Growing Fresh Herbs
Many of us use herbs in our cooking, and they make our dishes tastier and better. Fresh herbs not only add fragrance and flavor, but they are also easy to grow and take care of. To know how to help the herbs in your home garden grow in a healthy and strong manner, read on to find out more about the basic herb care you should know.
When to Plant them Outdoors
Each and every plant species is different. Deciding when to plant a herb and where to do it is dependent on its cold tolerance and the average last frost date of the environment. For tender, annual herbs that are better cultivated in warm soil, you should wait till after the average last frost date to plant them outdoors. On the other hand, for hardy perennial herb seeds, you can sow them outdoors several weeks before the average last frost date.
Planting Indoors with Herb Seeds
Many herbs are simple to grow and can germinate even with just their seeds. Herbs like basil, and dill grow fairly easily from their seeds. Other species like angelica, chamomile, borage, chervil, coriander, cilantro, fennel, sage, stevia, lemon balm and winter savory are also herbs that can be easily planted and taken care of. You can choose to start your herb garden with such species as they are easy to care for and grow quickly. If you are planting herbs from their seeds, remember to read and act according to the planting guide on the packet before you begin as every type of herb is different. However, the basics of herb planting remains the same for both outdoor and indoor planting.
Transplantation refers to the transfer of plants from containers to soil or gardens. You can plant herbs grown in containers into the soil in your garden after it is no longer cold and snowing outside. To help the plants settle in, make a hole minimally twice as wide but not deeper than the container pot that the herb is growing in. Slowly slide the plant out of the pot and into the soil. Next, loosen and slice through circling roots and lower the root ball inside. Lastly, bury it with soil and water it sufficiently after you’re done planting it. Once in the soil, plants can grow better and absorb more nutrients.
Like humans, plants and herbs need food too. However, be careful not to over-fertilize the crops. Herbs that receive high amounts of nutrition, particularly nitrogen, can end up producing inferior plants that have little to no fragrance and flavor. To avoid this, you can choose to utilize organic fertilizers which decompose slowly or use controlled-release manufactured fertilizers as they are less likely to overwhelm the plant with excess nutrients. To know how much fertilizer to apply, remember to keep a lookout for soil test recommendations or label directions.
As we all know, herbs and plants need water to survive and grow well. Most plants grow well in soil with just the right moisture level and end up with deep flavors if they are well dried. Every plant has different watering needs, which are affected by the soil type, type of weather and herb. For plants grown in clay, you will have to water them less often than those grown in sandy soils. Weather conditions also play a part. Plants need more amounts of water when they are grown in hot, windy weather with low humidity and need less when it is cool and cloudy.
When planting herbs in your garden, you should take note of whether they are likely to clump together or not. Some herbs like chives form clumps easily, while others like thyme can be spread by runners. You can dig up both spreading and clumping type herbs in early spring and divide them, thereafter growing new plants.
Besides seeds, some herbs grow from stem cuttings. Woody herbs like rosemary can grow and propagate from stem cutting. Less woody species like mint, thyme, basil and oregano can also grow easily from cuttings. Be sure to carry out the basic steps and precautions to grow the herbs well in your garden.
As mentioned previously, some herbs can grow roots simply from the stems at the place where it comes into contact with the soil. To further aid the process, you can layer the stems. You can start by bending a flexible stem into the soil, apply some rooting hormone, hold it down into the soil, ensure moisture and all you need to do is wait several months for the roots to develop.
The part of the herb that contains the most fragrance and flavour is its tender new growth. You can regularly cut and pinch two to three inches off the stem tips of herbs to help keep them lush and bushy, encouraging branching and healthy growth. To have more leaves, you can remove any flowers that grow. Do remember to stop pinching the plants at least two months before the first frost of autumn so that the plant can have ample time to grow and harden off before winter comes.
Pruning helps to clean up the dead stems from last year’s growth on certain plants if you did not cut and prune them in autumn. Some plants can become woody and be hard to maintain after a few years in the garden. Spring prune them by cutting one-third to four inches of the soil before they start to have new growth. This helps to ensure that the herbs have a better form that encourages more healthy growth. Some types of herbs that require pruning include mint, lemon balm, tansy and artemisia.
Mulching is the addition of a protective layer, spread on top of the soil. Mulching can help to stop weeds from growing in the herbs. You can add organic mulches like pine needles or wood chips; all of which are good and simple to use. Start by adding a thin layer of the material two to four inches deep, but be sure to put it away from the crown of the plant. What the mulches do is to smother weeds, prevent them from germinating, and for weeds that do end up growing, it will take less effort to pull and remove them. Additionally, mulching also helps to retain and conserve moisture, resulting in the need to give the plant water less frequently.
Herbs are easy, simple and quick to grow and maintain. Follow the necessary steps and you can grow the herbs you need in your own garden to make your home-cooked dishes tasty and healthy!