Preparing an Herb Garden

From on May 07, 2009 in Landscaping

I can tell you, firsthand, that there’s nothing better than a home cooked meal enhanced by homegrown herbs - the flavor is just unbeatable. I’ve found that herb gardens can be a little difficult to get going, but once you’ve got it, they are easy to maintain. I grow some herbs indoors and some outside and I gotta tell you, the ones that live outside are much hardier: they grow bigger, propagate more, and come back stronger every year. I’ve all but given up trying to keep any herb plants in the kitchen. herb-garden.jpgPhoto Credit: niceness Herbs like soil that is 50 percent solids and 50 percent porous space, meaning that they thrive in dirt that is heavy in organic matter and fine rock particles and is fairly loose for root growth. If you collect organic kitchen trash for composting, your herbs will love it if you mix it into the soil you are preparing for them. If you plan to grow herbs from seed, it can require a bit of patience. I’ve had the best luck in planting just a few seeds in a small pot (2-4”) filled with potting soil. I then fill the bottom of a gallon-sized zippered plastic baggie with about a half-inch of water and put the pot in the bag and seal it shut. Put the bag in a nice sunny window until the seeds sprout. Once the seeds have sprouted you’ll need to thin them out by transplanting them into individual small pots until their roots are substantial. After they are in individual pots, start acclimating them to the outdoors by placing them outside for about 30 minutes the first day, and then add another hour or so every day until they are outside all day and night. Now they are ready to plant. If you are planning to buy an herb plant, congratulations, you’re already ready for planting - I call this “cheating” and I highly recommend it. I used to think in order to be a “real” gardener I had to start everything from seed - many verdant heartaches later and I learned the value of cheating and I’ve never looked back! basil-sprouts.jpgPhoto Credit: Crystl Anyway, make sure that you choose a spot for your herb garden that gets plenty of sun, but partial shade is fine, too. Your spot also needs to be large enough to space your herb plants properly - many of them will expand on their own and quickly and need plenty of room. I recommend doing a little research on the herbs you’ve chosen to see how prolific they are so you’ll know which herbs you need to keep on top of: the hardiest of them will take over the entire garden, if you’re not careful, and will stamp out the others. I have mint that has taken over their own space and have even expanded into other spaces, even though my herb garden has completely separate beds for each herb. If you find this happening, just clip the roaming herb roots back - I promise you won’t kill them, they’ll keep encroaching and you just keep trimming. Another word to the wise - label everything! Most herbs have a pretty distinct look - they don’t often look like one another, but forgetting which is which is easy to do. I had a broken ceramic pot that I cleverly used last year - painted the name of an herb on each large shard and put the pieces in each herb bed so I could tell mine apart. My sweet little boy plucked them all and brought them to me and said, “Mom, I found all of this trash in your garden, so I picked it up for you!” Sweet yes, but now where is my chamomile? This year I’ll be finding a more permanent labeling system - once I figure out the difference between my parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme!