Soil Considerations for Your Herb Garden

Grow Your Own CatnipAlthough herbs can tolerate poor soil, the addition of organic material and good drainage are important for the growth of healthy plants. Stressed plants are more susceptible to disease and insect attack. The preparation of good soil will go a long way toward guaranteeing a healthy herb patch.

Good garden soil contains at least 25% humus. Humus is organic material that can be compost, manure (use only processed manure), peat, or prepared mixes. The addition of organic matter will help water interact with the soil and help beneficial organisms loosen the soil and distribute nutrients. Most garden soils that haven't been cultivated will need amendments of one type or another.

Herbs in Clay Soil

Clay soil, which is very common, is dense, drains slowly, and contains little organic matter. In order to make it viable for herbs (or vegetables), it needs to be amended with sand and organic matter.

Herbs in Sandy Soil

Sandy soil drains too well, putting plants at risk of dying out. Sandy soil is also usually low in nutrients. As a result, it needs to be seasoned with organic matter. Water runoff has also probably leeched lime and other minerals from sandy soil. These minerals will have to be replaced.

Herbs in Raised Beds

Another option altogether is to turn your herb patch into a raised bed that is entirely composed of prepared soil. This will have a higher initial cost, but will result in a worry free garden for years to come. If a raised bed sounds like a good solution for you, remember to make it deep enough to accommodate the deepest rooted plants you are planning on keeping.

Herbs in Straw Bales

A mix between a raised bed approach and a hydroponic garden, straw bale gardens are perched on top of straw, hay or mixed grass bales. The bales act like a neutral medium that holds moisture and anchors plant roots. They're great for raising most veggies and herbs, and after a few seasons straw bales decompose and become part of the garden. One nifty side effect is that while your cultivating the top of the bale, worms are working under it to help improve your soil for next season. You can learn more about it in my post: Straw Bale Gardening With Herbs

If you are having a hard time understanding what type of soil you have and how you should handle your gardening projects, check with your local nursery or Cooperative Extension Office. Local wisdom about the nature of the soil in your area will be invaluable in helping you understand how to best treat your herb patch. It will probably turn out that your soil needs a little work, hopefully something that can be done in a weekend.

Herbs in Pots

If you discover that your herb project needs more work than your schedule or wallet can support, don't lose heart. You can also keep herbs in pots indoors or outdoors. For people on the go, apartment dwellers or renters, or people with back problems, this is a great way to garden. This article will get you started: Growing Herbs Indoors

For information on layout, take a look at my blog: Laying Out Your Herb Garden

1 comment:

  1. One thing I have found is that when I fully mineralize my soil the strength of my herbs is several times more than without. I manufacture organic fertilizer with added trace minerals. I have seen how much of a particular herb that is needed for a dish drastically reduced.


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