How to Grow Herbs & Spices
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.
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.
How to Grow Herbs & Spices
Decide which herbs and spices you want to grow. This is important because the growing environment required may be different for each plant you want to grow. For example, ginger wants only filtered sun and no wind, basil needs full sun and oregano does best is partial sun. What you want to grow determines where your bed(s) should be.
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 catalogues.
Prepare your beds. All herbs do best in fertile soil with good drainage. Turn the soil with a fork or tiller down at least six inches and work organic materials into the soil.
Test your soil’s pH. Most herbs prefer neutral to slightly acidic soils. Check your plant reference book for the herbs and spices you want to grow and then correct your soil to meet the plant’s requirements.
Place herbs 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 one inch deep into the soil. Seeds should be planted into the soil to a depth three times the length of the seed .
Water the soil gently being careful not to disturb the plants or seeds. A watering can is easier on delicate plants than a hose.
Prune leafy herbs with clean clippers as they are growing to encourage spread and remove older leaves.
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.
- 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