How to look after your Herb Garden
Having a productive herb garden is such a joy and a great addition to any productive backyard.
Being able to access fresh herbs at any time is a real privilege and once you get used to having ready access to a wide range of fresh herbs and enjoying the fabulous flavours they add to your food, you will stay motivated to continue to establish and maintain healthy and productive plants.
Below I have listed the things I do to maintain my herb garden. I hope it gets you growing!
• Generally, for good growth, annual Herbs such as basil and coriander require a regular moisture supply whilst they are growing, whereas Perennial herbs such as rosemary and bay will need very little extra watering, depending on prevailing weather conditions .When it is very hot and during periods of extended dry weather they may need some supplementary watering.
• It is much better to give the garden a good soaking about once a week rather than to give it a splash more often. This will encourage deep root growth and help drought proof your plants.
• The most efficient way to apply water is through drip irrigation, however if you do not want to go the expense of a full system, try buying a soaker hose and turning it upside down so the water spurts go straight into the soil rather than in the air. Otherwise hand watering with a long handles water breaker can be effective, though time consuming.
• Try not to apply water to the leaves of your herbs as most herbs dislike the increased humidity this can produce and water on plant foliage sometimes increases the incidence of plant diseases such as powdery mildew.
• Watering is best done early in the morning so moisture is available all day for plant growth.
• Try not water in the heat of the day as plants may “burn” and evaporation will be high which wastes water.
• Regular feeding (addition of nutrients) is necessary to maintain good production.
• For perennial herbs apply a slow release organic material such as Blood and bone or pelletised chook manure or a combination of both, in early spring and again in autumn. A nitrogen ratio fertiliser, such as chook manure, is best for herbs grown for the leaves only, whereas, a more balanced fertiliser, such as blood and bone, with a higher ratio of potassium and phosphorous for plants grown for their flower, fruit or roots.
• Annual herbs are heavy feeders, that is they require lots of nutrients to grow and even if your soil is fertile it may require the addition of some fertilizer for best growth.
• The most effective way to fertilize your plants is to apply it in liquid form. This is rapidly taken up by the plants roots and available for growth very quickly. A weekly liquid feed with a product like Powerfeed, applied at ½ strength will keep your herbs growing strongly all season and producing lots of leaf growth.
• There are some very good organic liquid fertilizers such as, seaweed or fish emulsion based fertilisers available commercially. It is also possible to make up your own brew quite easily. Many different materials can be used such as old manure, seaweed, comfrey leaves and even weeds.
• The simplest way is to fill a hessian bag with your choice of material. Place it in a watertight container and cover with water. Leave it for up to a month and then dilute it until it’s the colour of weak tea usually at a ratio of 1 to 10. Then apply it to your plants.
• Weeds are simply a plant growing where it is not wanted.
• It is important to keep garden beds weed-free, as weeds compete with your plants for space, light, water and nutrients. This is especially important for emerging seedlings if you are growing your annual herbs insitu.
• Weeds will only grow on bare soil- so keep any bare soil between your plants covered with mulch( to a depth of 10cm)
• The chief methods of weed control are cultivation, mulching, and hand weeding.
• Cultivation usually means scraping the soil surface with a hoe or other suitable tool to cut off and remove small weeds. Deep cultivation can prune crop roots, which can cause loss of yield.
• Hand weeding is often necessary around seedlings.
• Mulching offers a potentially more efficient means of weed control, and it also serves to conserve soil moisture.
• Always remove weeds before they have a chance to flower and set seed as this will only increase the number of weeds next year
• I like to use sugar cane mulch around my annual herbs but a heavier longer lasting mixed woodchip/leaf mulch around perennial herbs.
• The mulch should be applied 10cm deep and can either be applied before planting in the case of seedling or when the plants are about 10cm tall if they have been seeded.
• Before applying mulch, hoe out all small weeds. Not only does mulch control weeds, it also conserves moisture, keeps the soil from compacting, and increases the humus necessary for vigorous plant growth.
• If the mulch is high in carbon ie straw, or wood chip, apply high nitrogen fertilizer to the soil before mulching.
• Overcrowded plants cannot grow rapidly or reach a productive size. Thin herb seedlings grown insitu, to the distance recommended on the seed packet or label.
• With perennial plants, plant at the distance recommended on the plant information label or research the best planting distance for each plant.
Pest and disease control
• Healthy plants needs less work. Concentrate on growing plant rather than killing things
• To have healthy plants you must have a healthy soil- add a variety of organic matter, in the form of compost or aged manures, regularly to your soil.
• Grow plants in the right season when they can grow quickly and be healthy enough to withstand pest and disease attack. Most annual herbs should be grown in the warmer months
• Ensure there is space around your plants to allow air circulate, and be sure water soaks in and then drains away. These organic strategies help prevent leaf and root diseases.
• Keep pest number low with organic methods such as hand removal of caterpillars, hose off aphids and encourage beneficial insects by growing a variety of flowers around your vegetables and use companion planting where ever possible.
• Pruning naturally stimulates plant growth so if you want lots of growth get into the habit of trimming your plants regularly.
• This can be as simple as pinching back growing tips to encourage branching; removing, or deadheading, spent flowers or regularly harvesting up to a 1/3 of your plants and preserve them.
• Pinching back annual herbs throughout the growing season is the best way to maintain healthy, vigorous, attractive plants.
• Perennial herbs respond well to a light prune before their spring and autumn fertilising.
By following these maintenance tips you should have a healthy productive herb garden and be enjoying fresh herbs all year long.
For more information on starting your productive backyard, check out the website.
If you give any of these tips a go, I would love you to let me know about it via my Facebook Page,Pinterestor Instagram!