Caring For Your Herb Garden
The intense fragrance of herbs can make one almost drunk with pleasure, as Jacqueline de Pre, the renowned English cellist, eloquently stated once. In fact, herbs have a variety of applications as they’re used not only for seasoning cuisines. Due to their pronounced effect on one’s body, they’re notorious for their medical properties. And it’s true – they make great air-fresheners as well. If growing herbs is your passion and vocation, you might find our tips on caring for a herb garden by season of particular interest.
Preparation and cleaning
One cannot grow herbs (or any type of plant for that matter) in an overgrown garden, where disarray and harmful weeds are reigning. Cleaning the garden is an excellent start. Begin by collecting all winter debris first – dead, overblown branches and old mulch from the beds. The next step is ridding yourself of weeds – those will impede your herbs’ growth as often weeds grow faster then other plants, consume extra water, soil nutrients and light and tend to spread out quickly. If you don’t deal with them on time, they will overtake your entire herb garden with ease. So make sure you uproot and clean everything you haven’t planted yourself.
Let’s begin with spring as this is the time when planting a garden typically begins. Once the garden is prepared, planting can commence. Choose a sunny spot, exposed to at least six hours of sun a day. It should be sheltered too, as wind might cause damage to your herbs. So plant next to a wall or craft a small shelter around the bed. Bare in mind, the temperatures in early spring aren’t high enough, so plant herbs that thrive in cooler temperatures like dill, chervil and parsley. Some seeds take longer to germinate, like those of the parsley. Soak them overnight – this will speed up their germination. If there are perennials like lavender and thyme, left from the previous year, don’t uproot them, even if they’re completely nutant. Just trim them down a bit and soon they’ll come back to life.
We assume the herbs you’ve planted have already sprouted in the garden. Summer is the season where some serious maintenance is required, as all you have to do is water what you’ve sown. However, watering herbs is not the same as watering house plants. The latter can do with one watering per week. Herbs on the other hand, especially when exposed to the hot rays of the burning sun should be watered moderately once a day. Oregano, lavender, rosemary, thyme and basil especially, prefer moisture-rich soil. reminding you that watering herbs and plants in general should be done early in the morning or as the sun begins to set.
Now it’s time for yet another clean-up of the herb garden, as autumn is the season when trees begin to shed their foliage. You should decide which herbs should be re-planted in pots to bring indoors. Basil and geranium are especially frost-sensitive. Dig them up and re-plant them in large pots. The rest can be cut-back and maintained until the first frost falls but avoid trimming more than a third of the plant. It’s important to note herbs don’t grow as fast indoors as they do outside, so don’t be discouraged if you notice their growth has slowed down. Meanwhile, collect the dead leaves from the beds and toss them in your compost container, together with the leaves you’ve trimmed down from the herbs themselves. You can use the compost later.
Your garden is already covered in snow, we suppose. There’s not much to do outside apart from keeping birds and other animals at bay. Keep the conditions in your garden in check and avoid salting ice as this salt will end up in the soil as soon as the ice melts. As for the herbs you’ve brought indoors, check the plants on daily basis and water them whenever the soil is dry to the touch – temperatures are not as high any longer, so there’s no need for daily watering. You can use water-soluble fertiliser every now and then to enhance growth.
Maintaining a herb garden throughout the year is rather demanding as you can see, not to mention a good amount of knowledge is required for the purpose. No matter, it’s definitely worth it as there’s nothing better that literally reaping what you have sown.