The Basics of Growing Herbs The Basics of Growing Herbs

Have you ever dreamed of fresh mint for your tea? Swooned over the sweet smell of lavender, or longed for that one of a kind taste only fresh chives can give? Now you can have it all, and with a little bit of effort and some patience, you can learn to grow your own herbs.

The first thing you will want to do is get some seeds. I wouldn't recommend getting more than five or six different herbs to grow. Herbs should be fun, easy and rewarding, but if you have too much on your plate it can quickly turn into a burden. There are many different herbs to grow, so think about what you and your family are most likely to use and enjoy the most - although it's always fun to try something new! Some of my favorites to grow are lavender, mint, chives, catnip, dill and chamomile.

After you have purchased your seeds, you will need to decide where you are going to place your herb garden. Some people prefer to keep their herbs indoors, but I have always had better luck with mine when I start them indoors and then transplant them to an outside garden. First you will need to mark off a spot about 10 feet wide and 10 feet long. This may seem like a lot of space just for a few herbs, but herbs grow best when they have plenty of room and don't have to compete for water and nutrients.

Now you will need to do away with any grass and weeds by digging up or cultivating the area. When the area is all clear, lightly fertilize and evenly spread out 15 to 20 pounds of top soil. Now leave it alone.

Your next step should be starting your seedlings indoors. You are going to want to buy brand new starting containers or sterilize your old ones buy cleaning with a mild soap. Your starters should be eight inches deep and six to eight inches across. Fill them with a potting soil and peat moss mixture almost to the top. Water them well and let them sit overnight to drain. Once the soil has drained overnight, put one or two seeds in each pod. Gently press the seeds into the soil, and water them lightly with warm water.

The next thing you will need to do is loosely cover your starters with clear plastic wrap and set them in a warm dim area for about one week. Keep an eye on them; as long as the soil stays dark in color, leave them alone, but if you notice any drying of the soil, gently uncover them and water lightly with warm water. After a week, start setting your herbs in the sun for two to three hours a day. After five days of this, uncover your herbs and gradually increase the number of hours they are in the sun a day for about three weeks. During this time you will want to keep lightly watering them every two days after you have returned them to their warm dim area. Once the three weeks have expired, find a sunny location to keep your herbs in for the next two weeks.

After this time period, if your plants seem sturdy and healthy, it's time to move them to your outside garden! The day you decide to transplant you will want to work up the soil again with a shovel or tiller. Get rid of any remaining traces of weeds and grass. Now water your garden heavily, but not so much that you end up with a big mud puddle.

Now you are going to mark your rows. You can get cheap brightly colored string and garden stakes at your local hardware store. Measure the length of your garden and cut your string to that size for the number of rows you need. The number of rows you need depends on what you are growing and how many plants you are going to have. Read the back label of the seed packet, and it should tell you about the spacing of your specific herbs. Tightly tie an end of the string around one garden stake and stick it into the ground five to six inches at one end of your garden. Stretch the string to the other end of the garden, tie it to another stake and stick that one into the ground five or six inches deep also. You have your first row! After you've finished marking your rows, use a spade or a shovel and dig a small hole about 9 inches deep and six inches across.

Next take your starters and gently tap the sides of them until the soil around your plants are loose. Turn the starters on its side and very carefully remove one plant at a time. Then place it in the hole. Make sure you fill in the hole around the plant with enough soil so your plants are standing straight up. When all the planting is done, lightly water them and give them a small amount of fertilizer.

When you're all finished, take a deep breath and take a moment to marvel at your little garden. You should be proud of what you have accomplished. Now all you have to do is maintain your garden by keeping the nasty weeds and grass away, fertilizing every few weeks, and enjoying your hard work!

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