No More Mistakes – Important Tips To Care of Herbs
As a gardener, you should know about the care of herbs. The plants grown in gardens are all indigenous to one country or another, whether it is Britain, Italy, China, North America, or South America. Some of them have been got at by the plant breeders and bear no resemblance to the species or variety originally discovered.
However, some remain the same, being already sufficiently beautiful or useful. Some are difficult to grow under cultivation because of their natural habitats’ different climatic, soil, or aspect requirements, but some grow like the weeds they often are in their native land
The plants grown as herbs in many countries have been used by the inhabitants because it was, and is, natural to use the materials found in the world around one for food, shelter, health, and warmth. Once sown or planted, herbs will grow strongly and healthily to maturity in the majority of cases without help, except while seedlings or young plants, but even so the help needed will be minimal.
You can, of course, spend time on care of herbs; working amongst herbs in a garden is a particular pleasure to which fragrance, nostalgia, usefulness, and the anticipatory satisfaction of one’s stomach all contribute. On a warm, sunny day, when the bees and butterflies are working amongst the flowers, and your fingers are releasing the aromatic oils into the atmosphere, tranquility, and contentment unavoidably seep into your outlook.
Site and soil for Care of Herbs
However, it does pay to provide some care and attention when growing herbs in the mass, to ensure their greater decorativeness and well-being, or even simply to curtail the activity of the lustier wild plants, It is frequently said that most herbs do best if they are growing in well-drained soil, somewhat short of plant food, and in a position which is sunny and sheltered. However, this is a generalization that really does not apply, any more than it does to all garden plants.
There are certainly some, the Mediterranean group for example, which includes oregano, lavender, rosemary, and thyme that grow in this sort of environment but there are many more that need such conditions as shade, and moisture. Plenty of food, or deep soil, or they may want various combinations of these or any of them combined with their opposites. Parsley does best in deep moist soil and sun: mints prefer the same soil and are impervious to shade or sun, but pineapple mint will survive in drought much better than ginger mint.
Really, to give each herb the best possible chance the site and soil chosen for it should conform to its specific needs, as with any garden plant. Having said that it is to plant some in groups, and it is true to say that some thrive in the soil which would normally be considered unsatisfactory.
A position that provides shelter from wind is almost more important than one which receives all the sun available wind is excessively drying and moisture transpired from plants much more quickly than is realized, along with the essential oils, relatively ‘heavy’ though they are. Frost pockets, i.e. places where frost remains during the clay when other parts of the garden have thawed, should be avoided, also soil where water stands in winter, but these are all qualifications applicable to general planting.
Preparing the soil for the Care of Herbs
Provided the soil is workable, a spit (spade’s length) deep, and not violently acid or alkaline, it will need little preparatory treatment. Complete removal of weeds, including all the roots, is important, preferably by hand or while digging; incidentally, do remember that some of them may be the very plants you are intending to grow, though if the area contains horsetail it is better not to try growing perennial plants in it until you have been clearing out this weed for some years.
Dig the soil to the depth of a spade or fork, and clear out the rubbish as you go – large stones, glass, china, bottle tops, sticks, wire, plastic, and so on – at the same time mixing in a thin layer of rotted garden compost, especially if the soil is shallow and only a few cm (in) deep on top of chalk subsoil.
There are not many herbs that prefer acid soil, so if your soil is acidic use chalk (calcium carbonate) or ground limestone (the same substance but less quick-acting) to alter it to a depth suitable for adequate root growth. Quantities should be of the order 1/2-1 kg per sq m (1-2 lb per sq yd) where the pH is 6.0, and double this if it is 5.0, giving less for sandy soil and more for clay.
The pH of the soil, though it sounds mysterious and scientific, is simply the name for the scale which determines the quantities of chemical particles (hydrogen ions) contained in the soil solution, more or less of which make the soil acid or alkaline. Soil tests to discover the pH are easily done, and the kits for doing them are provided with instructions by several garden product companies and stocked at garden shops.
Do this initial cultivation in early spring, and be ready to hoe or fork out weeds again once or twice more before planting or sowing in mid-spring, as weed seeds will germinate more readily when the soil is disturbed, and with the start of warmer weather. At the same time, if the soil is one of those obviously dry, gritty, or chalky ones, from which the minerals plants need as part of their food – potassium, magnesium, nitrogen, etc. – have been washed out by rain, mixed in slow-release fertilizers.
Bonemeal is a good base that lasts several years and can be spread at the rate of about 180-240 g per sq m (6-8 oz per sq yd), and garden compost into which wood ashes have been mixed is particularly helpful on such soils.
Sowing and Germination for Care of Herbs
For successful seed germination, it is absolutely essential that the soil surface is of a fine consistency. All the best books advise that the texture should be like fine breadcrumbs. And this is literally the state it should be in. Sowing seeds amongst lumps of soil, even if they are only 6mm in diameter, will not result in seedlings. The seed simply does not germinate however much you water the soil and protect it from the cold.
Once the soil has been dug, it should be broken up with a fork, hoe, or back of a rake, by hand, and with a hand fork. Or whatever you find most convenient, until it reaches the stage at which raking it backyard and forwards, and then cross-ways, reduces it to the fine tilth described. If you have the time to do it, tread the soil after the breaking-up stage before raking it.
This will help the seedlings to get a beer hold and will make it evenly firm – this in turn results in even germination, without gaps. Whether you then sow the seeds in rows or in patches in ‘stations’ – groups spaced several cm (in) apart you; in any case, some herbs do better sown in boxes or seedbed, and then transplanted: others are better sown. Where they are to grow and then thin. Whatever you do, try to sow into moist soil, when rain is expected.
As the temperature rises put a thin covering over the seed between 3 and 6 mm deep (again there are exceptions to this, noted in the descriptive list), firm it, and water it every evening with a fine spray of water if there is no rain. Get rid of weed seedlings before they become young plants, and then the herb seedlings when they are large enough handle about 6 mm -1/4 in) spacing, and when they have filled this to their final spacing. A row about 100cm long is ample for one family’s needs for most herbs.
Also, care of herbs seeds germinates best soon after they ripen in summer, and should be sown towards the end of summer, though with packet seed this is not always possible. However, a spring sowing of such seed will produce some plants though the number will be fewer than from a summer sowing. Herbs can be started from small plants planting in spring is again the most convenient time.
If they came from a garden center, take the container off each root ball, cut long coiled-round roots off level with the soil ball, and plant without otherwise disturbing in a hole sufficiently deep to ensure that the surface of the soil ball is level with or a little below that of the surrounding soil.
If the plants are bare-rooted, spread the roots out in the hole, with the same proviso regarding the long ones, and then crumble soil in over them to fill the hole. Make them firm in their place, and water them unless the soil is really wet, or heavy rain is imminent. Space all of them appropriately for their final size, and put in stakes wherever support may be needed.
Routine maintenance for Care of Herbs
Once herbs are in place, and you have ensured a good start to their lives with properly prepared soil and the right planting technique, there is little more to do. Weeds may get in the way early on and should be dealt with before they swamp your seedlings and small plants the smaller they are when hoed off, the quicker and easier it is to do it.
Tie tall plants to their supports as they grow, and break off the tips of the main shoot of plants you want to be bushy, just above a leaf or pair of leaves, when they are a few cm (in) tall; basil, rosemary, hyssop, marjoram, mint, sage and savory are some of these. Side shoots can thus be treated as well. Some shrubby herbs may need further pruning during the summer.
In very dry weather and light soil, the care of herbs needs watering not just a watering canful, but a prolonged sprinkling with a spray attachment from a hose for about half an hour. Moisture loss can be prevented with a covering of compost on the soil surface mulch, by mixing compost in during the initial digging each spring. Good garden compost will prevent made material that has not heated up and will well still have live weed seeds in it.
Pest and disease control are virtually unnecessary. If plants have anything wrong with them it may have already been there when they were obtained, or it is a sign that they are not being grown in the right conditions. Some plants are prone to a particular disease or pest: rust infects mint, greenfly infests parsley during drought, and slugs and snails will eat many seedlings.
Preparation for winter
In autumn when the plants have begun to die down naturally the perennials should have their flowering stems cut off at ground level, if not already done, and annuals should be dug up and put for compost. The herb beds should be lightly dug over with a fork, weeded if necessary, and the invasive plants chopped back at the roots. Old perennial herbs should be dug up, and only the youngest parts, at the edge of the crown, replanted. This dividing technique is a useful method of increase, and works well, provided each piece has the root and some dormant buds or young shoots.
Moreover, care of herbs is really important as some herbs which are tender can be dug up and planted in containers during early-mid autumn, fitting: cutting off their no-longer-wanted top growth. New shoots will already be appearing at the base of many belts, and marjoram and mints respond well to this treatment. In particularly cold winters, when frost is prolonged or there are bitter northeast winds some herbs will be killed. Then thyme, sage, rosemary, marjoram, tarragon, and pineapple minter are examples.
Soils which is waterlogged for weeks at a time will make matters worse, and can even kill plants without their first being weakened by the cold. You can take cuttings in summer of this kind of herb in and keep them protected through the winter or shield the parent plants in some way so that they are sheltered from the worst of the cold and wind. Cloches, straws, plastic sheets, pads of wire netting with straw or bracken between them, and sacking or conifer branches all provide shelter and will keep off the worst of the weather.