Growing and selling fresh herbs for profit is becoming more popular as an avenue to increase income. To command the highest price for your fresh culinary herbs, it is not so much what type of herb you are growing, but how you grow it. The result should be an appealing, undamaged, fresh herb. Whether you market them to friends, restaurant chefs or at farmers markets, offering fresh herbs with no flaws will increase your profits.
Select an area in your landscaping that receives full sun for at least six to eight hours a day to prepare your culinary herb garden. The majority of culinary herbs have Mediterranean origins and will grow best in a similar environment that is sunny with well draining soil.
Spread a 2 inch layer of organic compost or well rotted manure over the soil surface of the area where you plan to grow your culinary herbs.
Use a shovel to dig about 12 to 18 inches deep into the soil of your herb garden, working the organic compost or rotted manure into the dug up soil. By adding compost or manure to your herb garden soil, you are not only supplementing the soil with the needed nutrients the herbs will need to grow healthy and thrive, but also helping the soil to retain moisture better and drain. At the same time you are adding compost or manure to your soil, remove any weeds, being vigilant to remove the entire root system as you do.
Most herbs prefer a slightly alkaline soil. Confer with your local agricultural extension office to determine the pH value of your soil. If the results indicate that your soil has a low pH (acidic), your agricultural extension personnel will be able to guide you on the amount of supplemental lime you should add as you work the compost into the ground.
Use a rake to smooth and level the herb garden soil surface.
Plant your herbs, either by sowing seeds or planting starter plants. Follow the directions on the seed packets or on the pot labels concerning depth and spacing.
Water your herb seeds or seedlings thoroughly after planting. For sown seeds and newly transplanted young herb plants, maintain a moist growing soil until the herb roots are well established.
Cover the soil around your herb plants with about 2 inches of organic mulch. The mulch benefits your herb plants by keeping weeds down, keeping moisture in the soil and adding nutrients to the soil to feed your herb plants and make them less prone to disease and fungi.
Water your herb garden regularly, but because most herbs are drought tolerant and prefer a slightly drier soil, check the soil before watering. If the first inch to 1 1/2 inches feels dry, it is time to give your herb plants a thorough soaking. Using a drip irrigation system to water your herbs will keep mud, insect and disease damage, and water stains off your herbs, which, in turn, means you will be able to receive premium prices for your fresh herbs. Consumers will pay higher prices for plump, undamaged and clean herb products.
Fertilize your herbs once a month, using a half strength mixture of a 2:3:2 formulated fertilizer, only if you have very poor soil that lacks nutritional content. Otherwise, the organic compost or rotted manure you added, plus the organic mulch surrounding your herb plants, should be sufficient to supply the nutritional needs of your herbs.
Overfertilizing, like overwatering, will create scraggly grown herbs that have reduced levels of essence oils and flavor, resulting in a lower quality and lower profits for you.
Harvest your fresh culinary herbs in the morning, after the dew has left the leaves but before the heat of the day. Use sharp garden shears or scissors to cut your herbs and immediately place them, stems down, into a container of cool water to retain their freshness. When you harvest your fresh herbs in the morning, you capture the full amount of essence oil in the leaves and stems of the herb plant, which will make the fresh herbs you are selling more flavorful and in demand for higher profits.