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Herb growing basics

POSTED: August 19, 2009 4:00 a.m.

Herbs are great for the novice gardener. They grow quickly, and most can tolerate a range of soil conditions. Plus, many are naturally pest-resistant. 


Whether you grow them indoors or out, in the garden or in containers, there is an exciting variety of herbs and herb-growing methods to choose from.  


There’s no mystery to growing great herbs — just meet their basic needs, and they’ll reward you with bountiful harvest.


Choose the right site. Most herbs need lots of sun and well-drained, fertile soil.


Have your soil tested. If you have any doubts as to your soils fertility, it’s best to have it tested and then make adjustments to balance fertility levels. Most of the herbs do well with a little higher pH than our natural soil contains.


It’s a myth that herbs don’t need nutrients. What you put in is what you get out. Also, compost makes an excellent addition to the herb bed each year.


Work it into the top 6-8 inches of the soil profile.


Start with plants, not seeds. With most herbs, buying plants is easier than starting your own from seed. The exceptions are easy annuals like dill, which can be sown directly outdoors.


Make a plan before you plant. 


First decide on a focal point, like a birdbath or sundial, than add paths for easy access. To define planting areas, give your garden a permanent spot, but leave room for expansion.


Plant at the proper spacing. For perennials, 18 to 24 inches between plants is a good rule of thumb. Some herbs, such as thyme and parsley, tolerate close planting (about 6 to 8 inches apart).


Water immediately after transplanting, then check the soil and water only as needed. Herbs don’t like to be wet.


Wait until the top inch of the soil is dry before watering again. This will help prevent problems with fungal diseases.


Don’t forget to mulch. After you plant, spread a fine mulch to conserve moisture and control weeds. Be sure to continue to pull weeds that grow through the mulch.


For additional information on herbs in the garden, call the Dawson County Extension at (706) 265-2442.


Clark Beusse is the Dawson County extension agent.


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