During late summer and fall last year I had numerous conversations with customers who told me that they wanted to start an herb garden the following year. So if you made a resolution this year to take better care of yourself and part of that is growing your own herbs, then the following information can help to get you started.
My own journey in growing herbs started many years ago and most of my original knowledge came from books. It took me a few years to realize that the same information was being repeated from book to book and as I gained more experience, learned that the information was not always correct. In fact most books on growing herbs are put out by writers with no gardening experience. One exception would be the ‘Harrowsmith Book of Herbs’ by Patrick Lima which is unfortunately now out of print.
Many herbs have the same requirements in that they need at least four hours or more of sunshine a day and soil that is well drained. They also appreciate a soil with a neutral Ph, which means that it is neither acidic nor alkaline. The majority of soil on Vancouver Island is acidic requiring the addition of Dolomite lime. Affordable and easy to use test kits available at garden centers can help determine what kind of soil you have. This applies to growing in gardens as well as containers.
Growing from seed can be an easy and fun way to start many herb plants, especially if you have young children who can share in the project. The most common problems associated with seeding are as follows and in no particular order. Planting seed too deep, over watering, using old seed and did I already say-over watering. Keep a journal when seeding and record date seeded, date of germination and date of transplanting. With larger seeds count how many you seeded and how many germinated. If you get 100% germination in year one and use the same seed three years later with only 50% germination it is time to buy new seed. It is also a good idea when purchasing seed to write the year on the packet.
The days have gone when affordable housing meant a three bedroom house with a yard, especially for those entering the market for the first time. The number of customers who garden in pots and containers has increased significantly in the last decade as more people move in to condominiums and townhouses. Make sure if using containers that they have adequate drainage holes in the bottom to allow excess moisture to drain out.
We use a blend of one third commercial compost (available bulk or in bags) and two thirds of Sunshine mix #4 which comes in large bags. Unless you are using a lot of containers you may want to share this with a friend. There are also numerous brands of premixed soil specifically blended for containers. Avoid blends that look very fine. You want lots of coarse bits in the blend to prevent the soil from compacting when watering.