Buying Herbs

Get tips on how to buy the best herbs for your space.
From: DK Books - Herbs

Shopping for new plants can be very enjoyable, but it is easy to get carried away by the latest, prettiest, most colorful new cultivar or "must have" and spend your budget in an instant. Browsing at flower shows or at nurseries, however, is free and will stimulate many new ideas.

Where to Buy

Many people buy their first herb from a supermarket; most likely an intensively produced basil or parsley. At the other extreme is the specialist nursery that stocks many hundreds of cultivars from one or two genera. Happily, in between there are the plant nurseries staffed by knowledgable and enthusiastic professionals, only too happy to help.

Most nurseries try to display their stock when it is looking its best, which can mean in full flower and perhaps not the best time for planting. Ask the staff what would be best and then, as your skills and knowledge grow, you will also feel more at home with the specialists.

Herb Garden

Herb Garden

Photo by: DK - Simple Steps to Success: Herbs © 2009 Dorling Kindersley Limited

DK - Simple Steps to Success: Herbs, 2009 Dorling Kindersley Limited

What to Look for

Space your herb shopping trips over the year as you will soon discover which nursery consistently carries a comprehensive but changing range as well as demonstrating what looks good at different times of the year.

Good Points
Look for healthy, younger plants whose foliage should be clean, unstained, and free of excessive damage. The compost should be moist but not waterlogged and the surface should be weed free. Clean pots are indicative of young plants grown in an uncongested space. Make sure the labeling is clear.

What to Avoid
Be wary of buying small plants in big pots as these could have recently being potted up and are not good value. Also avoid plants that look tired, wilted, or have matted roots growing through the drainage holes.

Identify Young, Healthy Plants to Purchase

Identify Young, Healthy Plants to Purchase

Photo by: DK - Simple Steps to Success: Herbs © 2009 Dorling Kindersley Limited

DK - Simple Steps to Success: Herbs, 2009 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Good Versus Bad Rootballs

Good Rootballs
A herb should be easy to remove from its pot without damaging the plant or its roots. It will be pest free, just moist and filled with a lose mesh of fine and coarse roots (Image 1).

Bad Rootballs
Such herbs are hard to remove from the pot without damaging the plant. It may be waterlogged or have evidence of pests. The roots may be congested (Image 2).

Avoid Leggy Plants

These may be cheap, but leggy stems are indicative of overcrowing and poor light. Avoid them unless you have the time and patience to nurse them back to health.

Leggy Stems a Cause for Concern

Leggy Stems a Cause for Concern

Photo by: DK - Simple Steps to Success: Herbs © 2009 Dorling Kindersley Limited

DK - Simple Steps to Success: Herbs, 2009 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Size of Plants

Plugs
These are very small plants and are a useful way of growing large numbers of identical plants. Often sold by mail order, they need to grow on before being planted out (Image 1).

Pot Size
Price and pot size are closely related, but a large plant can be harder to establish and needs care over periods of drought. Smaller plants may need transplanting (Image 2).

Large Mixed Plantings
These are a useful way of getting an instantly harvestable selection of herbs. They need regular trimming and dividing or replanting after a season or two (Image 3).

Next Up

Maintaining Your Herbs

Herbs are generally quite robust plants but appreciate a little attention. Leaving them to do their own thing is tempting, but many can get carried away if untended and spread themselves everywhere, so maintaining them is essential.

Growing Herbs

Plants can be expensive and identical cultivars difficult to source, but increasing your own stock or growing new varieties is not difficult and is very rewarding in exchange for a small amount of financial outlay.

Feeding Herbs

All plants need sustenance to keep them healthy and herbs are no different. Soil and potting compost tire quickly and regularly need replenishing or feeding.

Growing Herbs From Seed

Get tips on how to easily and inexpensively grow herbs from seed.

How to Plant an Herb Bed

Forget your spice cabinet, and grow your very own herbs with this step-by-step planting guide.

How to Sow and Plant Culinary Herbs

Essential recipe ingredients, herbs are great for beginners. Many will grow in the tiniest of spaces in hanging baskets, on windowsills and among other crops.

How to Plant a Kitchen Herb Garden

Have some extra space in your yard or garden? Plant a fresh and simple herb garden only steps away from the kitchen.

Know Your Herbs

Herbs can be very striking visually, but they also possess many other characteristics that may remain hidden unless you get to know your plants' secret talents.

Pruning and Trimming Herbs

Herbs respond well to regular attention and can become lank and woody or sprawl untidily unless they are cut back or deadheaded each year.

Culinary and Medicinal Herb Gardening

Intricate hard landscaping mixed with lush plantings of culinary and medicinal herbs creates an effect that mimics some facets of the great and grandiose gardens from the last few centuries.

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