Herb garden mistakes are easy to make – and keeping your herbs healthy and tasty is easier said than done. They come with the misconception that they don’t need as much nutrition as other plants – but they don’t. Whether it’s placement, position in a pot, or your watering routine (or lack of it), there are a handful of factors that can affect the overall look and taste of your herbs.
At the Houses & gardens we’ve seen a fair share of gardening mistakes, but none that focus specifically on herbs. Whether you’re picking up your first herb plant or you’re an avid grower and cooker, we’ve rounded up the most common herbal mistakes from Kate Turner, an expert at the forefront of the gardening world.
Here is Kate who has shared her advice on BBCs Garden rescue Among other things, discusses the top five mistakes to watch out for and what to do instead.
The Most Common Herb Horticultural Mistakes – And How To Avoid Them
These all-too-common herb planting mistakes are quick and easy to fix with a little help from Kate.
1. Grow your herbs in the wrong place
As with other garden plants, herbs need to be planted in a location that is convenient for them. Before choosing herbs, check whether they like sun or shade, swampy or well-drained soil, calcareous or acidic soil. Get it wrong and you won’t last. Planting them in groups that prefer similar conditions will give you good ground cover and ensure success.
“You want to divide the herbs according to their different types. Lavender, sage, oregano, and thyme are all Mediterranean herbs and can be planted together. Keep in mind that some will likely need to be divided after a year as sage and rosemary can grow in size. You may have to move them, ”Kate begins.
She continues, “Some Mediterranean herbs like rosemary and sage are perennial, which means they will last for years. Although these herbs survive in a shady spot, they do need some sun as this will help release the essential oils that we use in our cooking. If they get just a little bit of sun they won’t smell as good, but they will still survive. ”
Kate expands and focuses on each herb’s different preferences when it comes to direct sunlight: “Basil needs a little sun, but I’d put that in a separate pot for lavender. Parsley, dill, and chives can handle a lot more shade, but don’t grow them with lavender, rosemary, and thyme. They can go to the shadier corner and they’ll be fine. ”
2. Create a number of herbs
Overcrowded plants of any kind don’t do well – and so do herbs. Therefore, it is important to plan the planting carefully. Start by measuring the bed or container. Then when you buy herbs, check for any spread and plant accordingly.
If you accidentally or intentionally plant them too tightly, you need to be prepared to lift them up and divide them about once a year so that each herb plant has enough room to grow.
Some, of course, only last one season, so sharing them isn’t always practical – which means you need to be more careful than ever to avoid overplanting your herbs.
3. Forget to cut your herbs regularly
While herbs are not primarily celebrated for their aesthetic value, that doesn’t mean we should neglect their care. Kate shares, “The thing about herbs is remembering to keep cutting them. If you don’t want to use the trims for cooking, you can freeze them or put them in ice cubes. Just leave them picked as this will help the plant hold its shape. ‘
Regular pruning also promotes healthy growth and prevents the herbs from getting leggy, prevents blooms from forming, and prevents them from eventually becoming leafless.
Kate offers a way to prune and propagate your herbs to create a completely separate plant. The best part? It’s a completely new plant, for free.
“As soon as the herbs get bigger, you should cut right under the leaf knot and then place them in water. For example, with something like basil, you can put six stems in a jam jar with water to make roots grow. Once the roots are bigger, you can put them in the ground and get a new plant for free, ”reveals Kate.
4. Let herbal flowers sow
Many herbs will bloom, especially if you don’t cut them regularly. And while they are pretty to look at – and some can even be eaten – if they bloom, especially at the beginning of their growing season, it will bring on their early death.
So ideally, don’t let your herbs bloom at all. If so, quickly cut the flowers off to prevent them from dying.
5. Don’t add gravel to your soil
Yes, the surprising reason your herbs may die is because of the lack of gravel in your soil. While this technique may seem unconventional, Kate suggests that this hard substance creates a better drainage system for your plants, which in turn allows them to thrive longer and tastes better.
“Your herbs need well-drained soil, so you need to add some grit to your soil. If you don’t have one, you can buy some horticultural grain from a garden center and add it to your plant and soil. You have to make sure it’s not too wet, ”shares Kate.
“The thyme and lavender should be in the sunniest spot, so you’ll need to add some sand if you have compost. The parsley and chives don’t need as much drainage – they get a little wetter, ”she adds.
6. Believe that your herbs don’t need water
Although a thorough watering routine is a regular part of the daily routine of other plants, herbs are often neglected because of their Mediterranean heritage. However, these properties don’t mean they can survive without a regular drink, as Kate adds:
“You have to keep watering during the first season. Herbs are often referred to as “drought tolerant”, but nothing is drought tolerant until the roots have actually grown into that soil. Give it a season to keep up with your watering – people often forget that.
Ideally, watering around the roots of the herbs first thing in the morning will allow the soil – and herbs – to absorb the water before the sun comes out. Avoid watering the leaves as this will not promote the health of the plants.
7. Don’t mulch your herb garden
Another common mistake in herb gardening is to skip the mulching phase. Given our most enthusiastic herb planting season, when the weather is warm, this is an oversight that can cause your herbs to struggle to thrive – and it means you need to water more regularly.
Add mulch to the soil around the herbs, but avoid mulching down to the stems of your herbs, which can lead to pests.
8. Don’t feed your herbs
Regularly pruning your herbs will make them work harder, so feeding them is a must. Get in the habit of doing this with a suitable organic feed once a week and avoid the leaves when you water them.
9. Plant mint in your garden
While an excess of plants is never really a bad thing, Kate reminds us of a specific herb that is notorious for spreading almost uncontrollably across our gardens – and how to prevent it from doing so.
“The biggest mistake is to plant mint in the ground because you will never get rid of it,” she proclaims.
“I have chocolate mint all over my garden. I planted it in a pot in the ground – you shouldn’t do that. Put them in a separate container. It is the same with a lemon balm plant. That’s another herb that will just take over. ‘
Armed with Kate’s tips, we have no doubt that our herb gardens will be fertile and our dinners will be tasty for the rest of the season and beyond.
10. First and foremost, buy sick herbs
This mistake, of course, applies across the board: when you buy a plant – especially herbs that you plan to harvest – check it for signs of disease and pests. That means not only looking for unhealthy-looking leaves but also looking under leaves for any insects or eggs that you really don’t want to take home to infest the rest of your garden.