While herb gardens are a little easier and more relaxed than other gardening types, there are still some things you’ll want to stay on top when tending to the plants. If you avoid these common herb gardening mistakes you’ll have longer plant life, more harvested herbs for your kitchen and medicine cabinet, and of course with less problems you’ll enjoy the whole activity much more.
Don’t Plant Everything So Close Together – DO Space Things Out
This is probably the most common mistake when it comes to planting a variety of herbs, especially outdoors where cute layouts and fun planters are used (think wagon wheels and tires, etcetera.) Everyone’s first instinct is to “cover” as much of the ground and mulch as possible and just have the pretty parts of the plants showing up top, maybe with a few more colorful flowers in between.
The good news is that this is the easiest problem to fix, even if you’ve already planted. You want to space things out appropriately, just like you would if you were planting tomatoes and other vegetables, so there’s plenty of room to form a healthy root system without getting tangled into the neighboring plant’s roots.
When transplanting make sure you check out the information on the average size of the fully grown plant and allow several extra inches for those root systems to grow and spread.
- Healthy roots = healthy plants and yummy harvests.
- Crowded roots = sad withering plants that don’t produce delicious things.
Don’t Use Designer Dyed Mulch for Looks – DO Go Organic and Natural
The dyed mulches might look pretty, but they’re generally made of junk and scrap wood, dyed with artificial colors to be red, green, or black, and the result of all that is that they don’t break down well, and they definitely don’t help your soil quality at all. In fact, they often rob your soil of the natural nitrogen your plants need to grow vibrant and strong.
If you’re growing your herbs indoors, you may want to skip the layer of mulch entirely and just go for a good organically enriched potting soil.
Don’t Use Chemicals – DO Use Natural Fertilizers and Bug Repellents
There are so many products available to gardeners, all promising to keep bugs away or to make your plants grow fuller and larger. Unfortunately, a lot of these are full of harsh chemicals that you don’t want to use when you’re growing anything you intend to put in your mouth at some point.
If it’s in a package, a box, or a spray bottle, check the ingredients before you put it anywhere near you’re herb garden. If you wouldn’t want it stored under your kitchen sink, you don’t want it in your soil either. Sometimes these chemicals get picked up unknowingly when shopping the garden department, not realizing the fertilizer they’re putting on the cart is full of additional chemicals.
If it’s fertilizer you’re looking for, try a natural compost tea instead of a prepackaged solution. If you’re in a rush and want to grab a bag, just be sure to flip it over and read the back carefully. It needs to be safe for edibles and generated from organic materials.
When it comes to insect control, it might not be as necessary as you think and it’s very possible you could go an entire season without having to do anything about pests, especially if the area of your garden is all herbs or if you’re using containers.
Water and weed regularly, keep debris out of the soil area, and just keep an eye on things. Remember, not all insects are bad news, some are very beneficial. If a persistent pest problems comes up that is in fact a problem, there are natural and organic solutions available that are usually more effective than their chemical based counterparts.
Don’t Water the Leaves – DO Water the Soil
Watering over top of the leaves doesn’t do your herb plants (or any plants) very much good. Water gently at the soil around the base of the plant and let the water absorb. Dripping wet upper leaves can lead to mildew growth and disease problems.
Don’t Ignore Your Herb Plants – DO Prune and Harvest Regularly
Cutting the leaves and stems will keep your plant in grow mode, producing even more delicious leaves and stems. If you let it go without pruning for too long it might finish out its growth cycle and you won’t get much of anything to harvest after that. Keeping things pruned back on a regular schedule will promote a nice healthy growth and keep your kitchen full of the freshest herbs possible.
At the end of the day, herb gardens don’t need all that much tending to. You’ll want to keep an eye out for problems, but herbs are generally hardy, resilient, and easy to grow – both indoors and outdoors. A little bit of water, a sparkle of sunshine, and little bit of attention from you and everything will most likely grow just fine.