Gardening with Herbs: Where to Begin

WHERE can I grow my own herbs?

The short answer is: anywhere! Your options are only limited by your imagination (and perhaps space!). One of my favorite examples of a “plant where you can” was a flowering herb garden planted in an old wheelbarrow.

One of my original herb “gardens” was in a strawberry pot, and I loved it for it’s compact design, ease of watering, and having all my herbs in one place! Now that I have more area for gardening, I’ve been able to branch out. If you have plenty of space, here are some great ideas:

  • Raised beds
  • Herb wheels, which use borders to separate different sections, with a focal point at the center
  • Theme gardens (which I’ll touch on next time, when we discuss the needs of specific herbs)

HOW do I grow my own herbs?

One of the many reasons why I love herb gardening is the ease with which so many of them thrive! Here are some general rules for gardening with herbs.

  • Soil and Light Requirements
    Herbs do not require a rich soil, but the soil must drain well. A good soil blend is to add equal parts of topsoil, sand and compost. Make sure your plants receive at least 5 hours per day of sunlight.
  • Watering
    Most herbs require about 1-inch of water a week. Others such as lavender, sage, or thyme can get by with less.
  • Fertilizing
    Herbs don’t usually require fertilizer, unless you have remarkably poor soil. One of the benefits of many hardy herbs (such as lavender and rosemary) is they thrive under less than ideal conditions. We use an application of manure in the spring and a dose of compost tea in mid-summer to provide all the extra nutrients they need.
  • Harvesting
    Don’t be afraid to use your herbs! Cutting leaves and stems will make the plants become a lot thicker, fuller and more productive. Harvest early in the morning when essential oils are strongest before the sun warms the leaves, releasing the oils.
  • Deadheading
    Some herbs require deadheading the blooms in order to keep the plant productive. Basil and mint both benefit from having the flowers pinched back before they mature.
  • Cleaning Up
    After the first killing frost in autumn, pull up annual herbs such as basil. In spring, cut back dead stems on perennial herbs like mint. In the spring, prune overgrown herbs by removing about one-third of the plant before new growth begins.

Source: Meg Dickey, contributing writer for Keeper of the Home. Read the full article here.

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