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10 Most Common Herb Garden Mistakes

Avoiding Common Herb Garden Mistakes

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I have gardened in so many situations through the years, that there probably are not many mistakes I have not made.  ​Herb gardening seems to be in a class all its own. For some reason, many gardeners who wouldn't think twice about planting 25 different types of tomatoes, won't consider starting their own cilantro. There is no reason not to start your very own herb garden. In no specific order, here are my 10 most common herb garden mistakes people make, and how to avoid them.

1. Choosing unhealthy herb plants

The first chance you have to find the perfect herb, is when you buy the plant. Look for healthy specimens, bright color, plenty of foliage, and absolutely not one bug or egg on it. Finding one aphid means there are many more that you can't see, all waiting to invade your other herbs. Do not have sympathy for a sickly looking herb, unless you have plenty of space to keep it quarantined from your main garden area, while you repair the damage. The time and effort used to repair an infested herb garden is time wasted. Take the extra step and look for the healthiest herbs you can buy.

2. Planting herbs in the wrong environment

Are you planting rosemary, a dry and chalky soil loving plant, in a moist and humid area? Your rosemary will die in about 2 weeks time from wet feet. If you want to plant herbs in a shady area, look for herbs that can stand less sun. The sun loving herbs will become pale and weak from not enough bright sunlight every day. If you have neither too sunny or too shady an area, consider planting in pots that can be moved or rolled to the optimal lighting. It is not a matter of enough sun/shading, it is simply finding a way to be creative with what you already have.

3. Not cutting back enough

What makes an herb grow fast and neatly, is pruning. Of course pruning an herb means that you are actually harvesting the great tasting leaves and stems. If you do not prune, the plant only grows taller on a few stems. The leaves age, dry and fall off. This results in long stems with no leaves. You are also allowing the herb plant to start and finish its life cycle. By harvesting regularly, you are keeping the herb in its growth stage for as long as possible. This promotes stem and leaves, keeps flowers from forming and keeps the herb producing for a longer period of time.Your herb plants look better, and are healthier, if pruned back on a regular schedule.

4. Overcrowding or planting incorrectly

It is very common to buy more herbs that you can possibly grow in one area. When buying your herb plants, read the plant tags that come with each pot. Pay close attention to the height and width of the fully grown plant. You can always plant a quick growing annual between the herbs, if you don't like the look of mulch . It is always better to underplant than to put in herbs too closely together from the start. Overplanting is not only a waste of money, it doesn't allow for your herbs to grow a healthy root system, one that will help them survive the winter and expand the following growing season.

5. Allowing flowers to turn to seeds

Herb plants grow lovely flowers. Although many have edible blossoms, it is not a good idea to allow your herb to flower early in the growing season. Once a plant flowers, this is the signal that its life cycle is about to end. Your herb is making a flower, then a seed, then it dies back for that season.

It is best to keep any flowers from forming in the first place. As you see a flower budding, simply pinch the entire thing off. You may find that the herb is persistent. In this case, cut back below the flower, or even the entire stem if needed.

6. Spraying chemicals onto herb plants

If you are used to reaching for a bottle or box, when faced with fertilizing and insect control, you should think twice when treating your herb garden. Herbs, often rinsed and used fresh, should never be exposed to any treatment that could be potentially dangerous or toxic to those eating them.

Even if a product says that it is safe around people and pets, you want to look for the words safe for EDIBLES. You can not wash a bunch of oregano with soap and water before using. There are many ways to keep ahead of the problems that may need chemical applications. Weed regularly, watch your herbs closely for insect attack, and fertilize with a natural product like compost tea.

7. Not paying attention to the small details

It is important to watch herb gardens closely. Knowing what the plant looks like while it is healthy, will allow the gardener to notice a problem when it first happens. Watch for any damaged leaves, stems and disturbed soil around your herbs. If you find that your leaves and stems are starting to fade, turn brown, or curl, you will have detected the problem early enough to possibly save the plant.

8. Not watering properly

Herbs needs are minimal. Although easy to care for, they will be providing you with fresh bounty all season, and do require a proper watering schedule in order to remain stress free.

Water your herbs in the early morning if possible. The water will soak further into the soil, without evaporation being an issue.Always water the soil around the herb. Never water over the leaves. This only promotes mildew and disease. A good mulch is a must for your herbs, as well. Mulch keeps the moisture in the soil and may extend the time between waterings. Do not mulch right next to an herb's stem though. You may be inviting insect and other invaders to make their home.

9. Not protecting herbs enough

Although herbs are notoriously hardy and resistant to bug and disease problems, they can still arise. Many times herb gardeners are afraid to use any means to protect their plants. It does not have to be this way. There are many organic and homemade controls that are safe for edible plants like herbs. Organic gardening starts before the plant is even in place. Beneficial insects and good soil, all work towards a chemical free herb garden.

10. Not fertilizing

Once you have herbs planted and growing, it is important to keep them growing well with a light, all purpose fertilizer. A compost tea,once a week, works to give them a boost. If you think about it, herbs are going to be harvested multiple times in the growing season. This means they will be needing extra energy to keep in their growth cycle for an extended period. When applying, be sure to water the soil and not the leaves themselves with the compost tea. It is healthier for the plant and you will avoid any contamination of the leaves that might be eaten fresh.
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