How to Start an Herb Garden - More Tips

If this is your first season growing herbs, learning how to start an herb garden is simple. You really just need three things: good light, soil that drains well and a reliable watering schedule.

If your yard or garden is a mess, or almost nonexistent, there are also some handy cheats.

Tips for Starting an Herb Garden

You can plant a raised bed to circumvent tough soil preparation work. Another nice benefit is that raised beds will attract worms (good, useful worms) that will work the under-layers of packed, nasty soil for future seasons.

Use containers. Pots, window boxes, bags, straw bales, old tires and just about any other container will make a comfortable home for an herb if it has a drainage hole. If you do go this route, water becomes more important, so have a plan to keep plants uniformly moist (but not soggy) throughout the summer months.

If you live in an area with harsh winters, one drawback to this method is that your potted herbs probably won't survive the winter unless you give the pots additional insulation (like burying them in the garden). You can often bring delicate herbs indoors until spring rolls around, though (something I've done for years).

Use hydroponics. Hydroponic gardens like the AeroGarden sold through Amazon and others are very effective at growing herbs indoors. Herbs usually have a relatively short, compact habit, and one hydroponic garden setup can yield a number of healthy culinary herb varieties. You'll also eliminate most potential problems with bugs, disease, back-breaking labor and sunburn. As enticing as that sounds, I don't recommend it. There's something very nice about gardening in the open air that no one should miss -- that doesn't mean you can't do both, though. Indoor hydroponic herb setups can run anywhere from $70 - $350.

Hydroponics is a method of gardening that uses water as the primary medium for providing nutrients to plants. Using straw or hay bales is a type of outdoor hydroponic gardening because the straw (or other grass) anchors the plant roots, but the gardener adds the nutrients when watering (they're not absorbed from the surrounding soil). The nutrient rich water is trapped in the straw long enough to feed the plants. As gardening methods go, it's pretty convenient. The bales are elevated, which is nice if you have mobility issues or a back that likes to complain if you do too much bending and stooping.

You don't even need access to dirt. You can place a straw bale on concrete, stone, brick or any other surface that will allow water to drain off safely. Straw bale gardening is becoming more popular, so don't be surprised if you see bales for sale at your local nursery this year.

Get free help locally. If you're a gardening newbie, call your local Cooperative Extension Office. These regional resources are tasked with providing area specific information to gardeners, outdoor enthusiasts, homeowners, schools and local businesses. The service is free. If you need to know what type of potatoes to plant, when the last frost is likely in your area or whether your soil is inclined to be acidic or alkaline, your local Cooperative Extension Office will probably know. You can find their site here: Cooperative Extension System Offices. Just click on your state and follow the prompts.

Get the weather facts. Another useful site is the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map, which will give you important weather information about your location. If you're in zone 5a, say, the minimum temperatures (winter lows) will be between -10 to -5 F. That will have a big impact on the types plants you'll be able to overwinter in your garden. When you start researching herbs from online retailers, many will have a zone range, or a listing of the regional zone where a plant is most likely to do well. Typically, a plant will survive in a higher zone than the one listed for it, but not in a lower zone -- in an area that experiences a warmer, not a colder winter. You'll find the page here: USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map

For more useful information about how to start an herb garden, check these previous posts:

Starting an Herb Garden

Your First Herb Garden


HerbPatch_PublicDomain.JPG Public Domain
By KVDP (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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