It sounds simple.
You may think it means to plant some herbs in your garden. That’s herb gardening.
But there’s more to that.
Herb gardening is about taking us back to our roots. When we knew what plants we need, how to grow them, and use them.
It’s about living a healthy life as nature wants us to. A life that is free from harmful chemicals. A life that protects our future and the future of this planet.
Your herbs should be grown organically without the need for harmful chemicals. And your herb garden should work with the wild creatures.
Bats and bees will help pollinate your garden, birds will help eat up insects, and microbes will help aerate the soil.
And your herb garden will help reduce your carbon footprint as your herbs don’t need to travel across the country to reach you.
Does your herb garden have to be big? Of course not.
You could plant your herbs in your backyard, in containers on your patio, or in pots placed on the window sill.
The place does not matter, but the herbs do.
And what kind of herbs you plant is entirely your choice. Maybe you want some herbs you enjoy adding to your food. Or you prefer herbs that provide you with medicine. Or maybe you just like the sights and smells they provide.
How to design your herb garden
It’s exciting, isn’t it?
Planning your garden can be almost as interesting as planting the garden. That’s because there are so many options to choose from.
Maybe you want your garden in the sun or the shade. Maybe you want a large garden or a small one. And maybe you want to grow culinary herbs or medicinal ones.
Let’s take a look at some steps that can help you design your herb garden.
Understand your garden needs
Your garden is a reflection of who you are.
Maybe you’re the quirky type who does not mind mixing the herbs with the vegetables. Or maybe you like a formal garden specially designed for the herbs.
The important question to ask is how much time can you afford to spend on your garden. That’s what will determine the type of garden you should create.
You don’t want to start a garden that needs a lot of care and then overwhelm yourself. So start small.
You should grow a garden that you want for yourself and your family.
If you enjoy using herbs in your dishes, you’ll do well with a culinary garden. But if you want to use medicinal herbs, you’re better off growing a medicinal garden.
And remember, the type of herb garden you grow can change over the years as your preference and lifestyle changes.
That’s completely OK!
Know where your garden can be
Every garden has its suitable place. And it’s your job to find it.
The best way to do this is going to space in your yard where you intend to plant the garden.
Take a notebook and pen along with you.
Start writing about the following things:
- Does the site get enough sunlight? Is it in full shade, partial shade, or no shade?
- Is it close to a stream, patio, or woodland?
- Is the soil suitable for the garden or do you need to amend it?
- Is there a structure like a building, fence, or wall near the site?
- Do you intend to grow in a bed, row, or containers?
The answers to these questions will help you get clarity on whether the site is good for your intended garden.
Make sure the site is easy to access
You know what destroys a garden?
And it’s easy to neglect your garden if you grow it in a place that’s not easy to access.
Most of us are busy and spend less time in the garden. You don’t want to forget about the garden and let weeds grow in it.
That’s why keep it close to your house in a place that you visit often. This could be just outside your kitchen if you can plant there.
You will have quick access to the herbs if you want to use them in your dishes.
Make sure your garden is near a water source so you don’t have to drag a heavy hose. Or worse try to carry heavy buckets full of water.
Start small with your garden
What’s the worst mistake we make starting a garden?
We start too big.
It’s not fun trying to manage a large garden beyond our capacity. And the bigger the garden, the more you need to spend on it.
But if you start small, you can later increase your garden size as you gain experience.
So go out to the site with a tape and measure the dimensions of your garden. Keep it small at the start.
Take four stakes and stick them in the four corners of the intended space. Then tie a string around the stakes to get an idea of the size.
Make a simple design of your garden
It’s time to put pen to paper.
Take a nice piece of graph paper and plot the existing structures of your garden. Maybe you have fences, a building, and trees in your garden.
Then add the hardgoods you would like to have in the garden such as benches, stepping-stones, pathways, and birdbaths.
If you like to enjoy a quiet place to sit and read, an iron bench or a willow chair can be a part of your garden. You could place it beneath a trellis to give you shade.
And you could use the trellis for growing some vine plants vertically.
If you like to have birds, bees, and animals in the garden, you can provide them with a source of water.
This could be a birdbath and shallow containers of water. You could even consider investing in a small pond.
Remember to place some pathways and stepping-stones in your garden as they will give you easy access to your plants.
Some designs for your herb garden
Ecosystem herb garden – If you want to simulate a natural environment for your herb garden then this should be your choice. It helps different plants, insects, and animals exist in community with one another.
Wild garden – This type of garden is one with a little bit of chaos. You let the plants grow as nature intended them even if this means the garden becomes a little disorganized. They feel like you’re walking through a wild meadow.
Raised-bed garden – You can create a raised bed of soil by creating a small heap that is about 4 feet wide and as long as you want. You could surround this heap with plants or stone. You can access the plants in such a garden without trampling on the soil. Very useful for maintenance and harvesting of the herbs.
Container garden – If you live in an apartment or college dorm, a container garden is right for you. You can place the containers on a balcony, patio, or even rooftops. It helps you grow plenty of herbs in small containers. This also makes the garden portable and easy to maintain.
Know more about plant needs
Your garden design is ready and it’s time to think about the plants you want.
The plants you choose will have different spacing requirements. You’ll need to consider the height of the plant and the color of the flowers.
Space requirements of the plants
Different plants have different spacing requirements.
But as a thumb rule remember to keep about 10 to 12 inches of space between plants.
You don’t want to have plants crowding each other as they grow big. This means they will start competing for the resources like nutrients and moisture.
And you’ll end up doing more work of removing the plants and increasing the space between them.
Instead, plan to keep the space before you start the garden. Remember that when the plants are small, they’ll need less space. But you need to plan considering the space they’ll need in maturity.
If you’re starting from seeds and have the packets, they should have information on the space you need to leave between the seeds.
Light requirements of the plants
Your plan for the garden is going well. But don’t forget to know the light situation in the garden.
Check out the path the sun travels through the garden space. Does it get full sun, partial shade, or full shade?
Does the garden space get different kinds of light exposure? Are there buildings or windows reflecting light on the space?
It’s important to know the amount of light the area gets because that determines the type of herbs you can plant in that space.
Soil requirements of the plants
Planning your herb garden means you should know about the soil in the garden.
Most soil tends to be good enough to grow some herbs but it’s best to determine the type of soil beforehand.
This will help you know if you the kind of herbs you can grow and whether you need to amend the soil.
Soil classifies as clay, sandy, or having loam. Often it may be a combination of these types.
It’s good to make your own compost and keep adding it to the soil. Slowly your soil will turn into a rich, fertile ground thriving with essential organisms and nutrients.
How to cultivate the soil for your herb garden
Nutrition is key to plant health.
And the best way to provide nutrition to your plants is to give them good soil.
But what is good soil?
Soil that contains organic matter is good. Soil that contains essential organisms is good. And soil that is permeable is good.
Check the contents of your soil. Then try to amend and make it better.
That’s how you’ll create a healthy garden for your herbs.
Think about how you’ll grow your herb garden
The type of garden you want to grow will determine how you need to amend the soil. Find out whether you want to grow your herb garden in a bed, row, container, or raised bed.
Growing in a bed or row
This is a traditional style of gardening where you create rows of herb crops in the garden.
Growing herbs in a bed have the advantage that you can create small pathways between the rows. This will help you move among the plants without compacting the soil or trampling the plants.
This method helps you make use of drip irrigation or sprinkler irrigation so you can conserve water.
To prepare the soil before growing in a bed, you’ll need to till the soil and mix in organic matter like compost. This is best done in late fall or early spring.
Then when you’re ready for planting you’ll need to till the soil again and smooth it out with a rake. The planting is best done in mid-spring or end spring.
If you plant in a bed or row, it’s good to mulch the garden. This will help prevent soil erosion and reduce the number of weeds that grow.
Growing in a container or a raised-bed
If you’re short of space, don’t worry.
Container gardening can help you grow a small garden on a patio or balcony.
You can use a lot of good quality soil in the container because you don’t have to use much. This means your plants grow healthier and stronger.
Make sure to use soil that is neither too heavy nor too light. You want it to retain the right moisture but drain out the excess. It’s best to use good potting mix along with compost for the soil.
This also means you have fewer problems with pests and diseases infecting your plants.
If you are physically challenged or old, a container or raised-bed can help you work without stress on your body.
You won’t need to bend as in a traditional garden. You can keep the containers on a table or you can sit while tending to your raised-bed.
How to prepare the soil for your herb garden
It’s time to prepare the soil before you can plant your herbs.
The ideal soil is full of organic matter that is teeming with organisms and nutrients.
But most of us would not be so lucky as to have the perfect soil in our garden. That’s why we need to amend it with the right materials.
Adding organic material to the soil
The best thing you can do to improve your soil is to add organic matter.
Before you do that you can check your soil on how much it contains.
Take a fistful of soil and squeeze it in your palm. Then slowly poke it and check if the soil crumbles through your fingers.
If it crumbles fast you have sandy soil. If it crumbles slowly then you have loamy soil. And if it does not then you have clay soil.
You can also send a soil sample to your local Extension Service that will help you know the organic matter, pH level, nutrients, and salts in your soil. They will also give you information on how to improve the soil.
You can add materials like leaves, manure, and cover crops that will decompose and add organic matter to the soil.
You need to do this every year as the plants will take in the nutrients and the organic levels will reduce.
The best time to add organic matter to your soil is in late fall or early spring.
Once you add the organic matter to the soil, you need to mix it in with tilling or digging. This will help the matter to reach into the soil and start breaking down into nutrients.
Determining the pH level of the soil
The pH level of the soil is important for the herbs to get the right nutrients. It also helps the roots grow strong and deep into the soil based on the pH they are comfortable with.
You can know the pH level of the soil by sending a sample to your local Extension Service.
The pH level ranges from 0 to 14 with 7 being neutral, below 7 being acidic, and above 7 being alkaline.
Most plants tend to prefer soil that is slightly acidic in the range of 5.5 to 7.0.
Once you know the pH level of your soil, don’t try to change it to suit your plants. There are many factors like water, trees in the surroundings, and the climate that determine the pH of the soil.
If you try to change the pH level, you will end up damaging something else in the ecosystem. And you’ll have to keep amending the pH every time.
The better way is to grow plants that are suited to that particular pH level. If you want to grow a plant not suitable then you can consider growing it in a container.
How to use compost to enrich the soil
Compost is crucial for a healthy organic herb garden.
Composting is a process where you let organic matter like kitchen waste, dried leaves, grass clippings, straw, etc. decompose with the help of organisms like nematodes, microbes, bacteria, and worm.
You help this process by providing sufficient moisture and heat to the compost pile.
The result is a material that provides your plants with organic matter, nutrients, and friable soil.
You could buy the compost from a garden center but it usually is not the best. That’s because it’s made from a single source of organic matter. So you’ll need to mix a variety of them to make good compost.
The better option is to make your own compost. You can add a variety of materials like leaves, grass clippings, straw, coffee grounds, manure, and kitchen waste to the compost.
Methods of composting
If you want to keep things simple, you can just create a compost pile at the corner of the garden.
However, if you use a compost bin, it makes things organized and more efficient.
You can make a compost bin using wood pallets, cinder blocks, or wire.
Use the wood pallets or cinder blocks to create a cube. You can tie the sides together with wire. When you want to turn the pile, untie the wire and reverse the structure.
You can turn the compost pile using a garden fork.
If you want to make things more convenient, you can get yourself a compost bin or a barrel from the garden center. Some of them come with a handle you can rotate the pile with. Or you could just push it around the garden and mix the materials inside.
If you’re patient, you can use pit composting. Here you create a 3 feet deep pit in the ground and fill it with the compost material.
Then top it off with the soil and let it decompose. At the end of a few months, you should have your compost.
Working the compost
Once you have your compost pile working for you, you need to give it the proper care.
At least once a month, you’ll need to turn the compost pile especially if the weather is hot. This will prevent the pile from heating up too much which can kill the essential organisms in it.
You can make use of a garden fork or shovel to turn the pile every few weeks. You want the top ingredients to reach the bottom and the bottom ones to come on top.
Make sure that the compost pile contains the right amount of moisture. You want the organisms to get the moisture to survive in the pile.
This is very important when you are having hot weather in your garden.
You can take a hose and water your compost pile. But make sure you water just enough. You don’t want the pile to be soaking wet.
Adding the compost to the garden
Once the compost is ready, you can add it to the garden.
If the garden is new, you can add about 3 inches of compost on top of the soil. Then till it into the soil so that it is mixed well.
If the garden is already existing, you can add about an inch of compost on top of the soil. Then rake it into the soil all around the plants.
You can add the compost at any time of the year but the best time may be during spring.
Once you add compost to your garden, make sure to water it so that the plants can start absorbing the nutrients from the compost.
How to grow herbs in your garden
Break the rules.
That’s what herb plants want to do when you try to grow them.
So you need to give each herb plant the special treatment that it needs.
You can grow the herbs like you grow vegetable plants. This means either grow them from seed or propagate them using cutting or root division.
Understand the herbs you want to grow
Your herb plants will be unique.
So you’ll need to try and understand exactly what they need to grow healthy.
This means learning about the natural habitat of the herbs you want to plant.
Find out where in the world the plant originates from. What type of climate does the herb thrive in?
Does it prefer to live with other plants? What are the animals and insects that may have a relationship with the herb?
Once you know more about the herbs you want to plant, you can try to create an environment that is suitable for them.
Maybe you can maintain the temperature just how they like it. You can plant them in the right spot based on whether they love the sun or shade.
How to grow your herbs from seed
You may feel intimidated.
But growing from seeds is an easy process once you know what you’re doing.
When possible, it’s good to grow from seed because the plants turn out to be strong, healthy, resistant to pests and diseases.
When you’re starting from seed, you need to have a good seed source. You could buy them from a store or you could preserve seeds from your garden for the next year.
Buying seeds from a store
You should be careful where you buy your seeds from.
It does not matter whether the company you buy from is big or small. What matters is the quality of the seeds they sell.
You want organic seeds that are free from any kind of genetic modification because they could be harmful to your health and the environment.
You also want seeds that are free from any chemical treatment.
You should ask the company how old the seeds are and what are the Latin names of those herbs.
Sowing the seeds in the soil
Before you sow the seeds, you want a good soil mix that is light enough.
You can buy a soil mix from the garden center or create your own mixing 4 parts soil, 8 parts peat moss, and 1 part perlite.
Fill this soil in the seed pots and water them well.
You can start planting the seeds in these pots but make sure to give a good spacing between the seeds.
Otherwise, they will crowd each other competing for moisture and nutrients. And it will be difficult to transplant them without damaging the plants.
Be careful to sow the seeds to the right depth. As a thumb rule, you want to plant the seeds to a depth that is twice the diameter.
If you plant seeds too deep, they won’t get the light they may need.
Give seeds the right amount of moisture
Moisture is crucial for your seeds.
That’s because the seeds won’t sprout without moisture. Even if they do sprout, the seedlings will die without the moisture.
You should have soaked the seed pots before you planted the seeds in them. So you just need to add moisture to the surface of the soil.
You don’t want to pour water on the surface as this will wash away the seed as well.
Make use of a spray bottle to gently spray a little bit of water on top of the soil. You could also use a watering wand to carefully water the top of the soil.
How to grow your herbs with propagation
Sometimes it’s not viable to grow the herbs from seeds.
This could be because it’s not possible to get the seeds or the plants grown from seeds are missing a trait like a strong flavor.
Plants like comfrey don’t produce seeds while rosemary seeds have a very low germination rate.
That’s why you may need to look at some ways to propagate the herb plants.
Starting your herb plants from cuttings is probably the best way of propagation.
You need to cut about ½ tender growth of the plant to be able to use this method. Don’t cut more than this as it can stress out the mother plant.
You’ll need the same soil as you would use for starting seeds. Water the pot and the soil sufficiently.
You need to dip the stem in natural rooting hormones that will help the roots to sprout. You can get this at a garden center.
Then make a small hole with a stick and put the stem into the hole. Then cover the base of the stem with soil to keep it sturdy.
Keep the pot out of sunlight in a warm enough place with good air circulation. The roots will sprout in about 1 to 4 weeks depending on the type of plant.
You will know roots have sprouted if you gently tug at the plant and it seems to be firmly planted in the soil.
Layering is a natural process of plant propagation you can use if the plants have runners or offshoots.
That’s because the runners will naturally root if they come in good contact with the soil.
To make use of this method, fill a container with the soil and water it well.
Bend some paper clips into a horseshoe shape and use those to attach the runners to the soil.
You need to keep the pots out of sunlight but in a warm area and provide the soil with sufficient moisture.
You will have roots in the runners in about 1 to 2 weeks. You can gently tug at the runners to see if the roots have sprouted.
Once the roots are present, you can clip the stem connection between the rooted plantlets. Then move the little plants along with the soil around them into their own pots.
This is a method of propagation you can use when the herb plants have branching roots.
So plants like comfrey and horseradish are ideal for such types of propagation.
If the plant has a single long root rather than branching roots then this method cannot be applied.
You can also use this method to propagate herbs like ginger and turmeric that have roots just under the soil surface.
The best time to do root division is early spring or early fall when the plant is mature and you don’t stress it out with the procedure.
How to maintain your herb garden
It can seem like a chore.
But maintaining your garden doesn’t have to be.
You can treat yourself to getting away from your daily life and relaxing in your garden.
A herb garden takes less maintenance than a regular garden of flowers or vegetables.
There are some seasons like late fall and winter where you don’t need to do much in the garden.
The plants have gone dormant after spending a productive growth of roots, stems, leaves, flowers, and fruits.
Now they just want to relax and prepare themselves for the next season.
You don’t need to cut the top of perennial plants even if they look at bit untidy. They help protect the roots of the plants. They also help wildlife survive in the growth by providing them with food and shelter.
You can remove the annuals that have done their work and tidy up the garden a bit for the next growing season.
Cleaning the garden for spring
You need to be patient till the next spring arrives so you can start spring cleaning.
The best way to know this is to look at the base of your perennial plants for new growth. You can start to work on your herb garden a week later just to be safe.
Remove annuals and weeds from the garden
Once spring arrives, it’s time to clean up the unwanted perennials from the garden.
You should clean up any annuals that you may have missed cleaning up during fall.
It’s a good thing to clear out weeds from the garden now when they’re easy to spot. Removing them becomes difficult once you start growing herbs and the garden is full of plants.
Remove aggressive perennial plants from the garden
There are some perennial plants that grow aggressively if not taken care of. These could be plants like mint or artemisias.
There are ways you can control the growth of these plants so they don’t overrun your garden.
You could plant such aggressive perennials in containers so their growth is limited. You do need to replace them every year because they outgrow the containers for nutrients and soil.
You could consider placing a barrier around the plant to avoid growth. This could be a plastic bucket that has it’s bottom cut off and dug into the ground. But this method won’t work if the plants grow runners that can escape out of the barrier.
The best option is to pull the plants out when they exceed their boundaries. Just before spring starts, you can start pulling the plants from root until they are limited to the area you want them to grow in.
Trim perennial plants in the garden
Early spring is the time to trim the perennial plants that you had left since last growing season.
You can trim most of the perennials 1 to 2 inches above the ground. But only those that have dead growth.
Some perennial plants start having fresh growth and it’s not good to trim those plants.
Relocate plants in the garden
Maybe your plants did not grow well in one part of the garden.
Maybe they got too much or too little sunlight. Maybe they did not receive much water. Or maybe they just don’t look good in that spot.
The best time to relocate plants is early spring.
Dig around the plants till you get all of the roots and a big lump of the soil. Make a hole in the relocated place that is larger than the roots and attached lump of soil.
Place the plant roots in the hole and cover them up with soil. Then water the plant well. Keep watering for the next week so the plant can establish itself in the new spot.
Dealing with weeds in the herb garden
Weeds in the garden can be frustrating.
They seem to grow overnight and leach the garden of nutrients and moisture intended for your plants.
But before you reach for those weed killers, think about the damage they do.
Even if the chemicals you want to use are promoted as safe, they might not be. They end up killing beneficial insects and pollinators. They also may pollute water and make it toxic for fish and other aquatic life.
It’s best that you don’t use chemicals to remove weeds from the garden. Instead, stick to the natural methods of eliminating weeds from the garden.
A weed is a plant that is growing in your garden even though you did not intend it to.
But that does not mean they are harmful. You could even make use of the weeds in your compost pile. Or if they are herb plants, add them to your cooking or use them for medicine.
Pull weeds from your herb garden
The best way to get rid of weeds naturally is to pull them out.
This might seem like a chore but it just takes 15 minutes of your day to keep the weeds under control.
The best time to pull weeds is when the soil is damp which makes it easy to pluck them out of the ground.
When pulling the weeds out, grab hold at the base of the plant and try to pull out as much of the roots as possible.
Some plants like thistle and bindweed have complex root systems that may not come out entirely. This means you need to keep pulling the weeds out as they grow.
But the more you keep doing this, the weaker the weeds get and slowly come under control.
It’s best to take care of the weeds the moment you see them. Because if you let them be for a while, you’ll need to spend a significant part of your day pulling them out.
Some tools that can help you remove weeds
The simplest tool you can use for removing weeds is your hands.
But sometimes the weeds may be deep-rooted and difficult to pull out. That’s when you can use tools to help you.
A Japanese weeder is a tool that has a narrow spade with toothed edges. This makes it useful to dig out weeds.
It can also be useful as a trowel and harvesting tool for roots and whole plants.
You could use a traditional hoe to cut off the weed plant at the base of the stem. The good thing about using a hoe is you can do the work standing up with less stress on your back.
There are modern tools like a stand-up weeder that make removing weeds from the roots easy and efficient. Some of them can even shoot the pulled weed out into the compost pile.
Use mulch in your herb garden
Mulch is very beneficial for any kind of garden.
It will protect the garden soil from extreme weather fluctuations. This means it keeps the temperature of the soil regulated. It will keep the moisture in the soil during hot weather and keep the soil warm during cold weather.
The mulch prevents weed seeds from getting the sunlight they need to sprout and take over your garden.
The mulch can also be used as walkways in your garden so you can tend to the garden without compacting the soil.
You will get the materials for mulch free or quite inexpensive and they will tend to last for at least one growing season or more.
If you use organic mulch, it will slowly decompose and add good organic material to your soil to enrich it.
Spread a good layer of the mulch over the soil around the plants and the walkways.
There are several organic materials like wood, cloth, grass, gravel, etc. that make for some good mulch.
Wood chips are useful as mulch because they allow the soil to retain moisture and are slow to decompose into the soil.
Cloth can be useful as a mulch to prevent weeds from growing but allowing water to reach the roots of your plants.
Gravel or pebbles can make a good mulch that lasts for a long period of time. Make sure to use material that does not heat up too much.
You can also use grass clippings as mulch but they are not the best option. That’s because they can compact over time.
This means they will either retain moisture and tend to become slimy. Or the water will not be able to reach the soil and the roots of your plants.
You should also not use grass clippings if chemicals like pesticides have been used on the lawn.
There are several inorganic mulch options available like plastic, tar paper, or carpets.
But the problem with such mulch is they don’t allow water and air to reach the soil as well. Some may tend to make the soil too hot for the plants and organisms.
The plastic could also be toxic to the organisms and beneficial insects that are part of your garden.
Remove unwanted parts of the plants in your garden
You may think this is a bad thing to do.
But sometimes you need to remove certain parts of your plants to encourage them to grow well.
Deadheading and pinching plants
If you have flowering plants and don’t want to let them seed too much, you need to remove the spent flowers. This is known as deadheading.
Removing the flowers signals the plants to grow more flowers instead of focusing on trying to produce seed.
You could remove the flowers by pulling them out where they are connected to the stem. If they are tough, you could use a pair of scissors to cut them off.
If you have bushy plants, you need to pinch off 2 to 4 inches from the tip of the plant every 10-15 days.
This will prevent the plant from getting leggy and weak and protect it from pests and diseases.
You can use your hands to pinch the tip off or you could use a pair of scissors. You can use the pinched off parts in food, medicine, or tea.
Cutting off plants
Perennial herb plants keep on growing and providing you harvest if you keep cutting them back.
Once you know the plants have matured and have spent flowers, it’s time to cut them back about an inch above the soil.
This will ensure the plants don’t go to seed and start growing back afresh.
Many plants will keep growing back several times during the growing season as long as you keep cutting them back.
This can also help herb plants that get too top heavy and tend to droop down because of the weight.
The top of the plants you cut can be added to the compost. Or you can use it in food, medicine, or making tea.
How to protect your herb garden from pests and diseases
Sooner or later, your garden is going to suffer from some pests and diseases.
The good news is that a herb garden has this problem less often than a flower or vegetable garden.
The reason might be that the herb garden is a lot more diverse than other types of gardens. Pests and diseases prefer a homogeneous group of plants rather than a diverse group.
If your garden does get affected by pests and diseases, you need to be a bit patient.
Don’t rush off to get chemicals or ways to get rid of them. Let nature run its course and check if that is all required to get rid of the problems.
Only if the problem still persists should you try to find out other ways of dealing with the pests and diseases.
How to identify when diseases infect your herb garden
There could be a ton of diseases that affect your garden.
It’s important to identify the type of disease and what you can do about it.
The best way is to prevent the disease from occurring in the first place rather than trying to fix it later.
We cannot list all the kinds of diseases here but you are better off using a good book that lists such diseases or get the help of experts to know what type affects your garden.
The main diseases affecting your garden could be due to fungi, bacteria, or viruses.
Fungi can affect the plants either through air or soil.
They invade when spores of the fungi reach the plant. This could happen through the air, water, contaminated soil, pots, or even humans and animals.
The fungi tend to prefer moist environments to grow. So you can help prevent this problem by keeping your garden free from weeds, excess moisture, and good distance between plants.
A fungus that reaches your plant through soil will tend to damage the roots and crown. You need to get rid of the entire plant and the soil if that happens.
You can put the plant in a hot compost if you have one or you need to destroy the plant to avoid spreading the problem.
If you have a fungus problem that is airborne you need to cut off infected parts of the plant and spray insecticide on it.
If that does not solve the problem you need to dispose the plant in your hot compost or throw it away.
Most bacteria tends to help the plant by improving the fertility of the soil.
However, some bacteria can wreak havoc in the plant causing extensive damage. Such bacterial growth tends to enjoy moist environments.
The bacterial infections are usually spread through soil, water, insects, and animals. They could also be spread when contaminated tools are used on plants.
That is why keep your tools clean before using them. Keep your hands and gloves clean before you use them on a plant.
Crop rotation can also help keep your plants free from bacterial infections.
Once a plant has this problem, you need to prune the infected parts and dispose of them. If the problem does not resolve, you need to remove the entire plant and throw it away.
Viruses are really hard to deal with.
Once your plants are infected with a virus, there is not much you can do about it except dispose of the plant.
The best way to protect your plants is preventing the viruses from infecting the plant.
Viruses can be spread through air, water, or insects.
Make sure to keep the garden free from excess moisture, overcrowding of plants, and weeds.
Try to keep pests and insects away from the garden because they tend to carry viruses. Insects that bite into plants can take in the virus and then inject it into other plants.
Common pests and insects that cause such problems include aphids, mites, nematodes, and whiteflies.
When you’re pruning the plants make sure to disinfect the tools otherwise viruses from infected plants can carry over to others.
Wash your hands and gardening gloves before you use them in your herb garden.
Using nature to protect your herb garden
You can take the help of nature to keep a thriving ecosystem in your garden which helps keep pests and diseases away.
Pets like cats help keep rodents away. Birds that visit your garden will feed on insects. The same happens with salamanders and frogs.
Non-poisonous snakes are useful to keep the rodent population down as well as keep poisonous snakes away.
Protecting your garden from animals
If you have rabbits visiting your garden and eating your plants, you can plant a boundary of sacrificial plants for the rabbits.
They can chew on those plants and be happy while your garden remains intact. It’s a win-win situation for everyone.
You can have birds visiting your garden by keeping feeding spots for them. This could be done by planting flowering plants at the edge of your garden.
The birds will feast on the seeds as well as the insects in your garden.
If you have deer visiting your garden, you can check if they like some plants and herbs you are growing.
You can spray those areas with a mix of rotten eggs and vegetable oil that tends to keep the deer away.
You can also plant some sacrificial plants that the deer will enjoy while leaving the rest of your herb garden intact.
If all of this does not help, you need to set up a tall enough fence to protect your herb plants from the deer.
Inviting beneficial birds and insects to your garden
Pollinators play a crucial role in the development of your garden.
Birds, bats, bees, and wasps can help carry the pollen from one plant to another helping in the development of fruits, nuts, and seeds.
Without such pollinators, we would have to pollinate plants by hand which would be labor intensive work.
Without pollinators, a lot of food would not grow and we would be limited in what we can eat.
Pollinators like bats not only help in pollination of plants but also consume insects like mosquitoes and help prevent the spread of viruses and diseases.
Beneficial insects can help a lot when you’re trying to control pest insects in your garden.
You do need to know what are the pests affecting your garden and then attract the appropriate beneficial insects.
It’s easier to start spraying pesticide in your garden but it’s a lot better over the long term to let nature run its course. And attracting beneficial insects should be part of this plan.
Using natural treatments for the pests
It’s always best to use preventive methods when it comes to pests in the garden.
But if those don’t work, you need to try using beneficial insects or organic pest control methods to get rid of them.
You should take a look at your garden every day so you know immediately when the pests have started in the garden.
This will make taking control of the pests easier, faster, and a lot less work than if you wait for a long period of time.
Using sticky plates
You can use sticky plates to know the pest insects in your garden and then take appropriate steps to reduce their population.
You can make your own sticky plates by taking yellow plates that attract insects and applying a mixture of vegetable oil and honey on both sides.
Then hand the plates in your plant foliage to catch the insects.
After a week, check the insects on the plate with a magnifying glass to see the types attracted to your garden. The plates also act as a pest capture tool.
Take the necessary steps to get rid of the pest insects.
Then wash the plates, apply the mixture again and hang them out to check the insect population next week. Make sure to hang them at the same location to get a proper measure every week.
Once you see that the pest count is decreasing, you know your control methods are working.
Use natural organic preparations
There are a number of organic preparations available on the market to deal with pests.
But just because they are organic does not mean they are not toxic to plants and animals.
You should be careful to read the instructions on how to use them, store them, and safety precautions.
Make sure to use gloves, boots, long sleeve shirt, full pants, and eye protection when using these preparations.
Don’t use these in areas that children and pets visit. Also, don’t use these near water sources that could get contaminated.
After using the spray, wait for 24 hours before you can try to use the plant.
Neem tree extract can help repel pests, kill them, or prevent them from reproducing.
This can be useful against beetles, whiteflies, aphids, mealybugs, and spider mites. The neem extract doesn’t harm bees, spiders, animals, and humans.
You need to spray it on the plants that are affected by the pests. Some pests will die on consuming the extract, some of them will move away from the plants, and others will not be able to reproduce thus ending their lifecycle.
Nolo bait is a type of suppression bait that works on grasshoppers, locusts, and crickets.
It is not toxic to humans, animals, birds, and bees which is a good thing.
The way it works is to suppress the reproduction of the insects without causing harm to the environment.
To control the snails and slugs in the garden, you can use potatoes.
Place raw slices of potatoes in the places where there is a slug or snail infestation. Do this at night and by morning the slices will be covered by them.
You can then take the slugs and snails and dispose of them in the trash.
Keep doing this several times a week till you notice a reduction in the slug and snail infestation.
If you don’t want to kill them you can transport them a long distance from your garden and release them.
How to harvest herbs from your garden
You’ve done all the hard work and it’s time to harvest the herbs in your garden.
This is the best time to be in the garden as you reap the fruits of your labor.
The harvested herbs can be used as food, in medicines, and also in cosmetic preparations if you wish.
Even the weeds that you harvest will not go to waste as you use them in food, medicine, or add them to your compost pile.
Important things to consider before the harvest
Just as growing your herbs needs knowledge, harvesting your plants needs some good information as well.
You need to know the right time to harvest the herbs which may vary according to the plant.
The time when you pick the herbs determines their potency especially if you’re using them for medicine.
Choosing the right tools and methods to harvest the fruits, flowers, tips of the plants is crucial so you don’t damage the plant.
Once you harvest the herbs, you need to know the process for storing them in case you need to. It may be good to consume the herbs when they are fresh and at their best but you need to store them in situations like the long winter.
Know the right time to harvest the herbs
It’s important to not only to know how to harvest the herbs but also the right time to harvest them.
This can vary depending on which part of the plant you want to harvest based on fruits, flowers, stems, or roots.
Harvesting roots of the herb plant
The time when you harvest the root depends on the type of plant you’re growing.
If the herb plant is annual, you can harvest the root any time of the year as long as the plant has not gone to seed. Once the plant goes to seed, it’s going to die.
You can harvest the roots of biennial plants in the fall of the first year or the spring of the second year.
If you harvest in the spring of the first year, the roots will not have developed. And if you harvest in the fall of the second year, the plant may have gone to seed and will die.
Perennial plant roots can be harvested in spring, fall, or winter but make sure to do so when you have harvested the flowers and fruits if any.
Harvesting aerial parts of the herb plant
The best time to harvest the aerial parts of the plant is when the flowers and fruits are ready.
Usually, the berries may be ready by late summer or fall. And seeds may be ready by early or late fall.
You need to remember to watch the plants for when they are ready otherwise you will miss out on the harvest.
Some tools you can use for harvesting herbs
Your hands are useful for harvesting many types of fruits, flowers, bulbs, seeds, and plants.
But sometimes tools can make your life a little easier when it comes to harvesting.
Make sure to use good-quality tools because they will last longer and do a good job.
A good pair of hand snips is useful when you’re a gardener. Make sure to get a pair that fits well in your hands and is comfortable to use.
Keep a good pair of scissors with you in the garden. They can help you do some pruning and harvesting work in the garden.
Buy a good garden digging fork with strong prongs for digging roots. It works great for digging out strong taproots with little effort.
A flower harvesting rake is useful when you have a lot of flowers in your herb garden. This can help you comb delicate flowers from the plants without bruising them.
How to harvest the herb roots
Roots can be a bit difficult to harvest because you need to dig into the ground.
But you should do this when the soil is a bit moist which makes the task easier. Use a garden fork or a needle-nose spade to get the roots out of the ground.
You should dig around the plants and area of the roots to get the entire plant out of the soil.
Once the plant is out of the soil, you can cut the aerial part of the plants to just an inch above the crown.
You need to separate the roots from the crown and wash them with a hose.
Dry the roots well before you store them. You can dry them whole, sliced or chopped up. But some roots have better fragrance and potency when dried whole.
It may take a few weeks for the roots to dry but make sure to dry them well. Otherwise, they will gather mold during storage.
You can store the dry roots in a nice dry area out of sunlight but with plenty of air circulation.
How to harvest herb plants
You can harvest the whole plant similar to how you harvested the roots.
Before you can harvest the plant, make sure it is in the condition you want. This could be either the plant has flowers, fruits, or seeds.
To harvest the plant, you need to dig deep into the soil to get all the roots and soil around it. You can use a spade or a digging fork to do this.
Once you have the plant out of the ground, shake it to remove some of the soil. And you need to spray the roots with a hose sprayer to get it clean.
You can dry the plant by hanging it upside down but make sure to keep it out of direct sunlight and allow plenty of air.
Once the plant is dried you can store it in a brown bag for later use. You could consider chopping up the plant before storing.
But the plant tends to store a lot more flavor, potency, and fragrance if you store it whole.
How to harvest aerial parts of the plant
The aerial part of the plant is the part above the soil which includes leaves, fruits, flowers, seeds, and stem.
You can use a pair of garden scissors to cut the aerial part of the plant.
To cut annuals, you can snip from the base of the plant coming out of the ground. To cut perennials, you can snip a few inches from the base of the plant as it will help the plant to grow back healthy.
If the plant is muddy, you can wash it and then dry it if you prefer. The best option is to use the plants as soon as you cut them to get the most flavor and potency out of them.
You can use them in your recipes and medicines within 24 hours after harvesting.
Otherwise, you can dry the parts of the plants for later use. Make sure to provide plenty of air circulation so they dry well and keep them out of direct sunlight.
You can tie the plants in bundles and hang them upside down to dry. Or you could place the plants in shallow woven baskets and toss them every few days to allow air circulation to dry them.
How to harvest flowers of the herb plant
You can harvest the flowers of the herb plants for food or medicine.
But you need to be gentle with them as they can bruise or turn brown if not handled well.
To harvest the flowers, you can use your hands and pick them from the plant. If you need the flower and part of the stem, you can use a pair of scissors to cut them off.
To gather the flowers you could use a flower rake, basket, or bucket so you don’t bruise them.
Once you gather the flowers you could use them to prepare food or medicine. It’s good to store them in the refrigerator before you use them.
Otherwise, you can dry them in a basket that you gently toss every few days to let air circulate and help in the drying process.
How to harvest fruits and seeds
The best time to harvest fruits and seeds is when they are ripe. But there may be some that you may want to harvest when they are green.
You can harvest the fruits and seeds with your hands. But some seeds may need to be removed using scissors or a flower rake.
You don’t need to wash the fruits and seeds unless they are muddy. But don’t use a lot of water as it can take away the water-soluble vitamins.
You can dry the fruits and seeds in a woven-basket and store them in a paper bag or glass jar. Be patient till all of them dry out otherwise they will get mold on storage.
You can store the dried seeds in a brown bag, seal them in a refrigeration bag, and place them in the freezer.
You can store the fruits in a dry place usually in a glass jar.
Saving your seeds to plant later
When you want to grow plants from seeds, you have two options.
Either you need to buy the seeds from a good company or you need to save your own seeds for the next season.
Saving your seeds can help you protect yourself from getting genetically engineered seeds that are not good for your health and the environment.
You can harvest the seeds when they are ripe. You know this when the seeds have changed color from green to brown, white, or tanned. The seeds will also look quite dry when they are ripe.
You can harvest the seeds by hand or using a good pair of scissors.
You need to take off the protective covering of the seeds before you can store them. As you sift the seeds through a screen, most of this protective covering will come off.
You can place the cleaned seeds in a paper envelope and write the name, when and where you harvested the seeds, and any other information you may need later.
You can then put the envelope in plastic zip-lock bags and store them in the freezer till you need them for planting. They will last for many years in such a state.
Make sure that the seeds are kept away from excessive heat, moisture, sunlight, and rodents when you store them.
How to store the herbs you harvest
The best way to store herbs is to dry them and store in a glass jar or paper container that can be taped shut.
This will help retain most of the flavor, color, taste, and fragrance of the herbs.
Do not use metal or plastic containers because they are not suitable for holding these characteristics of the herbs. The exception is to use stainless steel containers.
If you want to use tin cans to hold the herbs you can place a layer of paper or wax paper inside the containers.
You should keep the containers in a dry place that does not face too much heat or light. A cabinet or pantry can be a good place to store your herbs.
If stored well, your herbs can last for a year while retaining their taste and potency. If you powder the herbs, they may last about 6 months. Once the herbs lose their potency, you can add them to your compost pile.
How to freeze herbs you harvest
You can freeze the leaves of herbs for use later when you run out of them.
Don’t try to freeze other parts of the herbs like roots, stems, and flowers because they don’t retain their potency and fragrance. Instead, you can use them immediately or dry them for later use.
Before you freeze the leaves, you can shake them off to remove dust and insects if any. Then gently wash the leaves if there is still any dust left on them.
You can put them in freezing plastic bags and place them in the freezer. When you thaw the leaves, they won’t have the same texture as fresh leaves.
You can also puree the leaves and then freeze them in ice trays. Then once frozen take the cubes out of the tray and put them in freezer bags and store them in the freezer.
Such frozen herbs can last for a year with the same potency and flavor as when fresh.
You can use the cubes for making recipes such as spaghetti sauce. Just pop the cubes in the blender along with the other ingredients to get a nice sauce.
It’s time to get back to your roots.
It’s time to learn to grow herbs.
And it’s time to learn to use herbs for your needs.
Start using them and you’ll live a life full of health, happiness, and freedom to choose.
Your organic herb garden will protect the birds, animals, and insects that live in it. And will protect the future of this planet.
Start your herb garden and change your life.
Here are some of my favorite container gardening tools
Thank you for reading this post. I hope it helps you with your gardening needs. I’ve listed some tools below that can help you with container gardening. These are affiliate links so I’ll earn a commission if you use them.
Gardening Gloves – I find the Pine Tree Tools Bamboo Gardening Gloves really good for both men and women. It’s made from bamboo so helps absorb perspiration. They are also comfortable and fit very well.
Containers – You know picking the right container is crucial for your container gardening. I’ve written a detailed post on the best containers you can choose from. If you’re happy with a plastic container, you can check out the Bloem Saturn Planter.
Watering Can – This is a must-have tool when you’re growing plants in pots or grow bags. It helps to water the potting soil without splashing on the foliage. The Kensington Watering Can is stylish, strong, and can provide precision when watering potted plants.
Trowel – Garden Guru Trowel is my favorite because it’s durable and comfortable to use. My gardening friends really love having a trowel because they use it for digging soil, mixing fertilizer, moving seeds, leveling out the soil, mixing compost or mulch, and also dividing tubers
Bypass Pruner – I really like the Corona Bypass Pruner because it’s durable and gives a clean cut that helps plants recover faster. If you’re looking for something cheap, get the Fiskars Bypass Pruner that is really good as well.
To see an extensive list of the best container gardening tools gardeners recommend, check out this resource that I made for you.
Kevin is the founder of Gardening Mentor, a website that aims to teach people to grow their own food in a limited space. As a self-taught gardener, Kevin has spent several years growing plants and creating gardening content on the website. He is certified in Home Horticulture and Organic Gardening by expert gardeners from Oregon State University.