Growing a Successful Herb Garden – Tips for any planting zone
So if you read my blog post Bye Bye Black Thumb you know that I have had “challenges” when it came to growing anything. In fact, until recently I have been on a gardening hiatus. But now I’m back and back with a vengeance!
I knew once I made the decision to live the life of a homesteader, I was going to go all out or nothing at all. So in addition to planting the vegetables I knew I wanted to preserve to carry my family through the winter, I wanted to be sure I had a large collection of herbs that I could use as well.
But – I had never grown herbs before. In fact, up until recently I had never planted garlic before – I thought it lived at the grocery store. However, I’m not one to be easily discouraged so plant I did!
So just like when I started learning about what to plant, how to plant and starting my garden seedlings, I did my homework with my future herb garden.
For starters, I knew I was going to be using my garden crops to make lots of homemade spaghetti sauce, salsa and hot sauce. So I knew I was going to need the basics – basil, oregano, rosemary, thyme, sage and cilantro. I also knew I was going to preserve cucumbers for pickles and needed dill.
So I got my list together and my seeds and off I went. I did all the things I learned and try to share with you throughout this site – I chose the right soil, container, made sure I was watering properly and giving them enough light. And then I waited. And waited. And then waited some more.
I have made no secret about not being the most patient person in the world, but after waiting for about two weeks to see something pop through the dirt – I knew I had done something wrong somewhere. So back to the ole drawing board I went, started over and now I can share with you what I’ve learned to hopefully save you from my mistakes!
First things first – herbs are going to grow best just like all of your other plants – in well-drained soil. This was my first mistake. I was out of my favorite little peat pellets and didn’t feel like making the long drive into town to get more, so I used the styrofoam cups I had on hand. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this alternative because I knew I was going to take the seedlings out of the cup when it came time to transplant and not put the cup into the ground. However, back to the first sentence – herbs do best in well-drained soil. Well, in my excitement, I forgot to put drainage holes in the bottom of my cup which could have led to the seedlings never taking hold.
Ok so, that being said, while most of garden herbs prefer a well-draining soil but should make it if there is some built-up moisture, there are a few – bay leaves, lavender and rosemary, for example, that will prefer a more gritty and very well-drained soil. Their roots will very likely rot in moist soil.
Moving on, light is a very important part of the process as well – just like with your other plants. While most herbs will thrive in full sun – at least six hours per day – if that’s not an option for you, perhaps choosing ones that don’t need as much – like chives, cilantro, mint, parsley and tarragon – will be a better option for you.
Herbs also will not do well in a windy or otherwise stressful environment. If you are not going to grow these in containers that can be easily moved to avoid unsettled areas, you will want to plant them closer to your house or other building.
Just a final note – your plants can come from just about anywhere – seeds, dividing a perennial that you – or a gardener friend – may already have, or cutting from existing plants. If you choose this last option, remember that this should be done in the spring or summer when the plants are growing vigorously. I’ll get more into this option elsewhere.
Are you growing an herb garden? What kind of tips or tricks have you discovered that are working for you?