Though herbs are most commonly used in cooking, they can also help cure a common cold, freshen breath, infuse a cup of tea, keep the bugs away, scent your home and provide that key ingredient for a delicious summer cocktail.
Many people are taking to growing their own herb gardens so here are some suggestions on how to create an herb garden that will provide you with a fresh bounty all season long.
If you’re just starting out, begin with the herb varieties that are easiest to grow. These include: basil, chives, dill, fennel, garlic, lavender, lemon balm, mint, oregano, parsley, rosemary, sage, scented geranium, thyme and winter savory. Once you have your favourites chosen, decide if you want to work with seeds or seedlings. Seeds are more cost effective and can be stored in advance, whereas seedlings will produce a quicker harvest.
Before you get your gardening gloves on, first decide if you’ll create a container garden, or if you’ll plant the herbs in with the rest of your vegetable patch. Either way it’s important to factor in how much sunlight the location will get on a daily basis. Most of the common herbs such as dill, basil and rosemary require full sun (8-10 hrs. per day). Herbs like cilantro, mint and lemon balm can grow in semi-shade conditions, but to be on the safe side make sure you refer the instructions that come with each plant.
Herbs are quite tolerant and will still grow in poor soil conditions, but they flourish when surrounded by well-drained, moisture-retentive, fertile soil with plenty of organic matter incorporated.
Good mulch is also key since it will help keep moisture in the soil and reduce the number of times that you need to water your garden. And when it comes to watering, always water the soil around the herb – never water over the leaves as it can promote mildew and disease. And if you can make it work, the best time of day to water your herb garden is early in the morning.
One final tip is to always make sure that you are pruning your plants on a regular basis. A regular pruning schedule will help your herbs grow quickly, not to mention allow you to be able to enjoy the fruits of your labour more often.