Top 5 Herbs for your Garden
Growing herbs in your garden is extremely rewarding. There can really be no comparison when it comes to fresh herbs versus dried. The aroma of freshly picked herbs is well worth the small task of cultivating them. Many herbs are also valuable to your garden even when they're not picked, as they attract beneficial insects.
The first step to growing herbs is choosing the proper location to plant them. Most herbs prefer full sun. However, if you live in an area where the temperatures in summer go above 90 degrees, you will want to choose a spot that has some shade as the herbs will wilt in that much heat.
Some herbs grow large and some are relatively small. It is important to plan how much space you will need for your plants so they have the opportunity to flourish. Pay attention to the recommended guidelines for best success.
Herbs can be very sensitive to over-watering. This can lead to diseases and stunted growth. Check your herb garden at least several times a week, depending on the weather conditions where you live.
The majority of herbs grow easily from seed, so you don't need to worry about starting seedlings. Plant right in the ground, in an area dedicated to that herb. Some also reseed easily, meaning that next year you won't need to plant them again. They will start on their own and may even spread out more into their space. This is something to keep an eye on if you want to contain them to a specific area.
Once you've determined the seeds you want to grow and have selected where in the garden to put them, go here to find out when you should start planting.
Chives love full sun but will also do well in partial shade. Plants should be placed 8-12 inches apart. They love soil that is rich and well amended with organic matter. They will still likely grow in poor soil however their growth will be slow and stunted. They don't need much care other than regular watering. When the leaves are big enough to use, clip them off from the outer base inwards, 1” above the soil. You can take just what you need or the whole clump at once. To extend your harvest, pinch off the flowers when they show. At the end of the season, cut back the leaves to the ground. Chives will regrow year after year.
Basil needs lots of direct sunlight – 6 to 8 hours a day. In places where it is very hot, partial shade for part of the day is helpful. Plants need to be placed 12-18 inches apart for optimal growth. Basil plants love a well-drained, rich soil and can be planted after the danger of frosts have passed. In warmer climates, basil can be a perennial. Harvesting can start after the plant has reached 6-8 inches. Pluck off the leaves at the tip of the stems to encourage more leaves to grow. When the plant starts to bloom, pinch off the flowers to keep it growing and producing fresh leaves.
Parsley, one of the most widely grown herbs, benefits from full sun, 6-8 hours a day, and loves a rich, well-drained, soil. Parsley is a slow-grower, so it is beneficial to start the seedlings 8 weeks before the last frost. It can also be planted directly into your garden however it will be 2-3 weeks before you see any seedlings. You can soak the seeds overnight, before planting, to speed up the germination process. The spacing of parsley plants should be 10-12 inches. Harvest the plant by cutting the stalks off at the stem. If you just take the leaves off the top, the plant will less productive.
Mint grows very easily, almost too easily in many cases. It is highly recommended to keep mint in a container or contained space as it will spread rapidly, given the chance. It has been known to take over gardens in a very short time. Mint plants like a cool, moist, slightly shady space but can also be grown in full sun. If planting in the garden, space plants 18-24 inches apart. To harvest, cut the stems an inch above the ground. The more often you cut back the stems, the more new growth you will get. You can use both the leaves and stems for culinary purposes. Mint will die back in cold weather and will reemerge on its own in the spring. In a temperate climate, mint can grow year-round.
Dill prefers full sun, but will grow in all types of situations. It is a very versatile grower. To sow dill, scatter the seeds over your planting spot, cover lightly with soil and water thoroughly. You can use both the foliage and seeds from a dill plant. To harvest the foliage, cut off what you want to use. To harvest the seeds, cut seed heads off the plants and put them all in a brown paper bag. As the herb dries, the seeds will fall off and can be collected for use. Dill reseeds in the garden easily, so any seed heads that are left to fall to the ground will grow the following season.
Starting herbs in your garden is a great choice. Herbs brighten up your space with their colors, flowers, wonderful scents and with all the beneficial insects they draw to the garden. A garden is infinitely improved with the planting of a variety of herbs.