Herbs 101

Taking care of your herbs is easier than you think. Follow these tips to ensure success.

Starting Herb Seeds Indoors

Simple to start varieties are basil, chives, parsley, dill, chamomile, chervil, cilantro, lemon balm, marjoram, and sage. When starting herbs from seed, follow the instructions on the packet.

When to Plant Seeds Outdoors

The best time to plant an herb depends on its cold tolerance and the average last frost date in your area. Sow hardy perennial herb seeds outdoors several weeks before your average last frost date. However, most tender, annual herbs germinate better in warm soil.

Transplanting Herbs

Plant container-grown herbs after the danger of frost has passed. Dig a hole twice as wide as but no deeper than the pot in which it is growing. Loosen the plant, then place the root ball in the hole and just cover it with soil. Water the root zone well after planting. Most herbs grow best in well-drained soil and develop the most intense flavour when kept on the dryer side.

Feeding

Avoid over-fertilizing. Organic fertilizers, which decompose slowly, and controlled release manufactured fertilizers are less likely to provide an excess of nutrients at one time.

Pinching

When it comes to flavour, the tender new growth is best. Keep your herbs lush by regularly pinching 2-3 inches off the stem tips. This encourages branching new growth. For more leaves, pinch off flowers that form. Stop pinching and pruning woody herbs 8 weeks before the first frost to encourage new growth.

Spring Pruning

Prune and clean up dead stems from last year’s growth on plants Such as lemon balm, mint, artemisia, and tansy. Some herbs become woody or lanky after several years in the garden. In the spring, prune them back to within 4 inches above the ground before new growth begins. This encourages a bushy and more compact form.

Dividing HerbsSome perennial herbs such as chives form clumps; others such as thyme spread by runners. Both spreading and clumping type herbs can be dug and divided in early spring to make new plants.

Taking CuttingsPropagate woody herbs such as rosemary from stem cuttings. Less woody herbs such as mint, oregano, thyme, and basil will also root easily from cuttings.