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How to Grow Herbs Outdoors

basilica herbs image by Tomo Jesenicnik from

Whether you are a seasoned gardener wanting to expand into herbs or a beginner looking to cut your grocery bill, growing herbs outdoors offers an economical alternative. Plant a few of the standard varieties such as chives, parsley and basil, or create a gourmet palette that includes such offerings as dill, lavender and catnip.

Choose a site for your herbs that gets at least eight hours of sun per day. Most herbs originated in warm climate areas and require significant sunlight daily to thrive. Each seed packet will contain the spacing required for the fully mature plants. Determine the number of plants you plan to grow and calculate the total required planting space for your herb garden. If you do not have the required amount of space available, consider planting some of the herbs in containers.

Prepare the soil by raking the designated area clear of rocks, twigs, and debris. Using a shovel, loosen the soil to a depth of approximately 8 inches. Add compost, peat moss, vermiculite and potting soil to the garden plot. Incorporate the additions fully by shoveling the original soil over the new material and using the rake to smooth. The end result should be soil that is uniform in color. If the soil shows pockets of only one type of material, shovel and smooth until it is incorporated.

Read the back of each seed packet to determine the best outdoor planting time for your area. Since herbs have different growing times, determine when you would like to harvest each plant and count backwards to calculate a planting date. For multiple varieties, create a gardening calendar in a spreadsheet or with a desk calendar to track planting times and expected harvest dates.

Sow seeds directly in the garden once all danger of frost has passed. Herbs love warm weather and do not respond well to even moderate cold. Follow the depth requirements for each variety as are listed on the seed packet. Cover lightly with soil and water. Depending on the variety, most seeds will sprout and show growth within approximately 10 days.

Water as needed to prevent wilting and provide adequate moisture for growth. When the leaves are mature and ready for harvest, pinch them at the base using your fingernails or a pair of garden shears. Do not pull, as this may damage the plant and prevent further growth. Refrigerate your bounty and use within a couple of days.

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