While it’s easy to grab some dried herbs and spices, there is something to be said about having fresh ones at the ready! Not only do fresh herbs elevate the smells and tastes of any homecooked meal, but they can also serve as the perfect cocktail garnish; accents for namecards and napkins; and can even double as an interactive centerpiece for a dinner or cocktail party.
The best part? Herbs don’t take up much space, so growing even a few is possible — as long as you have the right tools they need to flourish! Here are some of the ways to ensure your herb garden is the envy of the neighborhood.
Scope out the spot: Yes, you can have a great herb garden whether the spot is in the shade or the sun and if you live in a hot or temperate climate. It’s all about picking the best plants for the location you have available. For example, while Mediterranean herbs (like oregano) soak up the sunshine, other herbs, like mint, lemon balm and parsley, are happiest in a shady place. Once you define where your herb garden will be, then you can get down to business!
Get educated: Planting an herb garden may seem simple — go to your local nursery, pick out some plants and get dirty! But, it’s not that easy. Taking a bit of time to know which herbs are annual (meaning they will only be around for one growing season) or perennial (meaning they will return year after year) is the perfect place to start. Pick some of the herbs you would love to have and figure out a bit about how they thrive (Sun? Shade? Lots of water? Low water?). This way, you’ll be able to manage growth needs and expectations.
Soil makes a difference: When planting an herb garden, you’ll want to start with soil that’s not too rich. You can spot this by looking at how dark it is — the darker it is, the richer it is. Starting a garden from scratch? Look for lean soil, or garden soil made specifically for vegetables. This way, you know you’re giving your herbs the best chance for growing success! And, back off the extras. It may sound counterintuitive, but herbs blossom better without soil enhancements like fertilizer.
What grows together: You may not think that being specific about the order in which you plant your herbs can make a difference. However, it actually has quite an impact on how each one flourishes - or doesn’t. Dividing your herb garden into smaller sections can allow you to grow an array of herbs in a small space. For example, put sunshine-loving plants together in the spot that has the most sun; divide soil types depending on herb needs and plant those together. And, as a rule of thumb, taller herbs, like fennel, should be placed in the center of the flower bed. Be sure to research how tall and wide your herbs may get, as you’ll want to make sure they aren’t overcrowded.
Best practices abound: Just like all living things, herbs need water, however, not too much! Ensure your soil is properly draining and that it’s not over-saturated. This way, the roots will firmly plant themselves into the flower bed and not dissolve or fall apart. And, no matter what type of herbs you have, trimming and harvesting them throughout the season helps them grow bigger, stronger and more full. Have perennials? Trim them back about two-third at the end of the growing season so they’re ready for next year.