image by John Byer
An herb garden smells wonderful, is useful in the kitchen, and provides an endless supply of flavored teas. Once the plants are established, there is very little a gardener has to do to care of an herb garden. Pruning and harvesting provide the most activity, other than enjoying the tantalizing aromas the herbs produce when something brushes up against them. You can have even more herbs by propagating new plants from the ones already in your garden.
Divide fast-growing plants, like mint and sage, to produce more plants. Herbs are hardy plants and digging them for dividing will not harm the plant. The method requires you dig up the original plant and carefully divide the roots. Gently force the roots apart with your fingers until there are two plants. If the plants are still large, it is OK to divide the root ball again.
Clip sections of slow-growing plants, such as lavender, to get more plants. Cuttings will produce many plants. Create a growing medium by filling a flat container with soil. Using the top of a pencil or stick, make several holes in the planting medium. Clip 5 to 6-inch sections from the original plant and remove the lower leaves from the cuttings. Dip the cuttings into a rooting compound and place them into the holes in the tray. Keep the soil moist until the plants have become established. Transplant the new plants into the garden when the weather permits.
Water your herb garden regularly. Herbs let you know when they are thirsty because their leaves start to wilt. Herbs are hardy and can withstand dry periods. During a dry season, it is best to check on the plants everyday to determine if they need water. Always water in the morning so the plant leaves have a chance to dry and mold does not form.
Promote new growth by pruning the herbs after they have become well established. Clipping the ends will promote new growth, causing the plant to become bushier. If the herb is grown for its flowers, allow the flowers to bloom and then cut as desired.
Remove pests such as mites, aphids or other insects by spraying with a solution of 2 tbsp. of dish liquid and 1/2 gallon of water. Keep checking to ensure the infestation does not return. Pinch off any leaves that do not look healthy to keep diseases like leaf mold from occurring.
Cover hardy perennial herbs with straw or mulch when the cold weather hits. There is no need to cut the plants back before covering. As the weather warms up in the spring, remove the covering so the new growth can sprout without any hindrance.
Transfer the annual herb plants in the garden into containers for easy over-wintering inside. Keep the plants in a bright location away from cold drafts. Make sure the pots drain well but that the herbs still retain enough moisture.
Gather seeds produced in your herb garden. Dry them on a paper towel or tray placed in a warm, dry area. When the seeds are completely dry, transfer them into jars, bags or envelopes for planting next spring.