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How to Grow Herbs & Spices

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How to Grow Herbs & Spices

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Overview

Growing herbs and spices for culinary and medicinal use is one of the true pleasures of gardening. Herbs are easy to grow in the home garden. Soil preparation and the right location are the keys to success in growing herbs. Spices are more challenging because most need tropical conditions to survive and grow. However, spices including ginger, coriander and horseradish can be grown by home gardeners. (Note: Although some people use the terms herb and spice interchangeably, they are in different botanical categories according to the National Arboretum. In general, herbs come from the leaves on plants that do not have a woody stem and spices come from plant fruits, roots or wood.)

Step 1

Decide which herbs and spices you want to grow. This is important because the growing environment required may be different for each plant. For example, ginger wants only filtered sun and no wind, basil needs full sun and oregano does best in partial sun. What you want to grow determines where your herb bed should be.

Step 2

Find sources for your herb and spice plants. Common herbs will be readily available at local nurseries. Ginger can be started from grocery store rhizomes soaked overnight to remove any growth retardant. However, more exotic herbs and spices will need to be ordered from special nurseries or online catalogs.

Step 3

Prepare your beds. All herbs do best in fertile soil with good drainage. Turn the soil with a fork, or tiller down at least 6 inches and work organic material into the soil.

Step 4

Test your soil's pH. Most herbs prefer neutral to slightly acidic soils. Check your plant reference book and then correct your soil to meet the plant's requirements.

Step 5

Place herb transplants into the worked bed by opening a hole slightly larger than the root ball. Garlic and ginger planted from cloves or rhizomes should be planted at least 1 inch deep into the soil. Seeds should be planted into the soil to a depth three times the length of the seed.

Step 6

Water the soil gently, careful not to disturb the plants or seeds. A watering can is easier on delicate plants than a hose.

Step 7

Prune leafy herbs with clean clippers as they are growing to encourage spread and remove older leaves.

Step 8

Monitor and treat your plants for insect damage or disease. Although most herbs are not targeted by insects, some caterpillars love dill and fennel. "Aphids, two-spotted spider mites, cabbage loopers, leafminers and whiteflies also challenge herb growers," according to Bastiaan M. Drees, Associate Professor of Entomology at Texas A&M.

Things You'll Need

  • Reference book on herbs and spices
  • Catalog of exotic herbs and spices or Internet access to order plants and seeds
  • Fork or tiller
  • Organic matter to enrich soil
  • pH tester
  • Watering can
  • Clippers for pruning

References

  • The United States National Arboretum definition of herb and spice
  • Spices and Herbs for the Home Garden from New Mexico State University Agriculture
  • Management of Insects on Herbs by Bastiaan M. Drees
Keywords: growing herbs, growing spices, how to grow herbs

About this Author

Barbara Brown has been a freelance writer since 2006. She worked 10 years performing psychological testing before moving into information research. She worked as a knowledge management specialist and project manager in defense and health research. She is studying to be a master gardener and has a master's degree in psychology from Southern Methodist University.