When Herb gardening, first and foremost you must have a plan before you begin your endeavor. This is the first deadly sin herb gardeners commit consistently. You can grow an herb garden for cooking, or medicine or beauty. Choose which one will fulfill your needs, or have beds or containers for all three. If you are a beginner it is best to start off with just one so that you are not overwhelmed. You want this to be fun and creative, not a job you grow to hate.
The best way to come up with a plan is to concentrate on a theme. Then narrow it down to a sub-theme. Most people grow culinary herbs so let's start there. If you love French cooking plant the herbs that you will be using in your meals. French herbs are savory, marjoram, thyme, oregano and rosemary. Add some parsley and bay and you have the perfect bouquet garni to add to your soups or stews.
If you prefer classic Italian fare you should plant Italian parsley, marjoram, thyme, oregano and sweet basil. You can cook some great pasta dishes with these herbs.
After you have settled on your theme do a little research as to what herbs are available. You should come up with a list that has the absolutely essential herb, the herbs that would be fun to have and the ones that are really not necessary. Then check with your local nursery or online for availability. Again, if you are just starting out you should keep the list to between five and say ten herbs.
On to the next deadly sin that herb gardeners commit. You must have the perfect spot for your herbs to thrive. Consider the herbs needs-they must get four to six hours of sunlight daily. The soil needs to drain well and your garden should be where you can harvest your crop easily. If you have pets keep that in mind when picking your spot. You should mix in a lot of organic material to improve the soil whether it is in the ground or in containers.
The third deadly sin is to use the wrong planting method. You really have to work the soil with compost and bone meal before you even consider any planting. Carefully work through the root ball to encourage new growth. Be sure to water the roots well before planting to give them a good start. Herbs like basil should be pinched off to help them achieve a bushy plant.
You must know the needs of your herbs. Bad maintenance of the plants is the fourth deadly sin. On a regular basis you must water, prune and feed your herbs. Talk to the people at your nursery center to get advice on fertilizing your herbs. Never spray them with toxic chemicals if you find snails, aphids or beetles on the herbs. Here again, your nursery center can help you out. Here is a homemade recipe that will keep the pests out:
In a jar, combine 1 teaspoon dishwashing liquid and 1 cup vegetable oil. Shake vigorously. In an empty spray bottle, combine 2 teaspoons of this mixture and 1 cup water. Use at ten-day intervals (or more often if needed) to rid plants of whiteflies, mites, aphids, scales, and other pests.
The fifth most deadly sin is to fall madly in love with your plants. You need to cut your herbs. Harvest them at regular intervals. If you have an abundance of the herbs freeze them or dry them. A great way to use them is to make vinegars or oils, even soaps and bath preparations.
Don't get too high tech or overanalyze the situation. The whole purpose here is to connect with the earth. This is the sixth deadly sin of herb gardeners. Work the way nature does. Use natural products, work the soil, and keep it simple.
And, drum roll please, the seventh deadly sin is to not know as much as possible about each herb you have planted. Take the time to do the research. With just a little effort you will become quite knowledgeable and face it, it is the only way to approach herb gardening. Don't beat yourselves up if you make a few mistakes, just learn from them. The whole point is to have fun with your herb gardening and to make some great meals.
Happy Herb Gardening!
Copyright © Mary Hanna, All Rights Reserved.
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Mary Hanna is an aspiring herbalist who lives in Central Florida. This allows her to grow gardens inside and outside year round. She has published other articles on Cruising, Gardening and Cooking. Visit her websites at Container Gardening and Herb Gardening
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