A Beginner’s Guide to Herb Gardening
Wouldn’t it be nice to get all the essential ingredients you need for cooking straight from your garden? Apart from growing a number of veggies - such as tomatoes, green leafy vegetables, and tubers - you can also grow herbs to save more money on food. Thankfully, herb gardening is as easy as can be, anyone can do it!
But don’t take our word for it, try building your own herb garden! An herb garden doesn't require much room. Even a tiny slice of space, like the windowsill in your kitchen, is plenty enough space to grow a variety of herbs. Best of all, most herbs are so easy to grow, with some able to withstand a bit of neglect! Make herb gardening as effortless as possible with these tips:
Checking the Location of the Garden
Location is everything in herb gardening. Most herbs love the full sun so set your garden in a spot that receives a lot of sunshine especially in the mornings and afternoons. A spot that receives filtered light is also perfect for growing a variety of herbs. Whatever spot you choose, make sure it receives at least 4 hours of sun in a day.
When planning your herb garden, you need to decide if you’d grow the herbs in small pots or in-ground. Some gardeners prefer growing herbs in small pots simply because the herbs become more portable this way. If you’d like to grow the herbs in pots, you can simply set your herb garden near the kitchen so the herbs are always within easy reach. Potted herbs are much easier to grow and maintain because these won’t require daily weeding or frequent watering. If you are new to herb gardening, start small and then grow your collection gradually.
Prepare the Soil
It’s always important to prepare the soil before growing any type of plants. The soil is, after all, the foundation of the garden. If the soil is too compact or lumpy, you need to loosen the soil using a garden fork. Working the soil into a finer texture promote proper water drainage and aeration for your herb plants. The ideal soil texture could also boost the health of the plant roots!
After preparing the soil, you can conduct soil testing just to map out the nutrient profile of the soil. Through soil testing, you'll know for sure if you have to add fertilizer to enrich the soil. Soil testing involves taking multiple samples from different areas of the garden and then having these soil samples assessed by a testing facility. After mapping out the nutrient profile of the garden soil, choose the area with the most enriched soil and work your way from there. Amend the soil with fertilizer as needed.
Adding fertilizer ensures that your soil has enough nutrients to support plant life. You have to add the right amount of fertilizer to the soil so the plants are getting the right level of nutrients. Ideally, you want to add the fertilizer before planting the herbs to create a well-balanced growing environment for your herb garden. Then, continue adding fertilizer on a regular basis once the soil nutrients are depleted. We highly recommend using organic and slow release fertilizers to prevent the risk of fertilizer burn.
Properly Spaced Out Herbs
When it comes to planting any type of herb, you should give each plant more room to grow. Generally, the herbs should be planted at least two feet away from each other. Parsley, cilantro, dill, and chives should be spaced out about a foot or two away from each other. Basil, tarragon, and thyme need more room. Make sure to maintain 2 to 3 feet of space between each herb. Rosemary, oregano, sage, and mint need at least 3 to 4 feet of space from other plants.
Transplant Large Herbs into Bigger Pots
If say, you planted your herbs in small pots, the plants have to be re-planted into larger pots as they grow bigger. Transplanting herbs into large pots is easy; all you need is a trowel, a large pot, and more potting soil. While some herbs are best grown in small pots, other herbs need more room to grow for their roots to spread out. If these herbs are not transplanted in a larger pot, their roots will become tangled, causing the herbs to absorb fewer nutrients from the soil.
If you’d like to prevent transplanting shock, we highly suggest planting the herbs directly into the ground from the beginning. It could take weeks to prepare a plot for your herb garden but the effort is well worth it.
Harvesting the Herbs
When growing different types of herbs, you have to be mindful of the state of the soil. Most herbs love moist, well-drained soil and hate standing water. To check the state of the soil, you have to keep an eye on the temperature and humidity. If the temperature and humidity are too drying, make a weekly check on the soil. If the soil below the surface of the ground is dry to the touch, you have to water the herbs.
Never over-water because this is just as bad as not watering the herbs at all. Over-watering could cause rot or diseases to set in. This will also lead to stunted growth.
To harvest the herbs, just trim off a third of the branches as soon as the plants reach about 6 to 8 inches tall. Cutting closest to the branches lead to faster re-growths. However, some herbs – like parsley – grow new leaves from the center. If such is the case, you have to remove the oldest branches completely from the center to encourage new growths.
Types of Hardy Herbs to Grow
Cilantro, some love it, others hate it but if you cannot get enough of this herb then we're happy to report that cilantro is so easy to grow. This bright, zesty herb is best sown as seeds and then transplanted outdoors during the spring and summer season. You have to harvest the cilantro leaves before they mature for optimal flavor. Cilantro is not a fussy herb at all although it thrives best in well-drained soil. This herb grows in a variety of growing conditions. It will do well in the full sun although it's known to thrive in partly shady environments too.
Used as an herb or as a garnish, no other herb completes a dish quite like parsley! Parsley is best used in sauces, salads, and soups. This herb can be grown in a container garden or an outdoor garden. Whichever way you'd like to grow parsley, just make sure to soak the seeds in water overnight before planting. Soaking the parsley seeds overnight will speed up germination. Plant the seeds in moist, rich soil. Parsley loves the full sun although it will do well in partially shady spots too, like a windowsill.
Mint is a fragrant herb prized for its fruity flavor. While there are many varieties of mint, all of these varieties are aromatic. Mint can be used as an ingredient in cooking or as a decorative plant for the garden. This herb loves light, well-drained soil because mint usually grows in stream banks. Mint loves the full sun although it will require protection to prevent burning. Mint pairs well with certain crops so we suggest planting this herb near cabbage and tomatoes.
Easily one of the most popular herbs, rosemary is used to spice up meats, poultry, and stews. This aromatic herb is not only pretty to look at; it’s also incredibly beginner-friendly. This herb loves the full sun and is best planted in well-draining soil. Rosemary thrives best in mild climates although it can tolerate dry, hot weather too. This herb should be watered evenly throughout its growing season to keep its gorgeous foliage green, thick, and healthy! Finally, prune the rosemary regularly to avoid lanky foliage.
Just like rosemary, sage is a beloved herb that’s often used to add a distinct aroma to special dishes and holiday feasts. This easy to grow herb loves the full sun as well as well-draining soil. Because sage leaves tend to spread quite a bit, this herb needs more room to grow. If you are growing sage in-ground, space out the plants at least 2 feet apart to avoid crowding.
Sage is extremely drought resistant once established. Too much watering could kill sage plants so water only when needed! As sage gets older, it becomes less productive. Old sage will become woody and the foliage, sparse. That's why it's best to replace sage plants every 3 to 4 years if you are using it for culinary purposes.
Herb gardening is easy as long as you are well versed on the growing needs of different herbs. We hope that this guide has inspired you to build your own herb garden. Sign up for our newsletter to get the latest gardening tips and resources!