Growing herbs is a practical pleasure — they are handsome and fragrant in the garden, indispensable in the kitchen, easy to grow, and fascinating to study. These tips will show you how to properly grow your herbs so they flourish.
The gardening of herbs is as old as civilization. The earliest known writings of nearly every culture include references to herbs used for preparing and preserving food, scenting the air, or treating wounds and illness.
The roots of modern medicine — in fact, of modern science itself — can be traced back to the herb gardens of medicine men, witches, and sorcerers and were nurtured through the ages by the systematic studies of herbalists.
Some of the plants prescribed nearly 2,000 years ago are used in drugs prescribed by modern doctors for the same ills — although they are no longer boiled in wine or infused with honey, as was once recommended.
1. Where to plant herbs
Most herbs are tough, wild plants that have changed remarkably little despite centuries of cultivation. Almost all of them do best in sunny locations and fertile, well-drained soil, but some will survive in partial shade and poor soil.
Herbs can occupy their own part of the garden — by tradition near the kitchen door — or they can be grown with other plants. Herb gardens are often arranged in intricate patterns to accentuate the contrasting colours and textures of their foliage.
To avoid confusion when sprouts come up, label each bed carefully. Better still, draw a precise map of your planting pattern. Plan the beds so that the taller plants do not cast shade on the lowgrowing ones.
2. Companion planting with herbs
- Many aromatic herbs, such as mint, parsley, sage, and rosemary, tend to repel certain insect pests and are thus valuable garden companions for vulnerable plants.
- Hyssop, balm, dill, and thyme, on the other hand, are among the herbs that attract bees — which serve to pollinate other plants. Also, the leaves or roots of several herbs exude substances that tend to promote, or sometimes to inhibit, the development of various nearby plants.
- Green beans, for example, are improved by the proximity of summer savory but are inhibited by chives or any other allium.
- Dill is said to be a good companion to members of the cabbage family; but if it is allowed to flower close to carrots, it is reputed to release a substance into the soil that may reduce the size of the carrot crop.
3. Growing herbs indoors
Many herbs can be grown indoors during the winter, in pots or boxes near a sunny window.
- Grow such perennials as marjoram, chives, mint, and winter savory from divisions or cuttings taken in the fall.
- Basil, dill, parsley, and other annuals can be started from seeds sown in pots outdoors in late summer and brought inside in fall.
- Use light, freely draining potting soil, and water as needed.