Beginners Guide to Starting an Organic Herb Garden

The gardening of herbs is nearly as old as chronicled history itself. Approximately 4000 years ago, basil was and still is considered as a sacred herb in Indian culture. Dill was used by ancient Romans to purify the air around them. Stomach ailments were treated by parsley in ancient Greece, and similarly, cumin was used by Egyptians for both food preparation and in the mummification process. Let us discuss an organic herb garden.

organic herb garden
herb gardening is nearly as old as chronicled history itself

It is estimated that eighty percent of the world’s people use herbs in some form or another. Either they are used for medicinal purposes or, more commonly, grown for culinary needs, both commercially as well as on small-scale by home gardeners. 

The cultivation of herbs can thrive in a variety of settings. They can be cultivated in pots, or planted in traditional garden spaces, and even seasonally transplanted. They are mostly used for cooking, home-made medical remedies, or simply enjoying the beauty and aroma of these micro plants. Herbs can stay alive all year round in any sunny outdoor or indoor space.

For some people growing herbs is more than just a leisure hobby or activity; they feel much more balanced due to its healing properties and see it as a means to get in touch with their spiritual side.

Organically Grown Herbs 

Several studies reveal that organically grown herbs contain a higher level of nutrients and a better taste to it than those grown with the use of pesticides and chemical fertilizers. Growing organically not only promotes biodiversity but also provides the right path and direction to control soil erosion, conserve energy, and minimize water pollution.

The increasing awareness of these benefits has led to a growing interest in organic gardening and the demand for availability of authentic and certified organic products.

Although the availability of organic pesticides and fertilizers is now widespread, a gentler touch might be more effective when handling plants organically, whether they are maintained outdoors or indoors. 

While growing herbs organically, it is crucial to keep your eyes open and look for any signs of trouble and deal with the specific problem as soon as possible. Pesticides and chemical fertilizers cast a large safety net that knocks out chewing insects, which is a good thing, but unfortunately, they also end up killing the good guys like the earthworms or the bees.

How to Start an Organic Herb Garden

Herbs are very easy to grow and require only a little sunshine, some watering, a soil that drains well, and a little compost or Fertilizer. Herbs can indeed be grown in pots or containers; however, plants always favor to be in the earth where they can quickly spread out.

Some herb plants can grow as long as six feet in length, and when placed in containers or pots, they can be stunted and eventually get stressed.

Placement of Organic Herb Garden

The first thing to consider when planning to start a herb garden is to find the right place for the cultivation of herbs.

Most of the herbs prefer full sun as long as the temperature does not rise above 90 degrees. If you live in a place that has very warm summers, then it is better to plant indoors or in a filtered area that receives morning sunlight and afternoon shade in the summertime.

Just make sure that whichever spot you choose for the organic herb garden, must receive at least four hours of sunlight daily. 

Growing Organic Herb Garden Indoors

If you choose to cultivate your herb garden indoors, then start by choosing a spot that receives adequate sunlight and offers enough room for the plants to grow. Window sills are a great option, especially the ones facing South or West.

In winters, you may need to substitute natural sunlight with plant lights or other grow lights to keep the herbs humming along.

Sufficient light, usually six to eight hours daily, helps your micro-plants form the essential oils that give them distinctive taste and fragrance.

Another essential factor to keep in mind while planting indoors is that the soil of pots and containers tends to dry up much more quickly than the soil in the ground. Therefore, keep a regular check on the soil of indoor herbs to ensure proper growth.

Growing Organic Herb Garden Outdoors

Before you decide where to set up your herb garden, it is vital to figure out how much natural light is required by the plants or herbs you want to grow. Most of the herbs thrive in the sun; however, there are few such as woodruff, angelica, and sweet cicely that grow better in partial light or shade.

Once you decide which herbs you want to grow, the next step is to determine the size of the garden, which depends entirely upon the number of herbs you want to grow and the amount of space required to thrive. Generally, growing around a dozen different herbs can give great variety to your herb garden. 

What you can do is, take a paper and draw a map of your potential herb garden; this simple trick can help significantly with the planning of your garden.

Furthermore, make sure to choose a spot or space that gets at least six hours of direct natural light each day and is spacious enough to fulfill the needs of your herbs. 

Choosing Plants for Your Organic Herb Garden 

Once you decide the location where you want to set up your herb garden, the next step is to research which herbs would best thrive in an indoor or outdoor garden setting. Moreover, similarly like choosing crops for a bigger garden, it is equivalently crucial to be clear about your gardening goals while selecting herbs for your herb garden.

Think about the herbs you would like to grow, eat, and have swift access to rather than just buying the first herb you see available for sale. For example, if you like to use a lot of fresh parsley in your cooking, then having a parsley plant makes much more sense than growing another herb that you rarely use or do not really enjoy.

Therefore, think about the herbs that you already regularly use in your everyday life and initiate your organic herb garden plan from there.

how to start an organic herb garden
Plants for organic herb garden

Best Plants for Herb Gardening  

The following few herb plants are best suited for both indoor and outdoor settings. The kind of herbs that can be grown easily is not limited to the list below. You can certainly grow other herbs that are not present here. 

Herb Plants Suitable for Full Sun

These herb plants prosper when they get at least six to eight hours of direct sunlight each day. They will also grow well even if the soil dries out a bit between watering sessions.

  • Basil
  • Rosemary
  • Sage
  • Oregano
  • Lavender
  • Thyme

Herb Plants Suitable for Shade or Partial Sun 

The herb plants mentioned below thrive more when they receive almost four to six hours of sunlight every day. Furthermore, they require more consistent watering as opposed to their full-sun counterparts. Few of these herb plants are:

  • Parsley
  • Mint
  • Cilantro 
  • Lemon Balm
  • Chives
  • Tarragon

Regardless of the sun and water guidelines discussed above, it is very much possible to grow several herbs with less than ideal moisture and light conditions. Do not allow less than ideal conditions to stop you from starting your own organic herb garden!

Finding Organic Herb Plants for Your Organic Herb Garden

To start an organic herb garden, it is crucial to undertake numerous considerations to avoid the use of chemicals that are not permissible in organic gardening. Thus, the first step is to search for herb plants that have not been contaminated by pesticides, chemical fertilizers, or fungicides.

Many garden centers sell organically-grown herb plants, particularly for home gardeners. It is better to ask a knowledgeable staff member about where the plants were sourced and how they were grown before deciding to purchase them.

Another excellent alternative is to get your herb plants from a friend or acquaintance, who is already practicing organic gardening. Several perennial herbs can grow quite big and hence can be split up into many smaller sections.

If you have any such friends, go ahead and ask them if they can share a division of their herb plant with you or if they are familiar with any local organic gardening center or shop that offers organic herb plants.

Using Seeds to Grow Organic Herb Plants 

In case you are unable to find organically-grown herb plants for your garden, then it is totally possible to grow your own organic herbs from seeds. Although growing herbs from seeds can be a little tricky and more time consuming than buying grown seedlings, nevertheless, it is completely doable. 

Several companies present in the market offer organic seeds that are available either locally or can be ordered online. Moreover, you can also try any local seed swap for this purpose. But if you do choose to grow herbs from scratch, follow the seed starting instructions to nurture your seeds into healthy seedlings. 

Soil for Organic Herb Garden 

Once you have found organically-grown herb plants, the next phase is to arrange organic herb garden soil. The usage of regular soil from the garden is discouraged for organic gardening of herbs. In the case of container herb gardening, the lack of connection to an established ecosystem soil and limited space demands herb garden soil mix that is specially designed for this particular kind of gardening. 

Soil mixes for herb garden will hold require nutrients for growth, drain water well, and will provide aeration to herb roots. Using high-quality soil for container herb gardening, you will also be able to avoid any soil-borne diseases or other potential garden soil contamination. 

Beware that several brands of container soil, available in large and small retailers alike, comprise chemical fertilizers and other constituents that are not suitable for organic gardening.

Therefore, always check the soil packet for its ingredients and see if there are any chemicals or synthetic fertilizers used in the making of the soil. Another great way to ensure that the soil is organic is to look for an OMRI label on the packaging, which indicates that it is suitable for organic gardening. 

Step by Step Guide to An Organic Herb Garden 

Once you’ve arranged and understood all necessary things required for an organic herb garden, it is time to get your hands dirty. Follow the steps explained below for either your outdoor or container herb garden.

step by step guide to organic herb garden
high-quality soil for herb gardening

Instructions for Outdoor Herb Gardening

Step #1: Prepare Herb Seedlings or Plants

Unlike traditional gardening, the first step in herb gardening is to prepare the herbs plants or seedlings for cultivation. For this task, the herb seedling should be approximately one to four feet in diameter, depending on each plant. Here are a few general guidelines for herb plant sizes:

  • 1 foot: Chives, Dill, Cilantro, Parsley
  • 2 Feet: Thyme, Savory, Basil, Tarragon
  • 3-4 Feet: Sage, Mint, Rosemary, Marjoram, Oregano

Step #2: Prepare Soil

The second step is to prepare the soil for the herb garden. It is vital to loosen the compact soil with a large digging fork before planting any herbs into it. This allows water to drain and forms space for herb roots to reach down into the soil.

Herb gardeners must understand the significance of this step as any shortcuts can be disastrous for the herb’s growth. Adding compost to the soil can help prevent drainage problems and add nourishment to the garden soil.

Step #3: Planting Herbs

The next step is to plant healthy and robust herb seedlings or plants into the soil and regularly water them, especially when they turn dry. Most herbs require to be watered as soon as the soil presents a couple of inches below the surface feels dry to the touch.

Humidity and varying temperatures can cause drying times to differ every week. Thus, you must regularly monitor the soil condition. Additionally, make sure not to overwater the plants as excessive water can lead to diseases or halt the healthy growth of your herbs.

Step #4: Harvesting 

For this step, you can simply cut off about one-third of the herb growth once it reaches the height of at least six to eight inches.

Herbs tend to regrow quicker when they are cut close to a leave intersection. Some herbs like parsley grow new leaves from its center. In such a case, the oldest branch needs to be removed entirely, allowing new tiny branches to grow from the center. 

Instructions for Herb Gardening in Containers

Herbs are considerably much easier to grow than numerous houseplants. All you need is a sunlit, warm spot, and containers large enough to grow your plants. Patios, window sill, sunny decks, and other such areas are excellent for herb gardening in containers.

By growing herbs in a container, gardeners can save themselves from the digging trouble necessary for outdoor gardening.

Container gardening demands diligent watering and timely feeding, but it can be fun and easy. Nevertheless, it is crucial to remember that any kind of plant always prefers to be in the earth, where they have enough space for stretching out and growing to their true potential. 

The main elements of container herb gardening are:

  • High-Quality Potting Soil: should be enough to fill up all containers.
  • Large Pots: available in clay or plastic and should ideally be eight inches to eighteen inches in diameter. It is good practice to plant herbs that have identical watering needs into a single container.
  • Organic Fertilizer: use high quality, organic, or vegetable fertilizer. 

Watering Hose or Can 

  1. For the cultivation of herbs, you need to have plants that are at least eight inches in diameter. Later you may have to transplant the herbs into larger containers as the herbs over time outgrow the containers; for example, basil can grow up to two and a half feet in height.
  2. The first step is to prepare the pots for cultivation by filling them with high-quality potting soil and Fertilizer. Moisten the soil by mixing in water until it feels damp all the way through. You can put the container on a saucer to protect your table or deck.
  3. The next step is to make holes large enough for each plant and then gently release them from their starter pots into the holes. Put some more soil over the edges and adequately cover the plants. 
  4. Water the plants instantly after planting and later on water only when the soil feels dry to the touch. Both over-watering and under-watering can be harmful to the growth of herbs.
  5. Ensure that the herbs receive at least four hours or more of natural light every day and cut off one-third of the branches when herbs reach a height of six to eight inches. 

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Parting Note

We hope this step-by-step guide helped you understand how to start an organic garden and reap the many benefits of fresh and organic herbs.