Use these expert tips to help your herb garden flourish.
There’s no doubt that herb gardens are so useful—not only are they pretty to look at, but they also come in handy when you’re cooking. Who wouldn’t want to head to the garden (or windowsill if you’re in an apartment) to grab some fresh basil or thyme for your dinner? Melissa Melton Snyder, author of Herb Gardening ($14; amazon.com), shared her top five care tips with us, so even if you don’t have a green thumb, you might find a blooming garden. And don’t worry about starting from scratch, “I prefer to cheat when planting my herbs and purchase them already grown verses in seed packets,” Snyder says. “For people new to gardening it ensures their success. I have planted from seed before... but I am not patient. “
Cut at the Right Time
If your herb garden is outside, you won’t be able to grab some clippings year-round. If you snip at the wrong time, you might be left with dead plants. “You should stop cutting your herbs a month before first frost in cold climates because the plants use their foliage to manufacture food, so that they can subsist through the winter,” Snyder advises.
Wait to Apply Mulch
For outdoor herb gardens, you’ll want to time your mulching around winter weather to avoid any critters. “When you mulch your plants to protect them from the winter's cold, do not do so until several frosts have frozen the top inch or two of soil,” she says. “Otherwise, you'll have made a lovely den for rodents to stay warm in!”
Layer Mulch Depending on the Type of Plant
“Light mulch keeps soil cool for plants like mint that prefer cooler temperatures,” Snyder says. “Darker mulch keeps soil hot so plants like basil stay warmer.”
Speed Up Rooting
“Wounding the stem before burying it can help speed up the rooting process,” she recommends. “Scrape away a couple of inches of the herb's green bark then plant away.” To wound the stem, you just carefully scrape the sides of the stem to expose its interior.
Don’t Be Shy When Watering
You don’t want to completely overwater your plants, but don’t be afraid to give it a healthy amount of water. Herbs prefer sunny locations and at least six to eight hours of sun. “Instead of overheard sprinkling, try to water your herb garden with a slightly heavier stream right at the base of the plant,” Snyder says. “You can even stick the hose into the soil ever so slightly.”