Herb Gardens are not only very useful but also pretty and aromatic. It is practical to have your herb Garden close to the house, so that you do not have to walk too far if you need a fresh herb for cooking. Herb gardens can be as large or small as you wish, or as your space dictates. Your herb garden can be as simple as a few pots by the back door, or even a few pots on a window shelf, or if you are lucky then ideally a raised bed in the garden.
If you are not restricted for size then the area of your herb garden will depend on the variety of herbs that you want to grow. Raised beds that are 2 foot wide are ideal, allowing 1 to 2 feet of bed for each variety of herb. Keeping annual and perennial herbs separate.
If you cannot have a separate herb garden then you can always grow herbs in your flower or vegetable garden. Herbs are happy anywhere providing they have a well-drained soil, not too rich, and have a reasonably sunny site. If your soil is poorly drained then dig it out to 1.5 to 2 feet, and incorporate small stones and grit into the base of your area and mix well with the soil as you replace it, together with same compost or sphagnum peat, and sand.
If you include mint in your herb garden then, it needs to be contained, as it is a very invasive herb. Either restrict it to a pot, or dig in a very large container directly into the garden with the base removed. Or you could just allow it to run riot in a hedge or "wild" area of the garden.
For a successful herb garden, it is best to sow seeds in shallow boxes in late winter. Then transplant seedlings outdoors in the spring. A light, well-drained soil is best for starting the seedlings indoors. Be careful not to cover the seeds too deeply with soil. Basically, the finer the seed, the shallower it should be sown. Some herbs need to be sown directly into the garden since they do not transplant well. Such seed are; anise, coriander, dill, and fennel.
If you are planting biennials in your herb garden, then they should be sown in late spring directly into the ground, fork over the soil well and be sure it is slightly damp. Sow the seeds in very shallow rows and firm the soil over them. Fine seeds, such as marjoram, savoury, or thyme, will spread more evenly if you mix them with sand. Some of the larger seeds can be covered by as much as one-eighth of an inch of soil. With very fine seeds, cover the bed with wet burlap or paper to stop the soil during germination. Use a fine spray, when watering to prevent washing away of the soil.
Some herbs are slow to germinate, so cuttings or division may be the answer. Some herbs spread rapidly enough to make division a good way of propagation, these are; tarragon, chives, and mint, while lavender should be cut.
Herbs are harvested for various parts of the plants, and need to be picked when their aromatic oils are at their peak. Herbs grown for their foliage, should be picked before they flower. Herbs grown for their roots are not pulled up until the foliage has faded. If herbs grown for their seeds then wait until the seedpod has changed colour from green to brown.
A few tips;
Do not harvest the herb until the plant has enough foliage to maintain growth. Up to 75% of the current season's growth can be harvested at one time.
Harvest early after the dew dries, but before the heat of the day.
Harvest herbs before flowering, otherwise, leaf production declines.
Herb flowers are best harvested after flower buds appear but before they open, as oil concentration and flavour are at their most intense.
To dry herbs for craft purposes the flowers should be picked just before they are fully open.
Annual herbs can be harvested until first frosts.
Perennial herbs can be trimmed until late August. If possible stop harvesting one month before the first frost, as late pruning can encourage tender growth that might not harden-off before winter.
Harvest tarragon or lavender flowers in early summer and then trim the plants to half their height to encourage a second flowering period later in the year.
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Herb gardens are very rewarding as you learn how to use the herbs to best advantage. We will be updating this site with lots more tips so visit us again.
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