Ten Easy Tips
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Location, Location, Location
Read your seed packet or look at the plant marker and follow suggestions for proper growing conditions. Some herbs will require full sun such as your Mediterranean herbs (thyme, lavender, etc…) while others will easily grow in some shade. Most herbs for culinary use will not grow well in full shade.
Although herbs need little fertilization once established, they do require excellent growing conditions to get started. Well-drained soil is a must. If your location is less than desirable, consider a raised bed or containers. A raised bed is simply an area with soil 12 inches deep on a flat surface usually made up of existing soil if it is of good growing quality, and surrounded by a barrier for containment.
Easy Herbs for First Time Growers
Chives, parsley, mint (see Mint and More Mint), French tarragon, dill, fennel, sage, thyme, lemon balm, and oregano are all herbs that are easy to grow. For best results, follow the directions on the seed packets or markers and prepare your soil well with compost.
Buying Seeds or Plants
My recommendation for first time herb growers is to buy four-inch plants, at least two of each, save the marker and follow the directions. Success is easy with starter plants. Most of the plants listed above can be planted in containers and with each other as well. Remember to water frequently (in the heat of the summer you may have to water twice a day), especially if your herbs are in containers.
An old garden quote:
"If your herbs are grown right outside your kitchen door you will use them whenever
you cook, if they are a few yards away but within an easy walk you will use them on
weekends, and if they are planted on the other side of the house you will tell your
friends you have an herb garden."
This is why containers are sometimes the best choice. They can be located right next to the kitchen and herbs can be clipped daily for general use.
Pest Control and Fertilization
If watering, soil preparation, and sun requirements have been met, there may be little need for fertilization or pest control measures. Herbs have few pest and disease problems. If an herb is not doing well, plant it in a new location or dispose of it and buy another. Planting an herb in two or three different locations in the yard is a good way of seeing where it will grow best.
Buy Healthy Plants
It is a temptation to purchase herbs from plant sales, however this is a good way of introducing disease into your herb garden. If you are taking cuttings from someone's yard or buying from sources other than established garden centers or mail order companies, use caution.
Start with Spectacular Herbs!
Purchase a small Bay tree in a four to six inch pot and nurture it on the south side of the yard in a container, eventually changing to a tub. Use the leaves for wreaths, cooking, or simply have a beautiful signature piece for your garden. Rosemary is for remembrance. Purchase Arp for hardiness. Like bay, this evergreen herb can be a tender perennial but under the right conditions it can grow to five feet. Garlic Chives are very interesting. They are just as easy to grow as chives and have a nice garlic flavor and beautiful white flowers. Like chives, they prefer the sun and require regular watering. Lemon Verbena, the queen of the lemon flavored plants, has an exquisite lemon flavor and delicate scented flowers. It loves the sun and is a tender perennial. Scented Geraniums are wonderful highly fragrant plants. Lemon, lime, peppermint, and rose are just a few of the dozens of varieties. With protection, these herbs can make it through the winter.
Using Herbs to Border Flower and Vegetable Gardens
Chives and Parsley make interesting and edible borders. Feverfew is one of the easiest and most appealing daisy-like flowers for mid to late summer blooming. With pruning after the first bloom, it may even bloom again. Nasturtiums are edible and the seeds are referred to as "Poor Man's Capers". Violets will grow in shade areas and have edible flowers. Many edible herbs have edible flowers as a bonus.
Marking Herb Locations
Last but not least, mark where all of your herbs are growing. Many perennial herbs such as chives will die back in the winter, and without a plant marker, you will have no idea where they are. It is a good idea to use tall makers so they don't get lost in the tilling and fall leaf drop. Even if your winter is not considered harsh, it is a good idea to mulch in the fall. To extend the growing season for your herbs, dig up and pot your herbs for indoor growing. Even with the proper light requirements, herbs grown indoors may not reach the same potential. Remember- herbs are outdoor plants.
Chives, Leeks, and Related Herbs
Turn a wire basket upside down and place over the plant in early spring before the herb has grown. The basket makes a tidy, neat "cat-cage" and gets completely covered once full growth happens in the summer. For other tall herbs such as Elephant Garlic, use a tomato cage for containment.