Growing herbs organically means without the use of manufactured chemicals including fertilizers, weed control products, insect or fungus treatments. Applying organic growing methods is part of the sustainability agriculture movement that aims to reduce exposure to potentially harmful chemicals. Organically produced vegetables and herbs have become increasingly popular as more is learned about the harmful effects of chemicals in food and the environment. Many herbs are perfect candidates for organic growing because they naturally repel bugs and do not require extreme measures to grow well in most gardens.
How to Grow Herbs Organically
Start with clean soil. If your soil has not received chemical treatment for a couple years, any pesticide or fertilizer residue has probably decomposed or leached out, although some do have a long life in the soil. If you have any doubts, remove soil from the area where you want to grow herbs and replace it with organic soil or build raised beds and add new organic soil to them.
Enrich the soil with organic materials such as leaves, peat moss and grass clippings at least four months before planting to give these raw materials time to decompose. If time is limited, add composted materials and peat moss. Thoroughly mix with the soil.
Select certified organic herb plants and seeds. It will work best if you purchase plants locally because they will be more likely to be adapted to your area than mail-order organic herb plants. As growing organic has become popular, it is easier to find organic plants even in large box store nurseries. In addition to the herbs in your reference book, the Tucson Organic Gardeners Herb Guide offers suggestions on herbs that you might want to try growing.
Plant the organic herbs with consideration of their need for sun, water and their eventual size. Cluster herbs together that share common needs. Use the trowel to open a space in the soil slightly larger than the transplant's root ball. Use the clippers to remove any dead leaves.
Apply organic fertilizers. There are many organic fertilizers to choose from including fish emulsion, compost tea (made from the liquid runoff of composting organic materials), manure, bat guano and seaweed.
Water your herbs as needed. Some herbs only need to be watered when they completely dry out. Other herbs like moisture available all of the time, although they do not want their roots to stay soaked. Use a soaker hose to minimize water on the leaves or use a watering can in the early morning so the leaves have time to dry out. Check your herb reference book for individual plant watering needs.
Control pests. All gardeners occasionally have to deal with pests. There are organic products that can reduce insect attacks on your herb plants. Extremely Green Organic Pest Control Guide offers several excellent suggestions.