Starting an Herb Garden

Starting an herb garden is an exciting activity.  Home herb gardens are a great source of fresh herbs any time of the year. Herbs have a rich history dating back to ancient times, with references in medieval documents and the Bible. Herbs are easily grown inside in containers or in an outdoor garden.

Potted herbs

Potted herbs

Growing herbs has many benefits: as an addition to dishes to enhance flavor, to make tea, potpourri, or for medical purposes and also to keep pests in check in outside gardens. There are a variety of fresh herb gardens: for cooking, for medicine, ornamentals, or for multiple purposes.

Types of garden herb plants include, interestingly, shrubs and trees, as well as annual and perennial plants. A short explanation of these types: annual plants live for one year: they sprout, flower, and die in the same year. Perennial plants live for more than two years, meaning that after growing and blooming during spring and summer, they die back in fall and winter, and return again the following spring.

A key to starting an herb garden that will produce healthy herbs is using soil with good drainage. For compacted or heavy soil types, adding some organic material is recommended. Fertilizers are typically not necessary. While a few herbs grow well in full shade, a sunny location is preferable, and a lot of herbs do just fine with afternoon shade. Interestingly enough, herbs are not often affected by insects or diseases, with a few exceptions: in hot and dry environments, red spider mites can be a pest for low-growing plants. Anise, caraway, dill and fennel may be attacked by aphids and mint can be affected by rust.

Starting an herb garden using a small area in your yard, about 6 feet by 4 feet, should be enough to produce herbs for the needs of a small family. Growing an indoor herb garden using herb garden planters is also an option. Culinary herb gardens are a popular use, mainly to add enhanced flavor to a dish, while other herbs are used as a great colorful garnish to plates or salads. Other herbs are grown for their beautiful flowers or the aroma of their foliage.

Starting an herb garden can be accomplished in two ways: from seeds or from seedlings. Growing a plant from an herb seed is a great joy, seeing the process from the beginning to the end. The majority of herbs can be started from seed.  Well-drained, light soil should be used to grow seeds in. Plant the herb seeds in a shallow box or pot toward the end winter. The seeds should not be covered with too much soil since they do not have a deep root base. A rule to follow is: sow fine seeds in shallow soil. In the springtime, the seedlings can be transplanted to the outdoor garden. Some herbs will not thrive if transplanted such as fennel, coriander, dill and anise, and should be planted directly in the garden.