Monday, May 4, 2015

Growing Organic Herbs


Herbs can be the easiest produce to grow organically. Like all organic gardens, an herb garden starts with good soil. Once you have achieved that, raising most herbs will be a piece of cake. Herbs can be planted outdoors in smaller spaces than a vegetable garden would take. Many herbs can also be grown in containers that can be brought inside at the end of regular growing season for a year-round harvest.

Preparing for an herb garden is basically the same as preparing for any other type of organic garden.

1. Enrich the soil by adding compost or other organic materials.
2. Choose strong seedlings or if planting by seed, thin the young plants to allow for optimum growth.
3. Use mulch to control weeds.
4. Use only organic pesticides and companion planting to deter the insect population.

Ten Popular Herbs You Can Grow

Basil –  This annual plant grows to a height of about 2 feet. It prefers full sun and rich soil. Basil should be planted where it has some protection from strong winds. Basil can be harvested when the plant has first reached full growth. Clip leaves and stems from the top 3 or 4 inches of the plant. Using this method will allow for several harvests over the growing season.

Chives – This perennial is best grown in clumps and at maturity will reach a height of approximately 18 inches. Chives thrive in full sun and heavily nurtured soil, so extra compost and mulch is necessary. Chives should be divided every year, so plan on extra space. Chives can be harvested at any time during the season, as the tender leaves are what are most often used in cooking.

Dill –  Another annual that is also best grown in clumps. Reaching a height of around 3 feet, dill should be planted where it does not shade other plants. The leaves of the dill plant can be harvested during the growing season as needed, while the fruiting umbels are harvested when the fruit is fully formed but not yet brown.

Marjoram – Marjoram is a perennial that must be grown as an annual in areas where freezing is common during the winter months. Marjoram should be started from seed in peat pots or other growing medium in late winter and transplanted as early in the spring as possible to a permanent location outside. Marjoram grows to a height of between 1 and 2 feet. Harvest when the plants begin to bloom by cutting back several inches from the flower heads. Several cuttings can be made before season’s end.

Parsley – Parsley is a biennial, but the leaves of the plant can be harvested anytime during the first season once the plant has neared maturity. Parsley is slow to germinate, and the seed should be soaked overnight before planting in a partially shaded area.

Rosemary – A perennial plant that after a few years will become an ever producing-shrub, with rosemary, you must take care to choose a location where it will have plenty of room to grow. Rosemary will grow in poor soil provided it is fertilized with ample lime and full sun. Harvest after the plant has reached full growth of approximately 3 feet tall.

Sage – Another perennial that should be started indoors in late winter and transplanted when 2 to 3 inches tall, sage is a great choice for your organic herb garden. Outdoors sage prefers full sun and sandy soil. Harvest the leaves before the plant blooms and again at the end of the growing season. Sage should be replanted every 3 or 4 years, as older plants tend to become woody.

Savory – An annual herb that prefers full sun and rich, mostly dry, soil. Savory can be harvested at any time during the season for immediate use. For drying, savory should be harvested by cutting the top 6 inches of the plant after it has flowered.

Thyme –  A perennial that should be started indoors and transplanted when the plants reach 2 to 3 inches. Thyme does best in full sun and sandy, sweet soil and grows to around 18 inches in height. Harvest by cutting the top 6 inches from the plant when it is in bloom.

Oregano – Oregano is a perennial plant that grows to around 20 inches tall. Oregano is simple to grow provided it has full sun and fairly dry soil. Harvest a few leaves for immediate use once the plant has reached near maturity. For drying, harvest at the end of the season.

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