Your guide to growing an herb garden
Herb gardens serve a variety of purposes. Never again will you have to run to the store for fresh basil or mint when you have your own herb garden. You can even plant medicinal herbs for herbal remedies or for your own homemade teas.
Herb Garden Soil
To start an outdoor herb garden, it's crucial that your soil provides a good environment for herbs to grow. You might consider having your soil tested for nutrients and pH level. You'll want soil that's high in potassium and phosphorous. If your soil is low in those areas, specific types of fertilizer and compost will help bring those levels up for herb gardening. The pH level of soil is best between 5 and 8, with numbers near the median better yet. If it's lower or higher, you can add soil treatments to bring it within a good range.
Which Herbs to Grow?
You don't have to have a special herb garden to grow fresh herbs; you can incorporate them into existing flowerbeds or vegetable gardens. Some favorite culinary herbs to grow are thyme, basil, oregano, marjoram and mint, and some great medicinal herbs to try to are chamomile, echinacea, St. John's wort and yarrow. As you can see, many of the most popular medicinal herbs are also frequently used in cooking, so herb gardens can easily do double duty.
Thyme or oregano grow low to the ground, and do great in well-drained spots where you've removed a brick from a path or sidewalk next to herb plot. Annual herbs like basil are best if you pinch them back by removing new shoots regularly. You can use these in recipes as well, and it keeps them from blooming and sending all the nutrients to seed.
Container Herb Gardens
Container herb gardens are great in addition to (or instead of) typical outdoor gardens. Put some ornamental herbs in containers placed near and around your herb bed to accent it. Or plant some of your favorite culinary herbs in a large container or containers near the kitchen door, giving you easy to access to savory rosemary or dill.
Indoor Herb Gardens
For indoor herb gardens, some herbs do better in pots than others. You can start your herb garden from seed or plant cuttings, but you'll want to put each herb in its own pot to prevent flavor mixing between the plants. Thyme, mint and rosemary do well from cuttings, and good candidates for seed starting are dill, basil and oregano. Be sure when you purchase plants or seeds that you're purchasing the compact type meant to grow indoors – regular outdoor herbs require far too much room for kitchen herb gardens.
Put your herbs in a southern or western window, where there aren't large temperature changes, and keep the soil moist. Once you see the first green breaking through the dirt, let the soil dry out just a little between waterings.
Whether you're growing indoor herb gardens, medicinal herb gardens or container herb gardens, the best thing you can do is use your herbs. The plants will grow even better once you start cutting from them.