One of the most cost-effective plants to grow in a home garden is the herb. There are many types of herbs, from cooking to medicinal, and depending on what type you want or need, there is an easy way for you to grow them.
There are a few simple how-to’s that are applicable no matter which herbs you choose to grow. First, you need a place to grow them. It can be a windowsill, a patio or a greenhouse, and needs to have enough light and air. It’s important to choose a place that gets 4 hours of natural sunlight and has easy access to water.
Choosing the herbs you grow is an important step. If you have a list of favorites, you’re set, and you’re able to get the herbs you are most interested in cultivating. If you haven’t decided, read up on what kinds of herbs are available and what they’re used for, then ask questions of your nursery herb specialist. Choose the herbs you will use most often, and you’ll find caring for them is very rewarding.
Next, you need pots. Now, choosing pots isn’t hard, but it is important that you know about the material you’re planting in. As a general rule, terra cotta works best. It is porous, shows when water is needed, and is heavy enough to be a stable container for even the most delicate of plants. For single-herb pots, an 8″ to 10″ pot should do for most herbs. If you choose to plant several types of herbs, use larger pots and combine the types of herbs that need the same amount of light and/or water to make it easier on yourself.
When you have your pots and plants, you’re ready to purchase the potting soil, course sand and mushroom compost herbs love. You can find the right kinds of planting mixes at a nursery specializing in herbs, as well as knowledgeable gardeners to help you with good hints. Fine mesh screen in the bottom of each pot placed over the drainage hole will help avoid erosion, and placing the planted pots on a tray filled with gravel pebbles helps to keep the water well-drained.
If you buy seedlings (plants that have been sprouted), place them in their new homes at the same depth they were in the seedling tray. This is fairly easy to gauge, and avoids shocking the plant. When the soil is arranged around the seedling, tamp it slightly and water well. From then on, watering well twice a week is a good idea for most herbs. One technique for watering is standing the pots in a couple inches of room-temperature water until well-soaked, then replacing them on their gravel beds. This avoids over-watering and keeps the roots moist.
If you are starting from seeds, use a sprouting tray with the same mixture of soil, sand and compost. A lid over the tray will help retain moisture and temperature, and the seeds can be started on the kitchen table. Of course, sunlight is needed as soon as the first sprouts are seen, and planting instructions are the same as buying a seedling.
Herbs need to be fed once a week while they are actively growing and producing. Using a natural fertilizer like fish emulsion or seaweed extract is a good idea, especially if you’re cooking with them. Organically grown herbs are not just from expensive specialty shops. You can use the same techniques, and have the same health rewards, by eating healthier foods.
When your plants are well-established, you can start to use them. Be selective, and clip leaves from the outside of the plant, leaving a healthy growth of herb in the middle of each plant. If you over-clip, you may damage your plant. Under-clipping may let your plant go to seed. Maintain a balance so you’ll have herbs all year long. This may take a few trial and error sessions, but you’ll see how easy it can be to have year-round herbs fresh from your garden.
As you can see, it isn’t difficult to have fresh herbs for cooking, potpourri or medicinal purposes, and you don’t have to have a plot of land to have a fragrant, healthy herb garden.