Planning and Planting an Herb Garden
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Herb Garden Design Ideas
Herbs gardening has become increasingly popular as people focus more and more on nutritious, delicious, and fresh meals. Herbs are some of the easiest plants to grow and grow profusely.
Also, dried herbs, when properly processed and stored, can last long after being harvested. Most require little maintenance unless you have the idea of planting a four-square decorative herb garden. You can find many herb plants and seeds in nurseries, retail stores, and online.
What Is an Herb?
Most of the time, the term herb is not definitive. Some sources consider them plants that do not develop woody stems. Others consider any plant used for its medicinal, culinary, or aromatic qualities to be an herb. That is a very broad definition. It is generally accepted that herbs are those plants that are used for their roots, leaves, green stems, and flowers.
It is best not to spend too much time debating what is and what is not an herb. For most herb growers, it all comes down to a plant that can be used for cooking, medicinal or practical purposes, such as plants that are used to make dyes or perfumes.
Even so, the list is almost endless. The most common garden plants - like lilies, sunflowers, marigolds, Joe Pye grass, and even bell peppers - are on someone's list. And whether you think of hops as a medicine or not, hops are also an herb. It is best to approach the topic of herb gardening with an open mind.
Why Plant an Herb Garden?
Herbs gardening, how to define the word herb, all comes down to what you want to do with the plants you grow. If you want to yarn dye, make salves or potpourri, or cook like a chef, you will want to grow plants that suit that need. Having a designated herb garden makes caring for and harvesting more convenient. It is by no means the only way or even the best way to grow herbs. You can always simply mix these plants in other garden beds or improvise according to your space and needs.
Annual cooking or culinary herbs such as basil, dill, and coriander are often best suited for gardens, where they are sure to be watered regularly and are useful when you go out to pick vegetables for dinner. Some of the highly fragrant perennial herbs, such as lavender and sage, are helpful on flower borders to deter deer and rabbits. Other herbs can be used to attract beneficial pollinators like bees, hummingbirds, and butterflies.
For gardeners in small spaces, an herb garden can be a collection of pots. It's romantic to imagine a series of small herb pots on your kitchen window sill, but in reality, you'll need a good-sized plant to be able to harvest enough herbs for regular cooking. However, for occasional use and for the sheer luxury of their beautiful fragrance, the little herbal pots are a delight. If you have room inside for larger pots, go for it.
Herb Growing Basics
As the plants considered "herbs" are very large and varied, there are no hard and fast rules of thumb for growing herbs. Shade lovers like mint and sweetwood leaves prefer humid, wooded environments. Mediterranean herbs like lavender and oregano thrive in full sun, slightly fine soils, and warm, toasty temperatures. Annual herbs like basil, chervil, coriander, and dill also prefer strong sunshine. They will need a little more water or they will just turn into seeds.
The way you grow herbs depends on the herbs you are growing. With the exception of the handful of shade-loving grasses, they all share four common growing conditions:
- Soil that is not overly rich: As long as herbs from the soil and supplemental fertilizers are grown, the herbs should be grown lean. Depending on your soil, most will not need supplemental food. Your herbs will have a more intense aroma and flavor if they do not receive a lot of fertilizer or very rich soil. The exception is herbs grown for their flowers. Certainly, flowering herbs should be given plenty of soil and water.
- Lots of sunshine: it is the combination of sun and slightly fine earth that seems to make the essential oils, and therefore the fragrance and flavor of the herbs, intensify. Find a place where your herbs get at least six hours of sunlight a day.
- Regular water, but with good drainage: few plants like to root in moist or continuously moist soil. Wet roots can eventually rot. At the very least, they will weaken the plant and attract disease. This is even more crucial when you plan to use roots, stems, or leaves. Many Mediterranean herbs, such as rosemary, oregano, thyme, and lavender, are drought-tolerant, but that doesn't mean you should let them languish in dry heat. Use common sense and let your herbs tell you when they need a drink.
- Periodic trimming and harvesting, to keep them full: Some gardeners find it very difficult to cut any of their plants. They do not cut flowers to bring them and they do not even like to prune plants that grow too large. Fortunately, you are growing your herbs for use, so pruning and trimming will not be a problem. If you don't cut back and use your grasses, the plants will grow tall and thin and the annual grasses will germinate quickly. Even woody perennial herbs like rosemary, lavender, and sage will be fuller and have less dead and weak wood if they are pruned at least once a year. A good rule of thumb is to reduce perennial grasses by about two-thirds by the end of the growing season. Once a good root system is established, some woody herbs like rosemary and lavender can even be pruned into small shrubs.
When planning your herb garden, it helps to know which herbs are perennial and which are annual. It is also worth knowing each herb individually, its uses, and growing habits. This will help you decide where to place your plants and how to care for them to ensure many enjoyable seasons with their aromatic and flavorful herbs.
Enjoy This Video Tutorial About Planting Herbs
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