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Think Soil

  • Loosen the soil that has become compacted over the years. This allows water to drain and creates space for plant roots to reach down into the soil.
  • Adding compost to your soil, about an inch or so on top and then mixing it into the soil, helps prevent drainage problems and adds nutrients.

Feeding

  • Most herbs require little fertilizer but pay closer attention to container grown plants.
  • The amount of soil around the plant is limited to the size of the container as it dries out faster and requires more nutrients than the soil in your garden. 
  • Apply Earthworks 3-4-3 organic fertilizer mixed in with the potting mix at planting. 
  • If plants loose color during the growing season apply Ferti-Lome's Fish Emulsion Fertilizer at half the recommended rate every few weeks. 
  • Apply fertilizers sparingly. Heavy applications will produce large plants, but the essential oils that produce their flavor and aroma will be reduced.

Watering

  • Most herbs like to be watered as soon as the soil located a couple of inches below the surface is dry to the touch.
  • Check the soil often since temperatures and humidity cause drying times to vary.
  • Do not over-water. More water is not better and can lead to diseases or just poor growing conditions.

Planting

  • Herbs can be grown in pots but prefer to be in the ground where they can spread out.
  • Some varieties grow large (4-6 feet). Placed in pots they become stressed and stunted.
  • Most herbs need full sun as long as regular summer temperatures don't rise above 90 degrees.
  • Check the area several times during the day to make sure that there are at least four hours of sun.
  • Herbs need approximately 1 to 4 feet in diameter for each plant.
  • Here are some general guidelines for plant sizes:
  • 2 feet - Basils, Thyme, Tarragon, Savory
  • 1 foot - Cilantro, Chives, Dill, Parsley

Annuals-Perennials

  • Annuals
    • Buy as transplants you will get stronger, bushier annual herbs vs. growing from seed. Basil is an exception - it grows well from transplants.
    • Annual herbs flower and go to seed quickly. For a fresh supply, replant every 3 weeks to within 3-4 weeks of fall. To harvest, snip off leaves, or pull the entire plant.
    • Annuals such as dill, chervil and cilantro are easy to grow from seed, and ready for harvesting several weeks after sowing.
  • Perennials
    • Herbs such as French tarragon, chives, sage or thyme, are available as transplants.
    • Growing them from seed is not worth the time as it takes more than a season to get most perennial herbs to grow big enough for a decent harvest.
    • Transplants should become established in your garden for a month or two before harvesting.

Harvesting

  • Cut off about 1/3 of the branches when the plant reaches at least 6-8" tall.
  • Cut close to a leaf intersection to enable plants to regrow more quickly.
  • Parsley grows new leaves from the center so the oldest branches need to be completely removed leaving the new tiny branches growing from the center.

Pest Control

  • Basil: Aphids and slugs often attack basil. Watch closely and treat with organic controls
  • Chives: Watch for aphids on chives. Knock insects off plants with a heavy spray of water or apply insecticidal soap.
  • Cilantro: Watch for powdery mildew and apply organic fungicides if symptoms appear. Cilantro rarely has problems with pest insects.
  • Dill: Occasionally the tomato hornworm will attack dill. If damage is severe, apply Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt).
  • Marjoram: Aphids, spider mites and some plant diseases may attack marjoram. Treat with insecticidal soap or other organic insect control.
  • Mint: Aphids, cabbage loopers, flea beetles and spider mites are all common garden pests found on mint. Apply least-toxic, natural pesticides to prevent insect damage. Watch closely for plant diseases such as rust and anthracnose. If found, hand pick infected leaves and apply organic fungicides.
  • Oregano: Watch closely for aphids, leafminers and spider mites, especially on plants grown in containers. If pests are found, use least-toxic, organic pesticides.
  • Parsley: The larvae (caterpillar) of the black swallowtail butterfly is particularly fond of this herb. Handpick pests if found.
  • Rosemary: Whitefly and spider mites will attack rosemary. Monitor frequently and apply organic pest controls if insects arrive.
  • Sage: Slugs and spider mites can be a problem on sage. Watch closely and dust with diatomaceous earth, if necessary. Common plant diseases found on sage include powdery mildew, rhizoctonia, and verticillium wilt.
  • Tarragon: Plant diseases, such as powdery mildew, downy mildew and rhizoctonia (root rot) may attack tarragon. To help prevent these problems, plant in areas that provide good air circulation and water on sunny mornings, to allow the leaves to dry by evening.
  • Thyme: Common garden pests attacking thyme include spider mites and aphids. Look for these insects on new plant growth and on the undersides of leaves. If found, knock pests off plants with a heavy blast of water or use insecticidal soap.

Benefits

  • Fresh Herbs Always Available - One of the best benefits of growing your own herbs is having fresh herbs right at your fingertips, whenever you want or need them. When you have your own herb garden growing right outside or inside your door there are No Boring Dinners - Adding a few different herbs to a simple chicken dinner makes it a whole new meal. The results are only limited to the types of herbs you decide to plant and how daring you want to be with your menu.
  • Good For You - Adding fresh herbs to your diet is a great way to boost your meal's vitamin value.
  • Save Money - Fresh herbs are expensive when purchased at the grocery store. After the initial investment of starting the herb garden the money saved over time can be significant.
  • Educational - Herb gardening is an educational experience for adults as well as for children.
  • Relieve Stress - Tending, or just visiting, an herb garden can do a world of good towards relieving all that built up stress that daily life likes to give us.
  • Curb Appeal - Adding an herb garden to your home's landscape gives your yard real curb appeal.
  • Share the Wealth - Growing your own herbs means that you will always have plenty of extras to share with friends, family, and neighbors.
  • Exotic Variety - Did you know that there are more than 30 different types of basil? Growing your own herb garden will allow you to sample some of the other more exotic and fun herbs.
  • Knowledge is power - Who knows what pesticides and chemicals are on the herbs you buy at the grocery store. Know exactly what goes into your food by growing it right at home.
  • Easy to Grow - Unlike some plants and flowers that require a lot of attention to detail in order to flourish, herbs are relatively easy to grow.
  • Try it dried - Dry herbs for the sake of longevity? Hang the herbs upside down until they're dry and then store them in a glass container for whenever you need them.
  • That's a huge benefit of growing your own herb garden - you can plant any herb you enjoy and skip the ones you don't.