Successful Organic Herb Gardening
Herb gardening is simple and you’ll find it a satisfying way to get the most from a small area of garden or yard. If you do it organically, you also have the satisfaction of knowing that the herbs you grow and eat are the healthiest that they could be, as well as the freshest.
Most herbs are easy to grow. Most of them like sunlight so you will want to position them in a sunny part of the garden. It’s best if your herb beds are close to the house where you can easily reach them.
You will want to be able to go out and pick a few leaves as and when you need them whenever you are cooking. If the plants are too far away, you may not always bother, and that would be a real pity.
It is also a good idea if you can see them from the kitchen window. If they are within easy sight it will remind you that they are there and prompt you to keep them well watered in hot weather.
Some herbs are perennials, meaning that the plants will remain from year to year. Perennial herbs include rosemary, sage, thyme and lavender. These are usually best planted outdoors in your herb gardening beds.
An exception is spearmint, which can take over the whole garden if not contained. We recommend growing spearmint in an outdoor container.
Other herbs are annuals that will need to be raised from seed each year. This includes parsley, dill and basil. You may prefer to grow these in pots or containers.
The difference between organic and non-organic herb gardening is simply that if you are doing your herb gardening the organic way, you will not use chemical pesticides or fertilizers. For most herbs, this is not a problem. They are generally hardy plants that are resistant to pests.
When it comes to fertilizer, you will need to use something to add nutrients to the soil but there are plenty of organic choices. Natural compost from your own garden is one.
Other options include bone meal and seaweed extract. You can buy these from garden supply stores. Just check that your choice is organic in order to maintain standards in your herb garden.
Some herbs, like rosemary, can be used straight from the garden all year round. Others will have a particular harvest time when you will want to pick, dry and store them. In most cases, they are best harvested a day or two before the flowers would bloom.
This ensures that you get the maximum amount of the plant’s essential oil. It is best to harvest most herbs around the middle of the morning, when the dew has dried but the sun is not yet shining at full strength. The growing tips and young leaves are best.
Most people doing organic herb gardening do not wash their herbs before drying them. If you do, they will need to be dried quickly, perhaps in the oven, to avoid fungal growth.
Herbs that have not been washed can be dried on wire netting, covered with paper or a light cloth. Remove stems and try to keep only a single layer of leaves on the wire. Place these racks in a well ventilated area in the shade.
Herbs are dry enough to store when they are crisp, so that they break and crumble easily. Many people prefer to crush them so that they take up less storage space; others like to keep larger pieces, especially if they are to be used for teas.
If they are truly dry you will not be likely to keep whole leaves. These final products of your organic herb gardening can then be stored in airtight bottles or jars.