Thursday, April 28, 2011
Lots of Good Basic Herb Gardening Information!
I had a little herbal meltdown the other day and I've come into the herbal light and it's all good. Sometimes we all need a little jolt and I got one. I know some of you would like another blog on other herbal topics. I have decided not to go there for the moment. Do blogs ever run out of space? Maybe. Well, we will cross that herbal bridge when we come to it.
I'm going to lean on the great articles and wisdom of my favorite herb magazine, The Herb Companion! If you are interested in starting an herb garden, Jim Long wrote a great article on a five-year plan for an herbal kitchen garden. Even though it is talking about herbs and veggies (which is a great combo), the foundation of planning a garden is there. I think the most important part of any garden, herbal or not is the location. Herbs like at least six hours of sun a day. More is better. East and west are good especially in the southern and western parts of the United States. I wrote about the Tucson Botanical Garden when we visited in 2008 and tips for growing herbs in the west. North is the worst exposure and if you only have a northern location, you need to be growing another species of plants! There is an article called An Herb for Every Spot on The Herb Companion website as well and Herbs in the Southern Garden is another article that may give you helpful hints and tips on herbs if you live in the southern portion of the United States.
Also soil is very important. It is a living and breathing foundation of your garden. We have clay soil here in southwestern Pennsylvania. If you are starting a whole new garden or just a new bed with herbs, I would be doing a soil test through your local county extension office. I think just about every county in the United States has extension offices and possibly a master gardener. Take advantage of this resource because they live in your specific area and deal with your problems day in and out. Not every county has a master gardener program, but they should have a staff that can steer you in the right direction. They have great publications that are written by the sponsoring extension university. For example, our extension university is Penn State University, New York is Cornell University, Ohio is The Ohio State University, New Jersey is Rutgers University, etc
At the very least you want to be adding compost or some other kind of organic matter to loosen the clay in your soil. Herbs require very well drained soil. With all of the rain we are having, the Herbal Husband said to me the other day that we had a small pond in the back of my herb garden! My herb garden isn't very big to have a small pond in the back. So anything we plant there we will have to amend the soil with maybe some chicken grit to make it drain better. Sometimes when you add sand to clay, you get concrete!
I would also be aware of the trees and shrubs that surround your garden space. If they are small now, they will mature when you least want them to and possibly block out your sunlight for your herbs. They also take nutrients away from your herbs. Not that shade isn't a good thing especially in the south, you need morning sun and afternoon shade in that case. See articles linked above for more information.
Here is an additional post from a follow blogger, Rhonda Fleming Hayes, about The Garden Buzz: Growing Strategies for Beginning Herb Gardeners talking about propagation for various herbs. I found a great article on Container Gardening Essentials that will give you great basic information on growing herbs in containers.
Finally, wildlife can be an issue in all of our gardens. The good news is that deer who love to browse trees, shrubs, annuals and perennials aren't particularly interested in herbs. I think the smell is a big detractor. Well, I hope this has helped you with your herb issues. Please leave me comments or e-mail me with your other herbal concerns. Talk to you later.