Herbs add unique flavor and fragrance to a number of dishes. They can also make soothing teas and remedies.
Growing herbs can be a rewarding project for the home gardener. They are versatile and can be planted as a standalone planting or mixed in with other vegetables and flowers in a garden.
Nothing enhances the flavor of a home-cooked meal like fresh herbs. From cilantro and chives to complex oregano, herbs add distinct flavors and vitamins to every dish.
Whether you have an extensive garden or a small backyard, growing herbs can be a fun and rewarding project for the whole family. Plus, you’ll be helping the environment by encouraging pollinators and other beneficial insects to thrive in your yard.
A great place to start is in a sunny window box or container garden. Eventually, you might want to plant a full garden where your favorite cooking herbs are available year-round for use in dishes and herbal remedies.
Potting soil is ideal for herbs, because it has the proper conditions to support growth and prevent diseases from developing. You can also fortify potting soil with fish emulsion or compost to help build up nutrients.
Herbs are generally a bit more drought-tolerant than other garden plants, but they still need to be watered regularly. Herbs with broad leaves, such as thyme and rosemary, are okay with fairly dry soil between waterings, but others, such as basil and mint, prefer moderately moist soil all the time.
Most herbs are happy in a well-drained area that receives at least six hours of sun per day. If you live in an area that gets very little sun, consider installing a grow light.
You can start your herb garden from seeds or by propagating herbs using stem cuttings. Stem cuttings are easiest to take in late spring, after the flowers have stopped blooming, or in fall, just before the plant dies back for winter.
When it comes to growing herbs, the soil you choose plays a vital role in their success. It provides the foundation for plant roots to grow and thrive, holds vital water and nutrients, and shelters and supports micro-organisms that decompose organic matter and assist with nitrogen fixation. Make sure you get a soil test via soil testing services of Seacliff.
Some herb plants, like mint, are native to Eurasia and thrive in ordinary garden soils, while others, such as coriander (cilantro) and parsley, have a Mediterranean origin and require gritty, well-drained soil with good drainage. Herbs that do well in a variety of soil types include mint, oregano, lavender, thyme, basil, and rosemary.
Most herbs prefer a slightly acidic to neutral soil with a pH of between 6.0 and 7.0. Those that grow better in alkaline soil, such as rosemary, may need pH-adjusting amendments such as limestone or sulfur.
Herbs are also very tolerant of dry conditions. However, they still need to be watered regularly to keep them active and thriving. Some herbs prefer to be soaked completely before you water, while others can tolerate a light sprinkling.
In addition to watering, many herb gardens need mulching, especially in hot climates, to keep the soil moist and retain valuable nutrients. A 1-inch layer of organic material, such as compost, bark, or pine straw, helps maintain even soil temperatures and discourage weeds.
The right soil is essential for the growth of any plant. For best results, a soil test will help you determine the ideal soil for each herb.
Once you’ve found the perfect soil, make sure it’s properly nourished by feeding your herbs with a high-quality potting mix and plant food. Unlike chemical fertilizers, which can damage the roots of your herbs, a blend of plant food and soil will work together to give them everything they need for healthy, delicious harvests.
Whether you’re growing herbs to cook with or for fragrance, it is important to water your plants. The key is to keep the soil moist but not wet, and avoid standing water that can rot the roots.
There are many ways to water your herb garden, but most gardeners choose to use a spray hose or garden hose to irrigate the herbs. Using a spray hose will allow you to easily reach your garden and provide the nutrients the plant needs to grow strong.
Herbs that can be grown in water include sage, lemon balm, rosemary, stevia, lavender, and dill. These are all wonderful and delicious herbs that you can have at your fingertips for a variety of cooking uses.
The best way to grow herbs in water is to take cuttings from an existing plant or from a store-bought bundle of herbs that are ready to replant. Make sure to select quality stems that have not been cut too short or are showing signs of decay.
Once you have selected the herb you want to grow, clip off the bottom 4 inches of each stem and place them in a jar filled with water. The jar should be in an area that receives at least 6 hours of sunlight a day, as this helps the plant to produce more leaves.
When the roots begin to emerge, remove them from the jar and transplant the herb into soil or a hydroponic growing medium. Remember to change the water every few days to avoid fungus growth or root rot.
Herbs that are perennials will root in water and continue to produce leaves throughout the winter. They are also more resistant to disease and fungus as they will not need as much sunlight as annual herbs.
Herbs grow best when a fertilizer is added at the right time. It helps rebuild the nutrient content in the potting soil that gets depleted while they are growing, especially when grown in pots. A fertilizer usually contains the nutrients nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K) which are essential to plant growth.
A good fertilizer will also contain micronutrients, such as iron, copper, and zinc that plants need in smaller amounts. Deficiencies of these micronutrients can make herbs more vulnerable to diseases, pests, temperature swings, and drought.
Many herbs do not require much fertilizer because they get most of their nutrient needs from their native soil. However, it is still necessary to fertilize a few times during the season to ensure that your herbs are growing healthy and producing the flavorful oils you desire in your cooking.
Fertilizer can be worked into the soil or spread on top of it, where roots absorb it slowly over time. It can also be sprayed directly onto the leaves, a technique called foliar feeding.
When adding fertilizer to the soil, it is important to apply a slow acting fertilizer such as fish emulsion, bone meal, cottonseed meal, or blood meal, which break down slowly over time. Herbs will produce the best flavors and aromas when a slow feeding of these types of natural fertilizers is used.
It is also important to avoid applying too much fertilizer to a herb. This can lead to excessive leaf growth that produces large plants and reduces the concentration of essential oils. This is undesirable for herbs such as basil and rosemary.
Herbs are a versatile food ingredient that can be used to add flavor and color to a variety of dishes. It is important to harvest the right parts of herbs when they are in their prime to ensure maximum flavor retention for the foods you prepare.
Herb leaves can be dried or frozen to preserve their flavor. Leaves can be dried by hanging them on cheesecloth or screens, drying in an oven or dehydrator, or drying in the sun.
Drying can be a time-consuming process, but it is worth the effort to preserve the herb’s flavor and texture for future use. If the leaves are not completely dry before storing, they may begin to mold or mildew.
Whether you are drying or freezing herbs, it is important to store them in an airtight container. This will help prevent a buildup of pests and keep the herb fresh for up to one year.
To harvest herbs, start by visually inspecting your garden to see if any of your plants are flowering or budding. Most herbs are at their best flavor when they are a few buds or flowers from blooming, and should be harvested before this stage is over.
In addition to the flowers of many herbs, some are also grown for their seeds. Herbs such as dill and coriander (cilantro) produce seeds that swell as they mature. These seeds are usually ready to pick when they turn brown and plump, although some varieties are harvested in the green seed stage.
When you’re finished, place the herb bundles in a cool, dry place to complete the drying process. Once dry, store them in jars or other storage containers to enjoy later.