student has already been growing them for nearly eight years at his home in Boutte. When his garden just kept growing and growing, his parents gave him a greenhouse a couple of years ago and now his hobby has spread into the 40 square-foot space with shelves that let him grow even more. He even has an herb business called LoCoco Herbs where he sells the plants, including ornamentals and succulents, at the German Farmer’s Market.
“It’s always been a goal of mine,” LoCoco said of starting his own business. “I love to take on new challenges so that was just another step, and this is something I’m considering as a career. This is a step in that direction.”
At the ripe old age of 17, LoCoco is an herb entrepreneur with a passion for growing rooted in his being in 4-H and having grandparents who love working in a garden.
“Herbs are very personal,” he said. “You can use them in a lot of your cooking and that’s a lot of what I use them for.”
In Louisiana, most growers prefer to garden outside to take advantage of more sun, which herbs like rosemary and basil prefer. But if growing indoors is preferred, LoCoco recommended low-light herbs like chive or mint.
Overall, the garden would do well to also include cilantro, lemon balm, oregano and parsley.
“A lot of people ask for basil and rosemary … a lot more for the bzsil because it grows fast,” he said. Many of his customers also enjoy the experience of growing their own herbs.
Successfully growing herbs means knowing how to water them and they like high moisture, but also high drained soil.
“You don’t want them to get root rotted,” he said.
The typical Louisiana summer does not pose problems for basil, which does well in good sunlight, LoCoco said. Rosemary can be hit or miss depending on well it’s cared for. Others that do well in this climate include cilantro, lemon balm, oregano and parsley.
LoCoco recommended starting with plants rather than trying to grow them from seeds because they have long germination times.
Lavender can be challenging to grow but there are many varieties so choose the ones best suited to the area although LoCoco said he’s yet to fine one “that grows great here.”
Mint is a study grower and there are numerous types, including chocolate, lemon and pineapple. LoCoco’s latest favorite is pineapple.
Once the plants are chosen for the garden, he recommends planting them anytime from the last frost all the way into mid-summer. A typical herb garden includes chive, rosemary, basil, cilantro and oregano, which he equated to an Italian herb mix.
Herbs like nitrogen fertilizers so consider using fish emulsion. They’ll last until fall and then start dying back, although some herbs like mint will come back year after year.
LoCoco also offered a few tips to make the most of an herb garden.
To save herbs for fall, he suggests placing them on a baking sheet in the oven at 250 degrees for 40 to 60 minutes. He added, “You can grind them up and put them in containers and shakers.”
He also offers these tips: lavender in a pillow can help a person sleep better, citronella repels mosquitoes, lemon balm adds a lemony twist to tea, and spraying a vinegar, salt and water mixture on weeds will kill them without hurting the herbs.