12 Herb Gardening Dos and Don’ts
By Liz Greene
The previous owners of my house planted lemon balm along the foundation in the back yard. It now covers five square foot area — which is why you don’t give perennial herbs free reign. After making lemon balm tea a few times, I decided to branch out and start growing a variety of other herbs. Here’s what I learned in the process:
Plant herbs in a variety of places — containers, hanging baskets, flower boxes, as part of your vegetable garden, or even in gutters (1)!
Plant perennials and annuals in the same space. Perennials like oregano and mint can be voracious growers, and will likely strangle their neighbors. Place perennials in pots before planting them in your garden; burying the pots in the soil will keep everything looking tidy and prevent the roots from spreading.
Start from seedlings when you’re getting acquainted with herb gardening. Transplant seedlings to the outdoors in spring.
Start all of your seedlings indoors. Some herbs (such as anise, coriander, dill, and fennel (2)) should only be planted directly in the garden as they don’t transplant well. Do your research ahead of time to find out what growing schedule works best for your chosen plants.
Plant herbs in containers that are at least a foot wide — they will need the space to grow.
Plant herbs in tiny pots; they’ll suffocate!
Mix equal parts potting soil and compost when planting.
Use sandy or old soil. Starting with great soil will help build a solid foundation for thriving, healthy herbs.
Place gravel, broken clay pot pieces, or stones in bottom of containers to ensure proper drainage. Drainage is the most important single factor (3) in successful herb growing!
Don’t overwater; herbs won’t grow in wet soil. Water every other day in the summer heat, and once a week in the winter when you bring them inside.
Harvest early and often (4); regular clipping encourages a more rounded plant. Start at the tallest stem and cut the herb just above the point where two large leaves meet. Leave the largest leaves near the bottom of a plant intact — they soak up the sun and keep your herbs healthy and growing.
Let your herbs flower. Pinch off flower buds as they appear to keep the plant focusing its energy on growing tasty leaves.
Not only is there immense satisfaction in gathering fresh herbs from your own garden, but their flavor is so much better than what you find in the store. So get out there and start planting — you won’t be sorry!
Liz Greene is a dog loving, history studying, pop culture geek from the beautiful City of Trees, Boise, Idaho. You can catch her latest misadventures on her blog, Instant Lo.