Lawn & Garden
AUBURN UNIVERSITY, Ala. – One of the perks of growing a garden at home is having direct access to fresh produce. This access allows gardeners to provide peak garden-to-table freshness for their kitchen creations. Aside from traditionally grown items, properly growing and tending herbs is a great way to introduce freshness to any meal. While many people may try to grow herbs indoors for easy access, herbs, like most other crops, prefer to be grown outdoors. This may seem like a daunting task, but properly growing herbs outdoors will provide better results.
Growing Happy Herbs
Ensuring that the herbs are growing happy and healthy could make all the difference in a gardener’s culinary creations. Dani Carroll, an Alabama Extension home grounds, gardens and home pests regional agent, said one of the most crucial factors for growing herbs is light.
“Most herbs need six full hours of sunlight daily,” Carroll said. “Make sure to grow the plants in a location where there is as much natural light as possible. Additional artificial light sources may be necessary for growth if they cannot receive enough.”
Carroll offers the following tips for properly growing herbs:
- If growing herbs in pots, the pots need to be large enough to hold a substantial amount of soil for the herbs to grow in.
- Well drained soils are essential. Soilless mixtures like peat, vermiculite and perlite will also work, but nutrients will need to be added periodically.
- Growers may want to test the pH of the soil before planting.
- Most herbs do not climb or need trellising, which makes them easier to tend to.
There are six commonly used herbs in cooking, including thyme, rosemary, oregano, cilantro, basil and mint. To successfully grow herbs, it is important to know the appropriate planting time for each type of herb. Some herbs only grow at specific times of the year. Herbs, such as cilantro, grow well in cooler temperatures, whereas other herbs, like thyme and oregano, tend to thrive in warmer conditions. The following tips specific to each herb will help serve as a growing guide for gardeners:
As stated before, thyme prefers warmer conditions and a lot of sunlight, at least six hours. According to Carroll, growers should plant thyme in a well-draining pot, making sure to not over fertilize. Adding too much fertilizer causes the plant to produce too much tasteless growth. Light fertilizers may be beneficial as thyme is harvested.
Similar to thyme, this herb thrives in warmer conditions. With a lot of sunlight, preferably six to eight hours, oregano will flourish. For maximum growth, plant the herb in a well-drained container.
“To avoid overwatering, make sure the soil is dry before watering,” Carroll said. “Also, it is essential the soil is fertilized throughout the growing season.”
Rosemary prefers well-drained, moist soil. However, it can tolerate drier conditions as well. This herb is sensitive, requiring plenty of sunlight with little water.
“Begin by watering rosemary regularly the first few weeks and then allow nature to take its course,” Carroll said.
Since Rosemary is primarily a landscaping plant, they can grow to fairly large sizes. Rosemary prefers to grow outside, but cannot grow in acidic soil.
Cilantro prefers to be seeded and grown in cooler conditions, as it does not thrive in the summer or warmer conditions. Carroll said cilantro can “replant” itself if gardeners allow the seeds to dry out and fall in the fresh soil.
Gardeners should seed basil in nutrient rich soil that allows for plenty of drainage. Keep the soil damp so that the plant is properly nourished. Place the basil in an area that gets constant light. To allow the basil leaves to grow back stronger, continually cut newly grown leaves. This allows the basil to replenish itself.
Mint will thrive in areas with little sunlight. To ensure maximum growth, make sure to water regularly. As with basil, pinch back the mint to control overgrowth. It is best to plant mint in a pot as it can quickly invade garden spaces. Gardners can bring a small mint plant indoors to harvest during cooler conditions.
If a gardener finds themselves with an abundance of fresh herbs, they can dry them for future use. Check out the Alabama Extension publication Drying Herbs for more information on the drying process.