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.

From: DK Books - Herbs

Similar Topics:
  1. Herbs
  2. Plants

Spread Out the Workload

Throughout the gardening year there is always something that can be usefully done, but in spring and fall there rarely seem to be enough hours in the day, so get as much done in the winter as you can. Try to plan your new schemes in the fall so the hard digging can be done on dryer days in early winter and the soil can be ready for planting in the spring. Pruning and cutting back do not have to be done in the fall—left standing, stems and seedheads provide a habitat and food source for wildlife. In summer, much of the harvesting, pruning, and pinching out is best done in small doses—it makes the process more enjoyable.

Pinching Out

By pinching out the growing tips of herbs such as basil (Ocimum), the plant bushes out as its energy is redirected to lateral buds lower down the stem. Avoid the temptation to just pick off the odd leaf.

Create Fuller Plants by Pinching the Tip

Create Fuller Plants by Pinching the Tip

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

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

Weeding

This is essential to reduce competition for light, water, and nutrients, but take care not to damage your herbs by over-enthusiastic hoeing. This can be an easy task if done regularly, but onerous if left too long.

Garden Maintenance Includes Weeding

Garden Maintenance Includes Weeding

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

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

Removing Seedheads

Do this as the seeds ripen if you want to harvest them or prevent wanton self-seeding. Remember, though, that some can look good in winter and are also a useful food source for the birds.

Remove Seedheads

Remove Seedheads

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

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

Rampant Herbs

Armoracia rusticana

Pungent Horseradish

Pungent Horseradish

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

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

Horseradish is a large, vigorous plant whose tasty roots can taper down over 60 centimeters into the soil and can be very difficult to dig out. It will spread quite rapidly and if you really do want to grow this plant, it would be a good idea to give it its own raised bed within which it can be contained. It will need to be fed extra compost or manure as it requires a fertile soil to produce a good crop and really won’t be productive in a pot.

Removal of the herb, if it has taken over, is arduous and it is important to remove every fragment of root from the soil, as each piece is capable of regenerating and growing to full size within a season or two.

Melissa officinalis and alliums

Sweet Aroma of Lemon Balm

Sweet Aroma of Lemon Balm

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

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

Lemon balm can set seed prodigiously and in time it springs up in every crack or crevice. The flowers are small and insignificant, which can make it difficult to know when to deadhead. An easier method is to cut the whole plant down to within 6 inches of ground level as soon as it is 20–24 inches tall. Alternatively, plant its cousin Melissa officinalis "Aurea," which is more compact and seems to be a bit better behaved.

Alliums can also become a problem as they copiously set seed as well. The seedlings appear in spring but are easy to gather and use as baby chives. Alternatively, hoe them off before they become established.

Mints (Mentha spp.)

Plant Mint in Container

Plant Mint in Container

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

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

These are renowned for rapidly spreading and invading ground where they are not wanted, quickly forming a mass of intertwining stems, roots, and suckers. Avoid this by planting in a container, but do make sure that the drainage holes are blocked with landscape or weed-control fabric as mint will find and exploit any avenues to escape. Bury or sink containers in the ground to just below the rim, but keep a watchful eye as laterally spreading suckers or runners will soon extend beyond the edge and will root very rapidly. Despite this, mints are an essential herb, but do try to avoid planting several types of mint per container as one will become dominant and overpower the rest.

Next Up

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.

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.

Buying Herbs

Get tips on how to buy the best herbs for your space.

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.

Growing Herbs From Cuttings

Many plants do not produce viable seed or, if they do, it is so fiddly or slow to grow that it is easier and quicker to take cuttings from your favorite plant. Always keep your new cuttings moist and in a warm, sunny place.

Dividing Herbs

Plants are not cheap, and some nurseries are reluctant to divulge the easiest methods of quickly growing more from a single specimen. Wait until your new plants are well rooted and then plant them out in the garden.

Making an Herb Path Through a Wildflower Meadow

Many herbs withstand the odd footstep and thrive in the warmth reflected from pavers. Plant creeping thymes for the best effect; they will soon blur the sharp edges of the paving.

Hanging Herb and Vegetable Basket

Having a hanging basket filled with herbs and tomatoes is convenient and easy. Learn what you need to to have your own.

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