To start growing herbs, it’s best first to select where and how you want to grow them. Most herbs thrive in just about any location that gives them plenty of light. Good air circulation and drainage are also important to the success of your herb garden. The size of your herb garden, of course, depends on the space you have available for growing. Generally, an area 20-feet by 4-feet accommodates a satisfactory variety of cultivars.
Preparation of the Right Soil – Add Mulch
The best time to amend soil with nutrient rich compost is when you till your garden plot. Herbs have coarse roots that benefit from chunky organic matter, which helps excess water drain away and also helps provide good air circulation. After planting your herbs, skirt them with a two to three-inch layer of mulch to help soil retain moisture. In addition, composting and mulching helps you maintain the neutral to slightly alkaline soil that most herbs prefer.
Herbs Categories and Placement
Many herbs overlap in category. Border a cooking herb garden with some cultivars that have ornamental or aromatic qualities as well as the culinary. However, remember that the main purpose of a culinary herb garden is for use in your kitchen.
Place herbs that you use frequently in less conspicuous areas so that you won’t leave big holes in your garden when you harvest them for cooking!
If you’re growing culinary herbs, plant your herb garden as close to your kitchen as possible for easy access. Herbs grown in full sun have denser foliage, darker color, and higher levels of the essential oils that add flavor to your recipes.
Most culinary herbs thrive under the same growth conditions as the vegetables they enhance and as such are a natural addition to your vegetable garden. Some herbs even have properties that repel common insect pests and garden diseases, which is an added benefit to your vegetables.
Care and Soil Requirements
Nurseries usually include planting and care instructions either on an herb seed packets or informational plant stake inserted into seedling pots. Of course, you should follow these instructions. However, if you get your herbs from a friend, farmers’ market or otherwise without instructions, they’ll generally grow successfully if you follow a few rules of thumb.
Good gardening always starts with the soil. Most herbs grow in any fair to good grade soil. For best results, prepare outdoor areas by tilling the bed and amending the soil with some organically rich compost before sowing herb seeds.
Sow herb seeds at a depth no more than twice the size of the seed. After planting, thoroughly water seeded areas.
Start tiny seeds indoors to keep them from being washed away by wind and rain, gathered by birds, or eaten by earth-dwelling animals and insects. Typically, 6 to 8 weeks before you intend to transplant herbs outdoors is a good time to begin.
Plant herb transplants at the same depth as they were in the original container to keep stems healthy. When herb seedlings become pot-bound, gently break the soil clump apart enough to loosen the soil and give roots a chance to spread.
Plant bare-root herb plants (e.g. bay laurel tree) at two to three times the depth of the root in a hole that is two to three times its width.
After planting transplants or bare roots, a two to three inch layer of mulch helps to both control weeds and retain moisture.