Growing a small herb garden…
Whether it’s the convenience of having your own fresh herbs, the fun of gardening and caring for plants, or even teaching children the importance of growing your own food, growing an herb garden is the one of the easiest ways to get started in gardening, even with few resources. space, such as a small outdoor garden or perhaps in planters on an apartment balcony, or even a kitchen windowsill. To get started, you can choose to buy a packet of seeds or get plants already in containers from your local nursery and you’re good to go. However, there are some basic ground rules to ensure success.
Choose herbs to grow
“Selecting which herbs to grow should depend on what you want to eat,” says Ian Weir, horticulturist with more than four decades of experience and founder of Essential Amathole, an essential oil farm located in the Amathole district of the Eastern Cape. “For example, some of the most common herbs people eat are basil, rosemary, thyme, and to some extent dill. And then of course there is cilantro. But it should be largely driven by what you want to eat,” he says.
It’s equally important to consider the climate, says Weir: “The first step is to determine the direction of your sun. This is key, especially with a city garden. Does your balcony or garden get the morning sun? Is it sunny in the afternoon? Is there sun? Generally, plants will need either direct sunlight or… indirect sunlight; some shade and some sun. You can definitely achieve that on a balcony,” he explains.
Potted indoor herbs, in particular, should be in a “well-lit and bright position”, but not necessarily exposed to direct heat from the sun for long periods of time. A kitchen windowsill that receives a few hours of daily sunlight would work well in this case.
Depending on the herbs you choose to grow, there are also plenty of online resources that consider the local climate and tell you how much sun your selection needs, such as Southafrica.co.za’s detailed list of different grasses and how they react to local weather conditions, The Gardening Dad’s listing of the ten best herbs to grow in South Africa, and herb gardening from Eco Herb Blog.
The floor, the secret of success
Whether you’ve chosen pots, larger planters, or are using your own garden, your soil as a medium for growing the herbs will determine the outcome of your herb garden. “For me, that’s the secret of success. You should talk to your local nursery about the soil conditioners they have in bags, which you can then put in your soil. And usually, if you’re doing it in open ground, like a yard-by-yard bed, you introduce your soil conditioner before you plant your herbs,” says Weir.
A good soil conditioner improves the physical qualities of soil, such as its ability to hold water and nutrients, increase aeration, and loosen clay soils. To take a closer look at the role of soil in gardening, be sure to tag gardener and Maverick life Contributor Megan Mackenzie’s article, “From Scratch: The Importance of Good Soil”
It is also important to ensure that the soil is well drained. “The general rule is that most herbs do not require more than 28 millimeters of water in a month, as they are shallow-rooted plants. In containers, you should closely monitor the moisture that is supplied to the plants. plants because even though the pots don’t hold a lot of moisture, they also need to be properly drained because some plants aren’t happy with the moisture on their feet,” says Weir.
Specifically, he points out, mints like peppermint, garden mint, and spearmint “like wet feet,” so they don’t need as much drainage, while others like thyme, rosemary, cilantro, arugula, “all like water, but must be well drained.” When it comes to gardening in clay-rich soil, it’s also important to remember that it’s not s This is something to consider when visiting the local nursery to choose a soil conditioner, as well as choosing which herbs to grow.
Take care of your plants
“You have to be on top of your midfield,” Weir advises, “With any small-scale grow you have to keep an eye on the food the plants need. For example, you can buy a seaweed concentrate at the nursery, as a foliar fertilizer; you mix it with water and spread it on your plant on the leaves or pour it into the growing area. This keeps your plant healthy and growing well, and keeps you harvesting.
Along with weeding, pruning and cutting off faded flower heads, he also recommends interplanting as a way to mimic what happens in nature: “If there is a diversity of vegetation, the likelihood of serial attacks by insects and viruses is reduced only if you have a monoculture. Another thing to watch out for are slugs and snails, which are largely active at night. Weir recommends checking your garden at night with a headlamp, and if there are any slugs or snails, “get them off the plants then throw them out.”
Perennial herbs vs annual herbs
Perennial herbs typically last for years, harvest after harvest. Wier replaces his rosemary plants once every 12 years, “when it gets a little woody.” Other beloved perennials are thyme and mint. On the other hand, annuals such as basil, arugula, and dill typically have a one-year lifespan, during which they grow, produce the leaves you want, flower, and then die. However, with annuals and perennials, you should be able to harvest the leaves as soon as they are ready throughout the life cycle.
As the plants grow, some will produce seeds that you can harvest and replant, and others, like rosemary, you can take cuttings and propagate in your home. “Through trial and error you start to identify which plants are producing beautifully. I started going to the nursery and getting seeds and stuff, and now we’re largely collecting seeds from mature plants for the keep; then start propagating again from there, depending on how well the plant performed the year before,” says Weir. DM/ML