Growing your own herbs is an enjoyable and rewarding experience. Many people desire growing their own herbs for culinary or medicinal purposes. Planting herbs is a great way for the beginning gardener to learn the basics of growing plants for harvesting. Starting with a few herbs and watching them thrive just might give the confidence to pursue larger planting endeavors. Growing herbs from home will also eliminate paying the high prices at the market and assure fresh herbs are always on hand and ready to use in that special sauce or favorite tea.
There are several decisions to be made when planning an herb garden:
1. Where will the herb garden be located? Will you be planting indoors in a windowsill garden, outdoors in a vegetable garden or on the patio for a container garden? Once you decide on the location, you can then choose the appropriate container.
2. Will you be growing from seeds or established plants? If you decide to start seeds, the plants will take some time to germinate, so be prepared to water, watch and wait. Planting from seed is more cost effective than purchasing established plants. If you wish to accelerate your herb garden, then you would be better suited to purchase established plants.
3. Do you wish to grow a culinary or medicinal herb garden? Once you decide on whether you want a culinary garden or a medicinal garden, then you can decide what herbs you wish to purchase. Kits are also available for themed gardens for culinary or medicinal purposes. Some culinary themed kits include Italian herbs and salsa herbs. Medicinal herb kits might contain herbs for teas.
Some herbs for the beginning culinary herb gardener are sage, garlic, oregano, chives, basil, and parsley. A beginning medicinal herb gardener might consider echinacea, which has been found to be beneficial for relieving insect bites, infections and is said to have powerful healing properties. Chamomile is another medicinal plant believed to calm and is used for restlessness and insomnia. You must be certain to educate yourself as to how to harvest and use medicinal herbs as some are best used when steeped such as in a tea and others are best used crushed.
Herb gardens need soil, sun, and water. Good soil will give the herbs the best chance of growing strong. Purchased potting soil for herbs grown in containers provides the appropriate amount of nutrients needed to thrive. Outdoor garden planting will require the soil to be amended by natural compost or a light fertilizer. It is important to use a very light fertilizer when planting new plants as too much fertilizer can do more harm than good and burn the delicate plants.
A great way to continue to amend soil is to make compost using kitchen, garden and lawn scraps. Natural compost is made by layering green materials (apple cores, tops of carrots, potato peels or grass clippings to name a few) and brown materials (dried leaves and small twigs) from the lawn. Coffee grounds can also be added to the compost pile for added nutrition. A compost pile should be kept moist and turned every few days so that heat does not build. Compost is an organic soil conditioner and a natural alternative to purchased fertilizer.
Now that the soil is amended, it is time to plant the seeds or established plants. Make certain to leave enough room between the herbs in order for them to have room to grow taking into account the different sizes and heights of each plant. The soil should be kept moist and not allowed to completely dry out.
Some herbs, like mint, are invasive and will overtake your garden. Mint should be planted in its own container. If planting mint outdoors, an easy way to keep it from invading the entire garden is to take a plastic container a few sizes bigger than the plant and cut the bottom out of the container. The open-ended container is then planted in the soil leaving about one-half inch about the soil line. Potting the plant in this container will keep the roots from traveling throughout the entire garden and choking off other plants.
Planting an herb garden is both rewarding and cost effective. A little preparation will have you growing fresh herbs that are just a reach away!