- How to Care for Herbs
- Getting Started
- Indoor Gardens
- Outdoor Gardens
- Planting and Propagation
- Winterizing the Garden
- Harvesting and Storage
- Ten Mistakes New Herb Gardeners Make (and How to Avoid Them)
- Herb Gardening Tips: Make Personalized Garden Signs
- General Care For Your Herb Garden
- General Care for Your Herb Garden
- 5 Tips To Creating Your Own Kitchen Herb Garden
- 1. Location. Location, Location.
- 2. Provide Enough Sunlight For Your Herb Garden.
- 3. Select The Types of Kitchen Herbs Based On The Foods You Enjoy
- 4. Plan Ahead So You Get The Right Materials.
- 5. Make Herb Gardening A Family Activity.
- Enjoy these Related Pages
- Growing Herbs From Seed – A Guide To Success
- Herb Gardening Containers: Selecting the Right Pots and Planters
- How to Grow Culinary Herbs in the Home Herb Garden
- Herb Garden Design for Small Spaces
- Related posts:
How to Care for Herbs
By Steven A. Frowine, The National Gardening Association
Caring for herbs isn’t much different from watching out for your other annuals and perennials, but herbs may have a few special requests. Although each type of herb has its own growing requirements, most herbs are unfussy plants. Most prefer full sun. Most prosper in good, moderately fertile soil. And most require that the soil be well-drained so they get the moisture they need to grow but don’t suffer from wet feet.
If your site is lacking in any of these requirements, take steps to improve it. Clip back overhanging trees and shrubs. Add organic matter such as compost and/or dampened peat moss, as well as some sand to poor soil to improve its texture.
Herbs rarely need fertilizer! In fact, excess fertilizer may lead to lax, floppy growth that’s unattractive and vulnerable to diseases and pests; it may also inhibit flowering.
Some herbs like “sweeter” soil (soil with a higher pH; alkaline soil). If your garden’s soil is towards the acidic side, a sprinkling of lime powder or chips at the herb’s base at planting time may be in order. Examples of herbs that like this include chia, lavender, and echinacea.
Make sure you water in your herb plants on planting day. Then water the plants often in the following days and weeks until they become well-established. Well-established herbs may be fairly drought-tolerant, but that doesn’t excuse you from getting them off to a good start while they’re young.
Some herbs prefer soggy ground. The drawback is that if you put them in such a spot, they may grow too rampantly; be willing to let them do as they will. If that’s not practical, simply raise them in a pot and keep the pot well-watered and/or set in a saucer of water so the growing mix is perpetually damp. Examples of herbs like this include mints, bee balm, cardamom, chervil, goldenseal, and sorrel.
Herbs are easy and fun to grow inside, which may also extend the harvest for you if you have cold winters. They’re best on a kitchen windowsill, provided it gets plenty of sun. That way, they’re handy when you need them for a recipe; plus the sight of them certainly adds character and pleasant fragrance to your kitchen.
Here are couple other tips:
Turn herbs occasionally so they’re healthier and look fuller/balanced: Potted herb plants naturally grow towards the source of sunlight, and they may start to lean or look one-sided unless you give them a quarter-turn every few days.
Trim or harvest often: Life in a pot is pretty confining for most herbs, and you don’t want them to outgrow their space or start getting floppy or lanky. So cut off tips often; this trimming inspires the plant to branch and go grow more densely and compactly.
After a while, the herbs may naturally peter out and need to be replaced. So enjoy them to the fullest while they’re in their prime!
Image via Thrive Garden
If you want your herb garden to grow into its most luscious, abundant self, then you need to know how to prune. Pruning is essentially snipping off leaves and some parts of stems of your plants, which will prompt them to continue to grow.
In doing so, you can control the shape of your garden, as well as its size! Here are some top tips on pruning your herbs.
General rule of thumb for your green thumb
Pruning is good for your plants. For most plants, you want to prune early, and prune often. By pruning early, this means when your plants are still in their infant stages.
Not only will you be able to ensure optimal growth and a fuller, nicer shape when you prune regularly, but in spending more time on your plants, you’ll be able to identify any disease or insect problems your plants may have right from the get-go.
Never, at any given time, prune away more than one-third of the plant. Anymore than one-third, then, well, you won’t have much plant left!
For most herbs, make sure that you stop pruning at least eight weeks before winter’s first frost. This way, you’ll give any new growth time to harden off before spring comes around again.
For those unfamiliar with the term, hardening is the process of preparing your indoor herbs to become outdoor herbs; that is, you’re readying them for the pending climate change.
If you don’t harden your plants, they may not survive the sudden shock. After all, they’re delicate little things!
Know what type of herb you are dealing with
There are two broad types of herbs: herbaceous and evergreen. The first thing to know is what type of herb you’re about to prune.
Herbaceous herbs—which include oregano, chives, sweet fennel, savory, tarragon, bee balm, and mint—generally wilt in the winter, unable to withstand those cold, harsh frosts. There’s good news here, though. You won’t have to be too thoughtful about pruning—no measuring out how much you’d like to prune, no fancy equipment.
Any time that you need to harvest or remove the blossoming flowers from these plants, that’s a good time to prune.
When it comes to evergreen herbs, which include rosemary, thyme, and sage, you only need to prune about once a year, either in early spring or fall.
The three fastest growing herbs are mint, basil, and dill.
Know what to use and how to use them
You can use your fingers and pinch off leaves and stems for most plants, and scissors for others. Fingers should be used for delicate plants, and make sure to pinch tightly and cleanly, right through the stem of the leaf. Heavy-duty garden clippers are generally not needed for herbs.
The most important thing is to not tear or rip off stems of plants, as it may lead to some terrible diseases.
Identify what type of attention your herbs need
Leafier plants like basil can die quickly after blossoming, so pruning is particularly important for such plants. When pruning these types of plants, cut them right where the leaf meets the stem.
Woodier herbs, like rosemary and thyme, should be trimmed so that they don’t become too woody (as they generally do with age), as no new leaves will grow. As soon as you start to see new growth, pinch some of the leaves back.
Counterintuitive, but the best thing to do is to prune the leaves at the top, not the bottom. The big leaves on the bottom act as a sturdy base.
Take basil for example. When they are only a few inches tall, you want to prune, or “pinch” off the newest leaves at the top from the stem. It may seem counterintuitive, leaving the big, full leaves to grow at the bottom. But you need them to act as the basis of your plants, your big solar panels for your plants to absorb up all that sun.
Plus, the leaves at the top are tender and delicious!
Let it grow
If you prune properly, your plant will grow into an abundant, bushy plant. One useful technique called “tipping” helps you achieve that.
Remove the end 1-2 inches of your plant’s stem. That exposed end will split and grow into two separate branches. Once you get into the habit of doing that, your plant will become bushier, creating more foliage.
By following the above tips, you’ll be giving your plants the absolute best care. With an Urban Cultivator unit, a lot of your work is reduced, but a little bit of pruning will help your crop grow more abundantly!
Herbs have long been revered for both their medicinal and culinary value. They may cure colds, help you sleep and add flavor and zest to dinner. Fortunately for home gardeners, growing herbs is relatively easy. They thrive in just about any type of soil, do not require much fertilizer, and are not often bothered by insect or disease pests.
Defined as a plant without a woody stem that dies back at the end of each growing season, herbs were once considered a gift of the gods. Elaborate ceremonies and rituals celebrated their growth, harvest and use. Today, herbs are popular in many home gardens, where their leaves are utilized for flavoring and an entire plant may be used for medicinal purposes.
Choose from a large selection of heirloom herb seeds available at Planet Natural. Planting instructions are included with each packet and shipping is FREE! Need advice? Visit our herb growing guides for tips and information on specific types.
An herb garden can be grown outside or inside depending on your needs, climate and space. There are advantages and disadvantages to both.
|Indoor Advantages||Outdoor Advantages|
|Easy to access||Higher yields|
|No weeding||More flavorful|
|Year round growing season||More space|
Whether you choose to grow inside or out, all herbs need plenty of sunlight, moderate temperatures, and a soil or potting mix that drains well. Keep in mind that most herbs are native to the Mediterranean — provide them with conditions similar to this region and they will flourish. Of course, you can combine the two by growing in containers. This way herbs can be outside during the growing season and moved indoors when it gets cold.
Location is the most important choice you’ll make in setting up an indoor herb garden. Herbs need at least 6 hours of bright sunlight, which may be tough to get during the winter months. To ensure plants are getting plenty of light consider the following:
- Southwest facing windowsills offer the most light.
- A corner with two windows (one facing south and the other west) is ideal.
- Supplement with HID grow lights if your home doesn’t get enough natural light.
#1 POTTING SOIL
The perfect mix for container grown plants! FoxFarm® Ocean Forest is ready to use right out of the bag and provides the ideal environment for young seedlings to become thriving plants. Contains a powerhouse blend of premium earthworm castings, bat guano, and sea-going fish and crab meal.
Growing medium is a better choice than garden soil for your potted herbs. Choose an organic growing medium that is loose and drains well. You can purchase a commercial mix or make your own:
Soil Mix – Use equal parts compost, sterile topsoil and builder’s sand. An all-purpose organic fertilizer can be added to this mix.
Soilless Mix – Combine 4-6 parts peat moss, 1 part perlite and 1 part vermiculite. If adding nutrients, blend 1/2 cup each bone meal, oyster shell lime (raises pH) and cottonseed meal/canola meal per 8 gallons of potting mix.
Water your plants enough to keep the soil moist without over-watering (roots will rot in a soggy container). Let the top of the soil, or growing medium, dry out completely between waterings and check moisture levels often. A moisture meter can help eliminate over and under watering by measuring moisture at the root level. It’s also a good idea to plant herbs in separate containers, or make sure that plants grown together have similar watering needs.
Tip: Mint, parsley and lovage do best in fairly moist soil, whereas rosemary, thyme and sage prefer soil that is only slightly moist.
Seeds of annual herbs (basil, coriander, dill and oregano) can be started indoors and grown year round. Place a collection of popular culinary herbs in a sunny kitchen window and they’ll be available when needed. Perennial herbs, like chives, parsley, sage, sweet marjoram and thyme, can be started from seed, but it is often easier to purchase young plants from a nursery. Because perennials grow for more than one season, it’s best to keep them outside in pots during the summer and bring them in before the first frost.
Location is just as important for outdoor-grown herbs as indoor-grown. Figure out how much space each herb will need (read the seed packet or planting instructions) and how many plants you want to grow. Then calculate how much room you’ll need for your garden. Also, choose a location that provides adequate amounts of sunshine. Many herbs require 6-8 hours of sun each day to produce the essential oils that give them their pleasant taste and scent.
Soil will vary from area to area, but there are some specifics that all herbs need. Select a garden site with a well-drained loam soil, or improve the soil with the addition of aged animal manures, compost or peat moss. Quality soil should drain well, yet retain both moisture and nutrients. Also, use a soil test kit to test different areas in your garden. Soil pH affects nutrient availability to plants and can be adjusted by mixing oyster shell lime (raises pH) or elemental sulfur (lowers pH) into the soil. A slightly acidic to neutral soil (pH between 6.0-7.0) is best for the majority of herbs. If the soil in your area is really bad consider raised bed gardening. Filled with your own growing mix, a raised-box herb garden allows you to bypass poor soil altogether.
FAST & ACCURATE
The Rapitest® Soil Test Kit features a “color comparator” and capsule system that’s designed for simplicity of use with accurate results. Give it a try! It’s a fast and fun way to achieve better results from your gardening efforts!
Prepare planting beds by digging 10-12 inches into the soil and turning it over. Get rid of any large stones. Then, mix in plenty of organic matter. Use a rake to level off the ground when you are done..
Water enough to keep the soil moist, but not soggy and avoid frequent light waterings which can draw roots to the soil surface. An occasional soaking is often better for plants. However, you do not want to wait so long between watering that herbs wilt or become stressed.
Tip: Group plants that have similar watering needs together and your herb garden will thrive.
Planting and Propagation
Many herbs can be started from seed, but there are a few (including rosemary, oregano and mint) that will take better to propagation by cuttings or being transplanted. Decide what herbs you wish to grow and read up to find out how they are best planted. Read our article on Plant Propagation to learn more.
Start Seeds Inside
If you know what you are doing starting seeds indoors can be pretty easy:
- Select containers. You can use seed trays or peat pots. You can also use egg cartons, yogurt containers or make your own pots from newspaper.
- Choose a high quality potting soil.
- Fill containers with potting soil and water. Don’t let the soil get soppy, just evenly moist.
- Place the seeds on top and cover with a tiny bit of soil. Very small seeds can lie directly on the surface without being covered. Check your seed packet for specific planting guidelines.
- Place pots in a south-facing window where the temperature stays between 60-75° F. A seedling heat mat can help keep your young plants warm.
- Read Ten Seeds Starting Tips to learn how a practiced propagator gets seedlings off to a healthy start.
JUST SAY NO TO PLASTIC!
Recycle old newspapers into ideal starter pots with this 2-piece Pot Maker. Easy to use, just roll and press — no glue required! When plants are large enough, plant pot and all into the garden. Just say NO to plastic!
After 5-10 weeks, your seedlings will be ready to move outside. But, don’t just throw them out there and let them fend for themselves!
- Wait until the last danger of frost has passed and harden them off. To harden plants, leave them outside in the shade for progressively longer amounts of time each day. Start with a couple of hours and gradually work up to a full day and then overnight.
- Water plants an hour or two before transplanting.
- Transplant your herbs on an overcast day if possible, or in the evening to reduce shock.
- Prepare your beds before transplanting so that the move is quick.
- Loosen the herbs from the sides of their pots and gently rest them in a small hole in the ground. The plant’s base should be even with the ground.
- Fill the rest of the hole and gently tamp down the ground.
- Seed your herb garden after the danger of frost has passed.
- Read the seed packets to determine depth of planting.
- Prepare a trench to place the seeds at the correct depth. You can use your hands or a trowel for this.
- Scatter the seeds at the recommended spacing. It’s better to plant too many seeds than too few — you can always thin the plants later.
- Cover seeds with a little soil. If you have a lot of clay in the garden, consider covering the seeds with vermiculite. Since clay absorbs heat from the sun, there is the possibility of your seeds getting burnt.
- Water gently.
Propagation by Division
By dividing existing plants, you can get new plants for free.
- Divide plants in early spring before they start growing.
- Use a spade to cut the roots. For smaller plants you may be able to pull the roots apart with your hands.
- Add plenty of compost when re-planting your divided plant into it’s new home.
- Keep the soil moist – not sopping wet — until the new plant becomes established.
- Chives, French tarragon and mint do well when propagated by division.
Once your herb garden is established you’ll need to do a little maintenance to keep it flourishing (see Caring for Your Herb Garden). Herbs are generally pretty hardy, in fact many produce oils and chemicals that naturally repel pests. Some herbs, like sage and rosemary, seem to like harsh conditions that other plants eschew.
Occasionally, your plants may get attacked by insects, molds, mildews or other undesirables. Visit our Pest Problem Solver for descriptions of common pest problems and a list of organic remedies.
Your outside herb garden may not need much fertilizer — although it never hurts to throw some organic nutrients in your plants’ direction — but herbs grown in containers will require a bit of extra care.
Even if your growing media is perfect from the start, container grown plants continuously use up nutrients as they grow. They are also leached out from the potting mix every time you water — and you’ll be watering more often because potted plants dry out faster than their backyard counterparts growing in open soil.
Derived from fresh Norwegian kelp, Maxicrop® Liquid Seaweed contains over 70 minerals, micronutrients, amino acids and vitamins. Used for years by organic farmers for its many plant health benefits.
To ensure the health of your container grown plants, mix a time-release organic fertilizer into the soil prior to planting. During the growing season, it’s also a good idea to add liquid fertilizer — fish emulsion works great — at about 1/2 the recommended strength, especially if you find your plants a little tired looking or their color fading.
Tip: Do not over-fertilize herbs. Too much of a good thing will produce bigger plants, but the essential oils that give them their flavor and aroma will be diluted.
Winterizing the Garden
If you live in a climate with cold winters, it’s likely your plants won’t make it through the season unless properly protected. Most herbs have shallow root systems that are easily damaged by freezing temperatures. To ensure their survival, make sure plants are healthy going into winter and do not fertilize or prune late in the growing season. This encourages plants to grow and what you want them to do is slow down. Plus, leaves help insulate the plant — so leave them on there!
A 4-inch layer of mulch will help keep plants warm when temperatures turn cold. Once the ground has frozen, spread a loose organic mulch (oak leaves, straw, evergreen boughs, etc.) around the base of each plant. Mulches that pack down or get mushy can promote rot and should not be used. Remove mulch only after you see new growth in the spring.
Finally, some herbs, like Greek oregano, lemon verbena and rosemary, are very sensitive to cold. Despite your best efforts they are unlikely to make it through a winter. Dig up plants like these and replant them in containers. Herbs in containers can be brought in the house and then replanted in the yard in the spring (see Overwintering Plants Indoors).
Harvesting and Storage
Harvesting herbs is easy! Basically, you snip off what you want and that’s it. The trick, however, is knowing when to harvest, which is dependent on the type of herbs you are growing and what you are growing them for.
Super sharp blades give you the control you’re looking for! Fiskars® Pruning Snips with easy-open spring action reduce hand stress while trimming. Ideal for deadheading or shaping plants.
- If it’s the leaves you want (mint, basil, etc.) harvest them before the plant flowers. Early morning is the best time of day to pick leaves – after the dew dries, but before the heat sets in. Avoid washing leaves as this strips them of their aromatic oils.
- Harvest flowering herbs (chamomile, borage, lavender) before the flowers are fully open.
- Herbs grown for seeds (caraway, coriander, fennel, dill) can be harvested when seed pods change color.
- If it is the roots you’re after (goldenseal, ginseng), dig them up at the end of summer or early autumn.
- Many herbs (basil, mint, chives, oregano, parsley) grow better with consistent pruning and harvesting.
- Perennials can be cut back to half their height without problems.
- Stop harvesting and pruning perennials (hyssop, comfrey, lavender, mint, sage, thyme) by September, but annuals (basil, borage, chervil, coriander, dill, savory) can be harvested until the first frost.
Most herbs taste best freshly picked. This is because, volatile oils, the stuff that gives herbs their distinctive flavor, is fragile and breaks down quickly. If possible wait to harvest until right before you need them.
Short Term Storage
If you must pick your herbs before use, there are a couple of ways to keep them for a short period of time (see Selecting, Storing and Using Fresh Herbs – PDF). Remember, their flavor and aroma deteriorate quickly, so minimize storage.
Cilantro, parsley, basil and other long stem herbs can be stored in a glass of water. Trim their stems and place them in some water as if they were cut flowers. Other herbs (such as thyme, rosemary and chives) can handle a week or so in the fridge. Using a damp paper towel, wrap the herb loosely. Put them in a perforated — or open — plastic bag and place in the vegetable bin.
Long Term Storage
For the best flavor retention, drying herbs is the way to go (see How to Dry Fresh Herbs). While best if used within a year, dried herbs can be kept for 2-3 years.
For low-moisture, sturdy herbs (thyme, savory, dill, parsley, rosemary, sage):
- Cut whole branches.
- Rinse gently in cool water.
- Hang upside down in small bunches. A dark, dust-free, well-ventilated room is best for drying herbs.
- In 2-3 weeks, remove the leaves and place in an airtight container.
- Grind or crush before use.
Ready for use just about anywhere! The STACK!T Drying Rack lets you preserve an entire harvest without damaging a single plant. Available in TWO sizes.
For herbs with tender, large leaves and a high moisture content (basil, lemon balm, tarragon, lemon verbena, lovage, mint, bay leaf):
- Remove the best leaves.
- Place them in a single layer on a drying rack — a window screen or any frame covered with netting will work.
- Hang the drying rack in the shade or a room with good ventilation. Air should be able to circulate above and below the rack. Do not put the rack in the sun — the herbs will lose too much flavor.
- During the first few days, turn the leaves.
- Once they are dry (about 1 week) store in airtight containers.
Note: If leaves turn black or develop mold, discard the whole batch.
Freezing is an easy way to store herbs for later use. It is relatively quick, and, in most cases, retains the flavor and the color of the herb. Herbs that freeze well, include thyme, chives, tarragon, borage, basil, dill, mint, lemongrass, savory, sage and oregano.
To freeze herbs:
- Wash herbs and pat dry.
- Spread into a single layer and place on a cookie sheet.
- Put the cookie sheet in the freezer.
- After the leaves have frozen, move the herbs into an airtight container and keep in the freezer until you are ready to use them.
Tip: You can create fancy cocktails by freezing sprigs of mint and woodruff. After washing them, chop the herbs and place them in ice cube trays. Fill the trays with cold water and freeze until use.
Make sure you’re using the right amount of soil, too. “Plants need enough soil for their roots, so fill the largest planter or pot you can reasonably fit in your kitchen,” says Roe.
Know the different kinds of herbs.
Blanner says that parsley and basil are best for beginners, because they’re easiest to grow. But Roe says that because they’re annual herbs, they won’t usually last through the winter. So don’t get discouraged when they die—it’s totally normal and definitely doesn’t mean you’ve failed.
Perennial herbs on the other hand—which are herbs that regrow every year like rosemary, sage, thyme, oregano, chives, and mint—are a bit more advanced, because they may be easy to start, but they’ll eventually need to move outside to get enough light and space to continue to grow properly, says Roe. If you harvest perennial herbs regularly, you shouldn’t have any problems keeping them inside, but they won’t live longer than six months. And if you don’t harvest them often, they’ll eventually outgrow the space and you’ll have to move them outside for them to continue to grow. If you’d rather not do that, or you simply don’t have the backyard space, either stick with those annual herbs or plan to replant your perennial herbs every six months.
Lots of light is key.
Roe says that herbs thrive in sunlight, so she recommends placing your garden near a window. But keep in mind, not all light is equal. “The best indoor light is bright, indirect light,” she explains, “or bright direct light, with the plants farther back from the window.” The reason for this is because glass magnifies the heat of the sun, so if your plant is too close to a window where sunlight is pouring in, its leaves may burn.
Water often, but not too often.
“In general, it’s best to keep the soil moisture consistently damp, but not soggy,” Roe explains. “Indoor plants are already a little confused and perhaps more stressed out than they would be in a garden, and if they dry out completely they may not bounce back very well.” On the other hand, she says you definitely don’t want them to get soggy, because that can breed bacteria and cause the roots to rot. As long as you’re keeping the garden well lit, you should be able to water it once a day without any problems.
Your plants will act differently after you harvest them.
Roe explains that after you harvest the leaves for the first time, they will start to grow back more slowly, and get slower with each harvest. After many harvests, you’ll need to replace your plants with new ones.
In general she says the life expectancy of an herb garden with either annual or perennial herbs (or both) will range from a few months to up to six if you’re regularly harvesting. And as mentioned before, if you aren’t harvesting regularly, you’ll need to move perennial herbs outside for them to continue to grow properly.
When you harvest the herbs, Roe says you should cut at the tops of the stems because that will make the plant grow bushier, while cutting the stems at the base near the soil will thin out the plant.” Cut the tips off the stems when harvesting and many herbs will grow multiple stems to replace them.”
Now that you have all the knowledge to grow the healthiest and most delicious herbs, here are a few herbaceous recipes to get you going—or should I say, growing?
A bit of mint adds freshness to this summer fruit- and veggie-filled dish. Get the recipe here.
What’s a caprese salad without basil? Get the recipe here.
These satisfying falafel are way, way better with a few sprigs of dill. Get the recipe here.
Ten Mistakes New Herb Gardeners Make (and How to Avoid Them)
Growing your own herbs can be very rewarding and enjoyable, but a few little things can make it frustrating as well. Learn ten mistakes new herb gardeners make and how you can fix them for ultimate garden success this year!
Mistake 1: Growing from seed.While there is something special about starting a plant from seed and watching it grow, there is a lot that can go wrong when starting seedlings. Seeds require a proper environment for germinating and being kept growing indoors before it’s time to plant outside. For the same price (or less) as a packet of seeds, you can pick up your very own starter plants. This allows you to start with a healthy plant and avoiding the disappointment of not having plants to grow in the spring.
Mistake 2: Too complex, too early.When growing herbs, it’s always best to grow what you love; after all you’ll be eating them! At the same time, we’re aiming for success when growing too. For a first time gardener, basil is a perfect trainer herb. It’s a quick grower and it bounces back really well when not watered enough. This flexibility allows you to figure things out with a plant that can take a little abuse. The fact basil is so versatile on recipes and a well-loved herb is yet another added benefit.
Mistake 3: You mean there’s more than one kind of mint? As in life, it’s important to read carefully when choosing your herbs.When you shop for groceries, there’s no such thing as ‘just an apple’ there are many varieties available to you, same goes for selecting herbs. We’ve got plenty of thyme, no seriously, we actually have lots of different varieties of thyme; creeping thyme, silver thyme, lemon thyme, upright thyme, to name a few. When selecting herbs with multiple options available to you, know the flavour your looking to get and pick correctly. Otherwise you could want to make mojitos and grab apple mint instead of spearmint by mistake.
Mistake 4: Help, my soil isn’t feeding me!A well-prepped garden with fresh soil can go along way. Using soil that is tired, with no nutrients left to offer you herbs isn’t conducive to success. Spent soil that hasn’t been worked, had compost added or been worked to turn up fresh soil doesn’t give your herb a warm welcome to its new home. In your garden, turn over the soil and working in some digested compost is a more fitting home. In pots, avoid garden soil, yes you heard correct, avoid garden soils like topsoil or black earth! These soils are heavy and take forever to dry out after a rain. Using a potting soil or ProMix will be lighter and fluffier, perfect for herb growing. Add in an occasional watering (twice a month) with 20-20-20 water soluble fertilizer to recharge the nutrients your plants will take from the soil and you’ve made a bed fit for a (herb) king!
Mistake 5: Prevent a Garden Invasion! Some herbs provide complimenting flavours to our food but forget their manners when planted in your garden. Herbs like mint and oregano are voracious growers and get down right aggressive (even invasion) in a garden. To keep the rest of your garden plot safe, consider growing these herbs in pots and burying them in the ground. The added measure of control a pot puts on the roots of these herbs can keep them from moving in to the rest of your garden and prompting taking over. Of course the surest way to protect your garden from this threat is to grow them in pots grown above ground.
Mistake 6: Watering herbs like houseplants. There are a lot of differences between indoors and outdoors (duh) and those differences make growing plants outside very different than indoors. While herbs and house plants inside might do flourish with a good watering once a week, that just won’t cut it for plants left in the garden. Most herbs will require moderate and regular watering’s, especially in the hot summer months. If you’re growing in pots, make sure the pot has adequate drainage; this will prevent your herbs from drowning after a long rainy period. The downside with growing in pots is your herbs will need even more water than if they’re planted in the ground.
Mistake 7: Letting it all grow out.Knowing when to give your herbs a hair cut (so you can make a meal) can be difficult to judge but do it early and often. Just like the Medusa (or grey hairs), cutting one branch of a herb in the right place will lead to two more growing in it’s place. It’s a good practice to prune in V’s (take a shoot just after two smaller ones) and the others will grow in larger. The cut stem won’t grow any further, almost like a signal to your plant that it can grow that way. You can start trimming when your plant grows to 3-4” above the soil (making sure there are still some good leaves left behind), this will give you a sturdy base to grow on. As your herb grows back you can prune it every 3-4” of new growth, pruning back to with a couple inches of your last cut. After a few pruning’s you so find your harvest yielding enough to fill out a recipe!
An added benefit to a good pruning, aside from increased yield, is a more compact and well-kept plant. Herbs that aren’t pruned can grow tall and top heavy, a pruned herb is shorter and denser. Basil is a great plant to experiment with pruning but you’ll find most plants (like annual flowers) will benefit from a good pruning too. Keep in mind, not all herbs are alike and some respond faster to pruning than others.
Mistake 8: Bigger isn’t always best. When harvesting your herbs it’s best to pick off the biggest leaves and leave the tender new ones, right? Wrong! It may seem counter productive but there are reason behind the madness of harvesting the new growth. First, those large older leaves are powering your herbs growth acting like big solar panels feeding the new growth up top. Removing lower leaves just leaves you with a tall skinny plant that won’t support it’s own growth. Second, remembering mistake 7 (let it all grow out), we want to take our harvest from leaves plucked up top and further proper pruning, the fact new leaves taste better is an added benefit. Don’t forget to pluck above a V so new growth will replace the leaves you harvest.
Mistake 9: Flowers are not welcome at this party!Now, if you’re following the advice about pruning and proper plucking, hopefully this mistake is not an issue you deal with. Flowers are pretty and lovely to see on our annuals or perennials, on herbs, they’re normally a sign of nothing good. Unless yourgrowing something for its edible flowers, you should be cutting back herbs before they start growing flowers. Many people often note their sweet basil turns bitter in the middle of the summer and this is because those darn flowers ruin the flavour party. Add to that the fact herbs will focus all their energy on procreation and neglect growing if given half a chance, it’s clear flowers (a plants reproductive parts) are to be avoided. Keep cutting off flower buds if you find them and it will keep your herb focused on growing leaves.
Mistake 10: Bring another herb (or 5) into your bed. So things have been going really well with that special herb or two and things seem to great, which is why it’s time to spice things up and bring another herb (or five) into your bed. Variety is the spice of life and the more herbs you grow, the more flavour your food can have. For any foodie, this is a no brainer. Think of what you like to cook with and try adding it to your garden. Grown basil and had success? Why not try some rosemary, mint, oregano and thyme! We mentioned the many varieties available in herbs (mistake 3), so if you liked spearmint and had success with it, perhaps you can try growing chocolate mint. Add a pop of colour to your plate with purple leafed basil or a hint of citrus with lemon thyme. Just remember that like people, herbs respond differently to the care you give them. Most importantly, enjoy the experience of growing the herbs you’ll use for cooking at home and have fun, success is sure to follow!
Herb Gardening Tips: Make Personalized Garden Signs
Just about anything can be made into a garden sign. Choose materials that are in keeping with your gardening style, whether it’s formal or free-form and eclectic. Wooden signs are appropriate for many types of gardens; redwood and cedar last the longest outdoors. Unless you are going for a rustic look, wooden signs may look better—and almost certainly last longer—if you give them a coat of paint before lettering them. An exterior house paint works well; for best results, first apply the undercoat (primer) recommended on the label. Most metal or stone objects require only a good washing before you paint them.
Don’t think that you have to be an artist; you just need to know a few tricks.
The secret to a professional-looking sign is in the lettering. Because neat, uniform letters are difficult to paint freehand, I recommend that you trace the letters onto your sign first, then paint them. Where do you get traceable lettering that says exactly what you want? If you have a home computer, just print out your wording in the exact size and font you want. Choose large, rounded, simple letters; fancy fonts can be difficult to paint. If you don’t have a computer, a lettering or alphabet book from an art supply store is inexpensive and contains many different fonts. Use a copy machine to reduce or enlarge the letters to the size you need.
After you have chosen your lettering and written or printed out your message on paper, lay a piece of carbon paper, ink side down, on top of the sign. (If you are transferring lettering onto a dark surface, such as black slate, use white transfer paper, which is available at craft stores.) Place the paper containing your message on top and trace the outline of the letters firmly with a ballpoint pen or pencil.
Remove the paper. If there are places on the sign where the letters are not clear, go over them with a pencil or ballpoint in a color that contrasts with the background; use an ordinary graphite pencil on a light sign, a white one on a dark sign. Now you’re ready to paint. Acrylic artist’s paints wear well, are easy to work with, and clean up with soap and water. Choose a color and carefully outline and then fill in the letters using a small, flat artist’s brush (sizes 2 to 4 work well for most signs). When you’ve finished the lettering, spray or brush the sign with clear acrylic to protect it from the elements.
If your sign needs a mount, you can easily add a stake of any size to position the sign exactly where you want it in the garden. You’ll see from the photographs here that I’ve used many materials as stakes, from old broom handles to fence pickets and even sturdy branches. Attach the sign to the stake firmly with nails or wire. Now it’s ready for display in the garden.
Theresa Loe is a frequent contributor to The Herb Companion. She lives in El Segundo, California.
General Care For Your Herb Garden
Most herbs are easy to grow. Given the proper amount of sunlight and good soil conditions, your herb garden will be up and running in no time. In order to keep your herb garden healthy and flourishing, you’ll need to provide it with a little tender loving care from time to time. Read on to learn how to care for your herb garden.
General Care for Your Herb Garden
Here are some general tips on caring for your herb garden.
Your herb garden will need to be watered regularly. How much or how little you need to water will be determined by what types of herbs you plant and whether they have been planted into containers or directly into the ground. Container herbs need to be watered more often, as they tend to dry out faster. Of course, your garden will need more water when the weather is hot and dry.
Keep an eye on your herbs for any signs of wilting. A wilting herb is crying for water and needs to be tended to immediately to prevent undue stress to the plant’s delicate system.
Keeping your herb garden weed-free is an important part of its care and upkeep. Make it a habit to check for weeds once a week; the smaller they are when you find them, the easier they are to remove.
When an herb garden gets smothered with weeds, it can’t get the proper nutrients that it needs from the soil for healthy growth. Your green herbs will then start to turn yellow and sickly.
When there are too many weeds in your herb garden, your herbs also will be in danger of not getting enough water, as they will be in competition with the other unwelcome plants. When there are too many weeds, the herbs will wilt and become brown and dry.
Another good reason to keep the weeds out of your herb garden is that having an abundance of weeds can and will attract more bugs, which can be detrimental to your herbs.
Most herbs don’t need too much fertilization, but a shot or two during the growing season will do them a world of good. A simple liquid fertilizer should be enough to keep them happy.
Keeping your herbs well pruned not only will keep them looking their best but also will stop them from going to seed, keeping them producing much longer. Pruning should be done at least once a month.
If you enjoy herbal flowers or want them to reseed themselves in the garden, it is recommended that you keep a few of your chosen flowering herbs pruned while letting a couple of them go on to flower and eventually seed, guaranteeing that you will have enough herbs for daily use while allowing their natural reproduction cycle to occur for next year’s garden.
Every year or two your perennial herbs will need to be divided to keep them healthy. You can divide herbs by removing them from the soil and splitting the plant, vertically, down the middle of its root system and then replanting the two new plants back into the ground.
If you find that after splitting, you have too many plants for your own garden, why not ask a neighbor if she’d like a few of your plants to start her own herb garden?
Harvesting and/or Relocating herbs
As the growing season winds down and the frosty winds approach, you’ll need to bring your most delicate herbs indoors and harvest the stems and leaves from the rest of them. When harvesting your perennial herbs, be careful not to cut them too low to the ground. Leave a couple of inches of growth to die back on its own so that the plant will be able to renew itself next year. When faced with an abundance of harvested herbs, you’ll need to prepare them by drying or freezing them for later use.
By following these rules of general care for your herb garden, your garden will flourish and in turn thank you by rewarding you with the best possible herbs for all of your daily needs today and tomorrow.
Creating your own kitchen herb garden is one of the most enjoyable & rewarding activities for gardeners and aspiring chefs alike.
Simply everyone who enjoys cooking will appreciate having a consistent source of fresh culinary herbs available to enjoy. Even if you are not an avid cook, the delightful aroma of fresh herbs coming from your herb garden will bring joy to anyone who happens to walk by.
Have you always wanted to grow your own herbs, but were afraid it would be too much maintenance?
The nice thing about growing herbs is they are incredibly easy to take care of. Once you have established your herb plants in your garden or pots, they will grow quite happily with just a minimum amount of care. The kitchen herb garden is an excellent way for beginners to get started in gardening.
And you don’t need to be a master chef to use fresh herbs in your cooking. Once you know the basics, you can incorporate them into almost any meal. Even just adding a sprig of curly parsley to the plate, can jazz up an ordinary looking chicken dinner.
So why not get started & create your own culinary herb garden today?
5 Tips To Creating Your Own Kitchen Herb Garden
1. Location. Location, Location.
Plan your herb garden close to the kitchen
This is the most important decision by far. You will want to place your herb garden near your kitchen. You will be much more likely to use the herbs if they are within easy reach. If you have to truck out to the far end of the yard, you will not enjoy them nearly as often, and they may get neglected.
If you simply don’t have a sunny spot close to the house, you can still have a successful kitchen herb garden. You can grow herbs indoors by setting up a grow room or purchasing a little hydroponic system for your countertop. You can also create a larger plot in the backyard, then bring fresh bunches indoors, to keep on the windowsill so you will still have easy access to them during cooking.
Don’t think you have to limit yourself to a single location. You can keep a few pots of parsley & thyme on the porch, then have bunches more growing in your backyard herb garden.
2. Provide Enough Sunlight For Your Herb Garden.
Most herbs are sun-loving plants
Almost all culinary herbs are sun lovers. If you want to grow herbs outdoors, select a location that receives at least 6-8 hours of sun light a day. Think about how this location is at different times of the year. If it’s early spring when you are looking at the location & the trees have not fully filled in, your sunny corner may end up being quite shady come summer.
If you are growing your own herbs indoors, an ideal location would be a southern facing window or even better a sunroom which has larger areas for the sun to come in & reach your plants.
If you don’t have the perfect location indoors, don’t worry, you can always add supplemental fixtures so your herbs will get enough light.
3. Select The Types of Kitchen Herbs Based On The Foods You Enjoy
Take some time to consider the different herbs and flavors you enjoy in your daily cooking. Here are a few ideas to get you started.
- If you enjoy Italian Foods, grow Basil, Oregano & Parsley.
- If French Flavors are a Favorite, include Tarragon, Chives, Parsley & Chervil.
- Are you a Meat Lover? Thyme & Rosemary are a must have.
- Soups & Stews would not taste the same without Parsley and Thyme.
- If you are Vegetarian, you can’t go wrong with Parsley, Thyme & Rosemary.
- For spicing up Salads & Eggs, give Cilantro, Chives or Chervil a try.
- If you enjoy Seafood & Fish, grow plenty of Basil, Dill & Chives.
Select herbs that pair well with your favorite foods
Don’t think you have to decide it all right away. You can always pick a couple herbs to start with, then expand your garden once you know what is working in your home.
4. Plan Ahead So You Get The Right Materials.
Once you decide on the location and types of culinary herbs you will grow, you will most certainly need to get some materials. Make a list of everything you will need before you head out to your local hardware store or place that online order! You may also want to do a little research to make sure you get the right stuff. Here are some things you are likely to need:
- Potting Mix or Soil. There are different types of potting soils and mixes depending on whether you are growing herbs indoors, in pots or in the ground. Potting Mixes are normally lighter and provide better aeration which is better for indoor plants and containers. Choosing a good potting mix is especially important when growing herbs in pots. A few good choices recommended by the Colorado State University are: Black Gold All Purpose Mix, Fertilome Potting Mix or Nature’s Yield Potting Soil.
Potting soil is best used outside and most often mixed 50/50 with your native garden soil. If you are unsure, don’t be afraid to ask the folks at the garden center. They will almost always be happy to help you and can advise you which product would be most suited to your specific application.
Parsley grows best in a nice deep container
Herb Pots, Planters or Containers. You will want to think about the types of herbs you are planning to grow in your kitchen herb garden & make sure to get a pot or planter that is the right size. There are some herbs like parsley or basil which have long roots & require a deeper container.
If you are growing herbs in pots indoors, you can select pots that are on the smaller side. However, if you plan on creating an outdoor container herb garden, you will want to choose larger containers or planters.
If you are growing several herbs together in one pot, you need to take into consideration the mature size of each plant – bigger is almost always better if you are unsure. You will be surprised how quickly herbs grow when given the right environment.
For more tips on growing herbs in pots, be sure to read the article – 6 Requirements to Successfully Growing Herbs in Pots.
- Herb Plants or Seeds. Depending on the time of year, you may be able to purchase young seedlings directly from a retailer or home improvement store. But, if you cannot find what you are looking for, the majority of herbs are easy to grow from seed.
There are many different varieties of each culinary herb. For example there are dozens of basil varieties. Greek basil is a dwarf variety that is just 8 inches tall & well suited to indoor or container gardening. However sweet or Genovese basil can grow up to 3 feet tall. Make sure you know which variety you plan to grow before buying it to include in your kitchen herb garden. Every herb plant or seed package will give you the mature size of the plant, so just double check you are getting the right one.
5. Make Herb Gardening A Family Activity.
Kids can be a great help in the garden
Get the kids involved, let them help to dig the garden area or select the pots for your herbs. Get your families input when selecting the different types of culinary herbs you will be growing. Put little Susie in charge of picking the herbs for your supper.
Maybe you have a relative that you know loves mint tea, consider growing a small patch for them, then bringing over fresh sprigs of mint when you visit.
Herb gardening is an activity that can be shared by the whole family. Everybody may not like to garden, and it’s a good bet that everybody likes to eat! Why not get them involved & make the kitchen herb garden a place the whole family enjoys.
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Last updated by Virginia Dodd at February 12, 2019.