How To Plant An Herb Garden The Easy Way: Getting Started
An Introduction To Herbs
We will look here at just how easy it is to get up and running…
Herbs have for centuries been valued for their culinary and medicinal properties. Grow a selection of wonderful, fresh plants and enhance your cooking while saving money into the bargain. A true win-win.
The definition of an herb is a plant with no woody stem which dies away as the growing season ends. Herbs were previously thought of as a gift from the gods.
As well as being a chef’s dream and helping with health issues, herb gardening is really pretty straightforward. All you need is a little sunshine, some soil that drains nicely, fertilizer or compost and a decent dose of water. Herbs are not often menaced by insects or other pests.
Herbs can readily be grown in pots but the plants generally prefer to be able to spread. Some herbs can reach heights of 4-6 feet. If they are housed in pots then sometimes they become stressed and stunted.
We will look here, though, at growing in soil and also in pots. Many people have space limitations and for various reasons need to grow indoors.
Advantages Of Indoor And Outdoor Growing
Everyone has different needs, space and climate factors to consider.
All herbs need the same things whether grown indoors or outside. Lots of sunlight, mild
Some people want to use a combination of the two methods and grow outside but in containers. That way, when the growing season ends they can be easily moved back indoors.
A quick look at the pros of each method…
Very easy access
Much higher yields
No need to weed
Can grow year-round
More space available
If you have wondered when to plant herbs, with an indoor garden the answer is simple: any time!
There are several key elements to think about, notably location, growing medium and water.
Location is arguably the most critical factor to your indoor grow.
Herbs demand a minimum of 6 daily hours of sunlight. This can be awkward to achieve in the winter.
There are 3 great options to maximize this:
- A corner where there are 2 windows
- Southwest-facing windowsill to get the most light possible
- Grow lights to boost the natural sunlight
When growing indoors, growing medium works better than garden soil. Your best bet is an organic growing medium. Opt for one that drains efficiently and is loose enough.
With this stage, either buy a mix or make up your own. If you choose to make one up then here are two easy options:
Combine equal parts sterile topsoil, builder’s sand and compost. You can add an organic fertilizer if you choose. An all-purpose one would be ideal
Mix up 4-6 parts peat moss with 1 part vermiculite and 1 part perlite. If you want to add nutrients then go for ½ cup of oystershell lime – great for raising pH, canola meal and bone meal for every 8 gallons of your potting mix
Watering is always a fine balance. Water your plants so that the soil is adequately moist. Take care not to overwater, though, or the roots will rot. Between waterings, allow the top area of the growing medium or soil to dry out totally. Check the levels of moisture on a regular basis.
Soil moisture meters measure the moisture at root level and are very handy accessories.
You should also plant herbs in different containers. At minimum, group together plants with similar watering requirements.
Note: annual herbs (dill, oregano, basil, coriander) can be kicked off indoors then grown all year round. Perennial herbs (thyme, chives, parsley, sage) can easily be started from seed but it’s often simpler to buy young plants instead. Perennials will continue to grow longer than a season. Keeping them in pots outside is fine in the summer. Just take care to bring the herbs inside before the frosts begin.
If you are growing outdoors, location is also critical.
Think first about the number of plants you want to grow along with how much room each of them will require. Calculating space is straightforward.
Look for somewhere in the garden which gets sufficient sunlight. By ensuring at least 6 hours (and up to 8 hours) of daily sunlight, the essential oils which give herbs their delicious taste and smell will develop optimally.
This varies but there are some constants…
Look for a site with loam soil that’s very well drained. If necessary you can enhance the quality of the existing soil. Use compost, manure or peat moss.
A kit for testing the quality of soil is a sound investment. You want soil which will drain but also keep both nutrients and moisture in.
The majority of herbs enjoy a soil which borders acidic and neutral. Look for a pH value somewhere between 6 and 7.
To get your planting beds ready, dig into the soil 10-12 inches. Turn it over nicely. Remove all large stones from the area. Chuck in lots of organic matter. Rake over and level off when you’re done.
Again, strike that equilibrium between enough water but not so much that the soil becomes soggy.
Tip: sometimes it pays to give your herbs a quick soaking from time to time rather than constantly watering them. Don’t go over the top, though!
We have looked here at the basics of starting your herb garden, whether indoors or outdoors.
Next week we will look in more detail at seeding and propagation, maintenance and storage.
If you want to know how to care for herbs then come back soon and find out more!