Starting Your Herb Garden
I spoke a while ago about the benefits of growing fresh herbs, but how does that actually work? We are heading into spring, and with rising temperatures, gardening can be a little tricky in Florida.
Herbs are fairly hearty, but if you’re worried about the temperatures or you don’t have room for a garden in your backyard, growing herbs inside is pretty simple.
Begin with good quality plants. You will be able to harvest sooner if you buy seedlings. The best place to get plants is, of course, a nursery or cuttings from a friend’s garden. However, if those options aren’t available to you, places like Lowe’s or Home Depot have good garden centers. I have also seen some nice herbs in pots at Publix. Look in the produce section. In a later article, I will go into more detail about specific herbs. However, to get you started, think about the kinds of food you like eating most and buy one or two herbs that are commonly used in those dishes.
Plants in a garden have a lot of room to spread out, to breathe (believe it or not, plants do breathe), and to drain water well. When choosing pots, you want to select types that will facilitate this as much as possible while at the same time not being messy.
Unglazed terracotta is pretty porous, and is good for allowing your plants to breathe. It doesn’t retain water as well, though, which may mean watering your plants more often. If you want to water less, you can get away with a glazed pot, just put some pebbles or about three-quarters of an inch of gravel in the bottom to create a drainage system. Plastic pots are not recommended. If you’re worried about getting soil and water all over your floor, keep a tray under the pots. This will also help you gauge how effective the pot is at draining. The experts say that if you can’t see any water out the bottom within a minute of thorough watering (to the rim of the pot), you need more drainage holes.
Also, make sure you have enough pots for each kind of plant to have its own. It doesn’t need to be giant, especially if you have one plant per herb. This will prevent overcrowding and starving your herbs.
Planting and Position
Use potting mix designed for house plants to prepare your pots. These have more nutrients than regular garden soil, and most are more water retentive.
When transplanting your herbs from their store containers to the pots, it may be helpful to expose them to several cold, but not freezing, nights to get them used to the cooler temperatures of your house. Herbs should do fine in an atmosphere of around sixty-five to seventy-five degrees.
Herbs like light: a minimum of four hours of sunlight a day. Place them in the sunniest spot you can find, ideally a south-facing window. Even with that, some experts recommend using a grow light.
Water your herbs regularly. How regularly may depend. Check the soil with your finger. If it feels dry, it’s time to water. A good rule of thumb is to keep pouring until water comes out of the drainage holes in the bottom.
Herbs also need to be fed more when in pots than when in a garden outside. Apply an all-purpose plant fertilizer about once a month. It is also possible for herbs to become too dry in an air-conditioned environment. Keep a spray bottle filled with water handy and if you see that happening, mist the plants.
You may notice your potted herbs looking a bit scraggly. That’s normal; they have more distance to reach to get direct sunlight. To prevent them growing too unevenly, rotate the pot now and then so different sides get direct exposure to the window.
It is possible to over-harvest, so give your plants some time to get going. The experts say choose sprigs that are one to two inches at the growing tips when cutting. Pinching is actually better for the plant that cutting with scissors.
And there you have it! In further articles, I’ll go into more detail about specific gardening containers and plants to buy.