Instead of buying dried or preserved herbs in the grocery store, grow you own fresh herbs in your backyard. You can use herbs for a myriad of purposes, including food seasoning or medicinal purposes. Though specific herb care requirements and planting guidelines vary by herb species, several general guidelines can help you successfully plant all types of herbs.
Most herb species thrive best when planted in well-drained soil. Low-lying areas should traditionally be avoided because water collects in such areas. Ideally, the gardening area should slope slightly. Additionally, the site should be sunny. Though some herb species can tolerate shade, the best herb garden thrives with a minimum of four to six hours of direct sun, according to the University of Illinois.
You don't need to relegate herbs to their own garden. You can also plant herbs throughout a traditional vegetable garden, among ornamental flowers or along walkways where their scents can tickle the senses of those walking by, according to Purdue University. You might also want to consider the proximity of your panting site to your kitchen if you plan to use the herbs in your favorite entrees.
The soil pH of the planting site can significantly affect the growth rates of the herbs you plant. To produce the best-tasting herbs, the University of Missouri says the soil should have a pH ranging between 6.5 and 7.0. A pH testing kit from a local nursery can help you determine your soil's pH readings, and your regional cooperative extension office (see Resources) can direct you on what pH-adjusting soil amendments are used in your area. Various types of limes, phosphates and sulfates can raise and lower the soil pH as necessary.
Planting Site Preparation
Prepare the planting site by using a spade or a mechanical tiller and breaking up the soil to a depth of 12 inches. To improve drainage and help the soil remain moist, the University of Missouri suggests mixing 4 inches of compost into the soil. Fertilization isn't necessary, as many herbs grow best in relatively low fertility conditions.
Sow the herb seeds directly in the soil as soon as the last frost date in your area has passed. Sink the seeds at the depth recommended on the seed packet. If you don't have a seed packet, like if you collected seeds from an existing herb plant, cover each seed with soil at a depth that's double the herb seed's diameter, according to the Alabama Cooperative Extension.