Organic herb gardening is perfect for individuals who use herbs for culinary, medicinal and other purposes. Whether you are a garden greenie or a seasoned green-thumb, you will surely enjoy growing and using your own fresh herbs. Herb gardens can be maintained indoors or outside.
What are Organic Herbs?
Herbs are defined as annual, biennial or perennial plants that have culinary, aromatic and/or medicinal characteristics. They add flavor when cooking; are common ingredients in cosmetic products, lotions, creams and salves; and, medicinally, herbs can be ingested raw or cooked, infused into teas, made into tonics or tinctures and, as essential oils, applied topically or inhaled.
Organic herb gardening ensures your herbs are free from manufactured chemicals, pre-, post- and during the growing process. Organic seeds are not genetically enhanced and come directly from herb plants free from exposure to artificial chemicals such as pesticides and non-organic fertilizers.
Organic herb gardening involves natural solutions to common issues, such as insects, fungus and poor soil. Spraying lemon dish-soap mixed with water can help with pests and some fungal diseases. To rid your garden of unwanted insects, mix white vinegar with a pungent herb such as garlic, red or black pepper or mint. In addition, you can use certain insects, such as ladybugs, to your advantage - they won't eat up your herbs, but will kill any aphids in their path.
What to Plant?
Deciding what to plant in your organic garden will depend on a few factors:
- What do you want to use the herbs for? Basil, Thyme, Garlic and Dill are popular culinary herbs; Peppermint and Rosemary have medicinal properties; Lavender is perfect for aromatherapy oils. Keep in mind many herbs have multiple applications.
- How much do I plant? This directly relates to how much room you have, intended use as well as whether you intend to dry, sell or give away herbs. Some herbs, such as mint, notorious for spreading and taking over garden space, need more room. Before purchasing seedlings or small plants, read plant characteristics such as germination, growing conditions and size.
- Are you planning an outdoor or indoor organic herb gardening? For indoor herb gardens, review size and required growing conditions, such as light. Containers can be placed inside or outside. If your soil is not conducive to plant grow, use pots, containers or wooden beds filled with organic soil outside.
Once you've decided on herbs, make sure they are compatible. Garlic and Roses thrive when planted next to the other; the smell from many plants in the onion family deters animals such as deer and woodchuck. Companion planting also requires you look for the obvious; for example, don't place a short plant that requires hours of direct sunlight behind a tall plant.
If you are new to gardening, you may want to purchase one or two starter plants of each herb the first year. Then, you can see how each herb grows and behaves in relation to its neighbors. This will also allow you to determine the amount you want to plant in the next growing season.
- What growing conditions does the plant require? Herbs can require direct sunlight or shade, dry or wet conditions, lots of pruning - make sure you have the time and an ideal environment.
Organic herb gardening also involves maintaining soil, rich in nutrients. Ideally, the best soil for gardening contains a blend of sand, silt, clay and various organic matter such as from a compost.
A couple weeks before planting your herbs, add organic fertilizer to your soil. Fertilizer should be added once more or throughout the organic herb gardening season.
Composting is a method of reusing organic items such as eggshells, rinds, vegetable shavings and fruit cores; gather these and other waste items and, after it begins to decompose, add to enrich garden soil. Adding compost will also improve drainage. This is important because too much water can cause roots to drown and increases the potential for mold and disease.
Some gardeners choose to test the Ph of the soil and adjust to a slightly below neutral level, where soil is rich in nitrogen, phosphorous, potassium and other trace minerals - nutrients readily absorbed by the roots and into the stems and leaves that allow plants to maintain equilibrium and flourish.
In addition, adding mulch made from shredded leaves or bark, grass, hay and other plant life to your garden enhances soil, increases moisture retention, protects plants and helps prevent weeds from growing.
Organic herb gardening can be a rewarding, relaxing experience and provide you with fresh herbs for culinary and medicinal purposes. Organic herbs are as nature intended, starting from seeds and seedlings without genetic alterations, grown in soil rich in nutrients from organic fertilizer, compost and mulch and maintained without the use of any inorganic chemicals, such as pesticides. When planning your herb garden, keep in mind herb companionship, constitution and the conditions individual herbs require to prosper.
*For a full selection of dried herbs, we recommend Mountain Rose Herbs.