If you shop with us, you know that nothing is better than freshly picked produce straight from the source. When the season is fully in swing, our harvest is picked directly from our fields and brought down to the store that very day. That means it hasn’t spent days in transit between storage facilities before it gets to you, and you can really taste the difference. Why should your herbs be any different?
If you want to truly enjoy all the pleasures of our local growing season, we urge you to try your hand at an herb garden!
Just imagine the convenience of stepping out to your patio and plucking whatever you need, whenever you need it. And, lucky for you, they’re relatively easy to grow! As long as you avoid some common newbie mistakes, herb gardens are generally low-maintenance. Mediterranean herbs such as rosemary, thyme, lavender, oregano, and sage enjoy full sun and are drought resistant. Plus, with the exception of cilantro, deer are deterred by the fragrances of herb gardens. Heck, lemon grass will even keep the mosquitoes away.
Here’s a rough guide with some pointers on how to start your very own herb garden this season:
Herbs that like full sun
Basil, chives, cilantro, dill, lavender, oregano, rosemary, sage, lemongrass
Herbs that like partial shade
Lemon balm, spearmint
Herbs that like sandy, dry soil/loam
Thyme, rosemary, oregano, sage, lemon balm
How much space do these herbs need in the ground?
Rosemary, Sage, Mints, Oregano – 3 to 4 feet
Basil, Thyme, Lemongrass, Lemon Balm – 2 feet
Cilantro, Chives, Dill, Parsley – 1 foot
If you plant your herbs right into the ground, one common newbie mistake is overcrowding. When they’re given enough space, these plants will thrive. Many of them even make great neighbors with each other and with other plants. Tomatoes and basil plants, for example, go great together, in the ground as well as on the plate. Other plants, however, don’t make the best neighbors. While dill does great with tomatoes, peppers, and strawberries, it does not do so well with fennel or carrots, as you’ll run the risk of them hybridizing. A quick Google search will get you on the right track before you get your plants in the ground.
Some herb plants can also be invasive. Lemon balm, mint, and oregano will send underground runners that stretch out the plants’ roots and quickly take over the whole garden. One solution to this is to grow these herbs either with buried borders or bottomless containers set into the ground.
Or! You can join the sensation that’s been sweeping the nation—CONTAINER HERB GARDENING! This method ensures that your herb plants stay in bounds and receive the TLC they need. While it’s true that many herbs require similar, low-maintenance growing conditions, container growing allows you to tailor an environment to their exact requirements. Dill, for example, will require a container that is at least 12 inches deep, as it forms a long taproot, unlike other herbs. Containers will also allow you to move your plants in and out of the sun as needed.
Along with proper watering and sunlight, you’ll want to maximize your plant’s life cycle by pruning as you harvest. With dill, cilantro, chives, lemon balm, thyme, and basil, you should cut their flowers as they appear. Not only do flowers signal the end of the plant’s life cycle, but, in basil’s case, the leaves will lose their flavor and become bitter. Flowering also signals that the plant is going to seed, and herbs that self-sow can also potentially take over your garden. A good rule of thumb for pruning herbs is to not cut more than a third of the plant at a time. Also, cutting close to a leaf intersection will ensure that your plants regrow quickly.
For more information on starting an herb garden, the internet is your friend. There are tons of helpful tips, tricks, and methods out there for each specific plant. So, don’t be shy! Stop by Pete’s soon and join the wonderful world of herb gardening!