Herb Gardening Basics (cont)
By: National Gardening Association Editors
In general, herbs prefer a moderately rich soil. An overly rich soil (or excessive fertilizing) can lead to vigorous growth. However, many people find that the flavor of overfertilized herbs is bland, probably due to reduced essential oil content.
The soil in your herb garden should have excellent drainage. If yours doesn't, consider growing your herbs in raised beds or containers.
Caring for Herb Plants
Most herbs will thrive with about an inch of water a week, similar to other vegetable plants. Herbs in raised beds and containers will dry out more quickly than those planted directly in the garden and may need more frequent watering. Keep garden beds weeded, especially early in the season as plants are getting established.
Once established, most herb plants are remarkably resistant to insect and disease attack. The oils that give them their aroma and flavor likely evolve to repel pests. However, keep an eye out for insects such as aphids, and diseases such as powdery mildew.
Harvest herbs by cutting back a shoot to just above a leaf. This will both provide you with a harvest and encourage nice, bushy growth.
In general, an herb's flavor is most prounounced when it is harvested just before the plant begins to flower.
- Heavily harvested herb plants can look untidy. Consider interplanting herb beds with annual flowers to camouflage the trimmed plants.
- Herbs can help repel insects in the vegetable garden, and provide important habitat for beneficial insects.
- Perennial mints, including spearmint, applemint, and peppermint, are very vigorous and can become invasive. Rather than planting them directly in the garden, grow the plants in containers, then sink the containers into the garden. This will contain the roots and limit spreading.
- Perennial herbs that are not hardy in your region can be overwintered indoors, then brought back outdoors in the spring. For example, in USDA Zones 7 and colder, bring rosemary and lavender plants indoors in late fall. Maintain them in a cool, bright spot over the winter, and move them outdoors again in the spring. In USDA Zones 8 and warmer, rosemary and lavender can be left outdoors year-round.