Herb Gardening 101
An herb garden may be a good option if: you have limited space; you don’t have a lot of time to devote to gardening; you’re unable to spend a lot of time on your hands and knees; your garden conditions are less than ideal: poor soil, bad drainage, too much shade or sun (this would require the use of a container garden).
Soil and Light Requirements
Herbs do not require a rich soil, but the soil must drain well. A good soil blend is to add equal parts of topsoil, sand and compost. Make sure your plants receive at least 5 hours per day of sunlight.
Most herbs require about 1-inch of water a week. Others such as lavender, sage, or thyme can get by with less.
Herbs don’t usually require fertilizer, unless you have remarkably poor soil. One of the benefits of many hardy herbs (such as lavender and rosemary) is they thrive under less than ideal conditions. QUICK TIP: an application of manure in the spring and a dose of compost tea in mid-summer will provide all the extra nutrients they need.
Don’t be afraid to use your herbs! Cutting leaves and stems will make the plants become a lot thicker, fuller and more productive. Harvest early in the morning when essential oils are strongest before the sun warms the leaves, releasing the oils.
Some herbs require deadheading the blooms in order to keep the plant productive. Basil and mint both benefit from having the flowers pinched back before they mature.
After the first killing frost in autumn, pull up annual herbs such as basil. In spring, cut back dead stems on perennial herbs like mint. In the spring, prune overgrown herbs by removing about one-third of the plant before new growth begins.
If you're wondering where to start, the following is a list of some popular herbs:
Basil: these annuals will need to be replanted each year.
Chives: Established clumps can be divided and transplanted.
Dill: Another annual, dill has feathery pale green leaves and pale yellow flowers.
Lavender: Has grayish foliage and fragrant lavender flowers.
Mint: Is probably the easiest herb to grow in almost any climate.
Sage: Another hardy perennial with beautiful foliage and blue flowers.
Thyme: Cut for drying before blossoms open (otherwise the flavor is changed).