Have you always dreamed of having an herb garden, but you’re not really sure where to start? Maybe you’ve had a few false starts, and your herb garden didn’t go exactly as planned. You’re not alone. Herbs can be tricky to grow, but it can be done. Here are five simple steps to grow your dream herb garden, no matter where you live.
1. Find the perfect spot
If you want to start an herb garden, you will need to find the right location. A lot of herbs do best in full sun as long as regular summer temperatures don't rise above 90 degrees. If you want the herbs to be permanent, and not in a container, then consider planting in an area that gets morning sun and afternoon shade in the summertime, or a place that receives filtered light (such as under a tree that allows some light to pass through). This way, once summer temperatures rise about 90 degrees, your herbs will be protected. Be sure to check the potential area several times during the day to make sure that there are at least four hours of sun (e.g., 8 to 12, 12 to 4, or from 9 to 11 and 2 to 4).
2. Plan the planting
When planting herbs in your garden, you will need approximately 1 to 4 feet in diameter for each plant, depending on the plant. Here are some general guidelines for plant sizes:
- Rosemary, sage, mints, oregano, marjoram: 3-4 feet
- Basils, thyme, tarragon, savory: 2 feet
- Cilantro, chives, dill, parsley: 1 foot
3. Prep the soil
Once you have the perfect spot for your herbs, then you will need to prep the ground. Use a large garden fork to loosen any compacted soil. Doing so will help water to drain and also will create space for plant roots to reach down into the soil.
Prepping the soil is the most crucial step, so be sure to not skimp on this chore, or your herbs will not have a fighting chance. You may also want to add compost to your soil. Add about an inch or so on top of the soil, and then mix it well. Compost will help fertilize your garden, as well as help with drainage.
4. Water them when they’re dry.
Healthy herbs need water to thrive, and most herbs will need to be watered as soon as the soil is dry. Dip your finger in the soil to check the moisture. If it’s dry a couple of inches below the surface, it’s time to water. Humidity and temperature will affect the water in the soil, so be sure to check the soil often.
You’ll never want to over-water. More water is not better, and in fact may lead to disease and poor growing conditions.
While harvesting the fruits of your labor, you’ll want to cut off about 1/3 of the branches when the plant reaches about 6” to 8” tall. Cut close to the intersection, as this will help your plants regrow quickly. Some plants, such as parsley, grow new leaves from their center. Therefore, the oldest branches need to be completely removed. Doing so will leave the new tiny branches growing from the center.
The more you grow herbs in your garden, the more you’ll learn about them. It may take some trial and error, but if you put your mind to it, we’re confident you can grow the herb garden of your dreams.