How to Grow Herbs without Using Chemicals
Want to grow your own herb garden without using any type of pesticide or herbicide? It’s possible! Growing crops organically is not only earth-friendly; it’s the best way to enjoy the health benefits of the produce you grew!
The fact is, using chemicals to grow crops could cause toxic compounds to leach into the soil and water sources. This contributes to environmental pollution. What’s more, these poisonous compounds could end up on your plate. By growing crops without using chemicals, you’ll enjoy more of the healthy foods you grew without worrying about your crops destroying the environment.
The key to successfully growing herbs without using chemicals is to avoiding the problem before it happens. This eliminates the need to use chemicals. It is equally important to address specific problems instead of casting a large net and hoping for the best.
Take for example insecticides. These products get rid of pests but end up killing beneficial garden critters like bees, butterflies, and earthworms too. Instead of using insecticides to kill all garden critters, explore different strategies that do the job with minimal damage to biodiversity. To keep destructive garden critters from feasting on your herbs without using chemicals, you have to avoid the problem before it starts. Here are ways to grow herbs organically:
Start with Healthy, Fertile Soil
The quality of the soil you use matters. Healthy, nutrient-dense soil is critical to growing pest-resistant herbs. Beneficial garden critters, like earthworms, thrive in rich soil too. In addition, healthy soils provide all the nutrients that herbs need to deter diseases and infestations.
You can either create your own fertile soil using compost or buy organic soil from your local grower. Between these choices, composting is more affordable. You can add kitchen and garden waste to make your own compost and use the compost to enrich your garden soil. We highly recommend mixing green and brown matter and then adding the compost to your garden patch for best results.
Get to Know Your Plants’ Growing Needs
Neglecting to address herbs’ different growing needs could lead to diseases and infestation. The best way to prevent this problem is to arm yourself with information. That means you have to get to know your plants’ growing needs to keep them healthy and disease-free. This way, there is no need to use chemicals to keep your plants healthy in the first place. In addition, planting your herbs in the right place will also increase your chances of growing organic crops successfully. Finally, group your herbs according to their water, sun, and soil needs.
Generally, herbs love full, bright light and hate standing water. If you are growing herbs for the first time, it’s best to get some gardening advice from the pros. Ask your local nursery employee or grower for tips.
Growing Herbs in Raised Beds
If you are planting your herbs outdoors, it pays to invest in raised beds. Raised beds allow you to control the quality of the soil while protecting your precious crops from burrowing pests and insects. Since the herbs are planted in a contained space, pests are less likely to nibble on your crops. In addition, raised beds also help drain water away from the herbs’ delicate roots. Good drainage keeps the herbs healthy while also improving the texture of the soil.
Growing Herbs in Containers
This is a variation of the gardening tip above: planting herbs in pots minimizes the risk of infestation and diseases. You can control the quality of the soil and keep pests at bay by using a richer potting mix. Since potted herbs are much easier to move around, you can rotate your plants and keep them away from pest-prone areas of the garden. As long as the plant containers have drainage holes at the bottom, water will drain away from the delicate plant roots, which minimizes the risk of rot and diseases.
Try Companion Planting
Companion planting involves growing different varieties of plants closely to enhance each of the plants’ growth. In most cases, this is done to help the plants protect each other from pests, diseases, and infestations. Since you are not using chemicals to keep pests/or diseases at bay, companion planting could reinforce the healthiness of the crops.
Companion planting isn’t only done to discourage pests from overtaking the garden, it’s also used to attract beneficial critters like pollinators. Generally, planting aromatics alongside crops help control pests. Basil, garlic, rosemary, thyme, lavender, and other plants that emit a strong odor repel destructive insects naturally. For instance, pairing Sweet Alyssum with Swiss chard keeps destructive insects like aphids in control by attracting hoverflies. Planting Nasturtium next to cucumbers brings more pollinators like bees and butterflies to your garden. This pairing will help repel pests while also maximizing your crops’ yield.
This may be one of the oldest gardening techniques but it’s still effective so it’s worth trying out. Crop rotation, which has been done since the Middle Ages, involves rotating your crops to different areas of the garden to maintain the soil’s health.
Think about it, letting one variety of plant grow in a single spot in the garden year after year depletes the soil of nutrients the plant needs to grow and thrive.
A plant that takes up the same spot in the garden year after year is also less healthy compared to a plant that’s been rotated to other parts of the garden. That’s because the pathogens that cause plant diseases remain in the same spot as the plant that’s grown in it.
Moving crops around is more taxing but eventually, you’ll grow disease-resistant crops. If say, you cannot move your plants around because the crops are planted in-ground, try bringing in new soil from the outside. The new soil will replenish the depleted nutrients of the old soil. You can also use dark plastic covers over the beds to protect the soil from excessive heat.
Use Organic Fertilizers
What’s the best kind of fertilizers to use for growing plants organically? Organic fertilizers, of course! Organic fertilizers are made from biodegradable compounds such as manure, rotting matter, kitchen wastes, garden wastes, etc. All these compounds break down completely, enriching the soil with important nutrients plant need to grow healthy and strong.
You can always buy sacks of organic fertilizers at your local vendor but consider making the fertilizers yourself using kitchen scraps, as well as brown (decayed leaves) and green matter (grass clippings, coffee grinds, clean paper waste). If you are using manure, make sure it is fully cured first so the manure is free from harmful pathogens.
Proper Air Flow
Proper airflow is important, not just for growing certain plant varieties, but for caring for all plants in general. You want to space out each plant so it has room to grow. Spacing out the plants also optimizes the absorption of sunlight and the flow of air. Humidity increases the risk of rot as well as fungal and mold growth in plants. Adequate exposure to sunlight and air destroy pathogens that could otherwise harm the plants. Knowing the amount of room needed by plants is easy; just check the seed packets or planting sticks for instructions.
General Tips for Growing Herbs Organically
Choosing the right kind of herbs to grow is the best way to build an easy to maintain and disease-resistant herb garden. This goes especially if you are new to gardening! Ideally, choose herbs that are hard to kill or native herbs that grow in abundance in your local area. Herbs that thrive indoors are also perfect additions to an organic garden.
Since most herbs do not grow too big, you can plant them in small pots. However, some small herbs will need bigger pots once they mature. If you’d rather not re-pot your herbs, plant them in-ground. Small, potted herbs could be grown indoors or outdoors as long as they are getting enough sunlight.
Speaking of sunlight, most herbs require at least 6 to 8 hours of regular sun exposure. A windowsill that gets bright light most of the day is the perfect spot for growing potted herbs. If the potted herbs are not getting enough sunlight, you have to move them into different parts of your yard to keep your herbs happy. Herbs that are grown in-ground aren’t as high maintenance as long as they are planted in a sunny spot in the garden.
It is important to amend the soil with organic fertilizers when needed to make sure that your herbs are getting all the nutrients they need to stay healthy. You can use organic mulch as your own compost or use a weak solution of fish emulsion.
Add the fertilizers once every two weeks or so and use only a small amount. Most herbs do not need much fertilizing and too much of the stuff could lead to excessive leaf growth and a weaker flavor or aroma. Regular harvesting is key to steady growth. It also encourages plant heartiness so go ahead and harvest your favorite herbs as soon as you can!
Building an herb garden without using chemicals may sound daunting but it’s a lot easier (and more affordable) than you think! As long as you are resolving common garden issues right away, there is no need to depend on chemicals to keep your herb garden healthy! For more gardening tips and helpful resources, subscribe to our newsletter today.
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