grow your own herbs

Why grow your own herbs organically?

I choose this method out of respect for the environment and because I want to work in harmony with nature. If garden soil is enriched regularly, with compost which has been made from plant material recycled from the home and garden, food is provided for the plants without the need for chemical fertilisers.

Organically grown herbs attract a vast array of wildlife to the garden. These birds, bees, butterflies and other insects will ensure pollination and this, in turn, will increase your yield. You can then enjoy using your herbs in the knowledge that they are free form pesticides and high in nutrients. If you, as I do, choose to grow your own herbs for cooking and to make remedies to treat certain common ailments then you will want to know that they are free of chemical pollutants.

When deciding which herbs to grow, look at the amount of sunshine the bed will get. If it is in full sun you may wish to consider some of the Mediterrean herbs. They also like free draining soil, so if yours is not, you will want to add some sand or grit when preparing the bed. If the bed is in partial shade, marigolds, chervil, coriander and dill are some of the herbs you can grow.

Prepare your ground

If you have a large plot or are starting a new garden to grow your own herbs, you may want to consider using a tiller or cultivator. These machines make light work of breaking ground, whether for new plots, or when preparing an area for planting. They can plough furrows for planting potatoes or onions and be put to use incorporating compost or fertiliser into the soil. A tiller can make gardening easier and save you time!

When planning a new herb garden the first thing to look at is the soil. Pick some up and feel it! If you squeeze it and it stays in a clump you have clay soil, if it is light and stony and contains pieces of chalk you have a chalky soil, if it is gritty you have a sandy soil and if it is rich and crumbly it is a loam - often considered the best soil for growing herbs. You can buy a testing kit to check the pH value of your soil, which will give you an idea of which herbs will grow well in your garden.

You may want to consider raised beds for growing your own herbs. This method allows you to choose your working height and prevents soil compaction as it eliminates the need for treading on the soil. Raised bed kits are available to buy, or you can make your own from timber. If you do decide to make your own, be sure to choose untreated wood, so that you do not have the problem of chemicals leaching out and contaminating your organic soil!

The next thing to do is prepare your herb bed. Start by digging out unwanted weeds, if you have them, making sure that you get out all of the roots. I use a border fork and spade in the garden as they are narrower and I tend to plant things close together to make maximum use of the space! If you prepare the ground early in Spring it is a good idea to cover the bed with black plastic sheeting for a few weeks, to exclude light so that no weed seeds will start to sprout and to ensure that the soil is warmed up before you are ready to plant.

Your next decision will be whether to grow herbs from seed, or buy ready grown small plants to put into your herb bed. Growing from seed is easy and satisfying, but needs space. If you do not have a greenhouse, or some sunny window ledges indoors, then you may decide to put in small plants after all danger of frost has passed. Take care to ensure that the seed or plants you buy are organic to maintain a truly organic herb garden.