5 steps to a healthy outdoor herb garden

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5 steps to a healthy outdoor herb garden

Got a little space outside and want to use it for something actually useful? An herb garden is an easy way to take advantage of your outdoor space. You not only get the benefit of an interesting use of your yard, but you’ll get free herbs and small vegetables as well. Plus, growing plants is very rarely dangerous.

Herb gardens are the easiest gardens to put together and maintain. Many herbs act like weeds — they’re aggressive, and you can’t just accidentally kill them. However, there are a few things you need to do to guarantee the success of your new garden.

1. Pick an area that gets a lot of light

Believe it or not, plants need sunlight to survive. A good rule of thumb is that your garden needs about four hours of uninterrupted full-on sunlight in order to photosynthesize correctly. Keep an eye out for the perfect spot in your yard that gets just the right amount of sun.

2. Give your plants some breathing room

Don’t put all of your seedlings so close together. Like teenagers, herbs need their space. Depending on the plant, you can need anywhere between half a foot and two feet of space around each plant. (If the wide empty spaces make your garden look a little pathetic at first, don’t worry — your plants will soon take up most, if not all, of that space.)

3. Prepare your soil

Grab a garden fork and get to work! Stab your fork into the ground multiple times to loosen up the dirt. Then, add about an inch of compost or fertilizer to the top of your garden area, mixing it into the dirt with the garden fork. What’s all of this work doing to help your plants? Loose dirt will allow your herbs’ roots to spread out and allow rain to easily soak into the earth. That added bit of fertilizer is just a boost to an already great growing situation.

4. Plant your plants

Grab your seedlings (easily purchased at any gardening store or farmer’s market) and start planting. Dig around the edge of the container to make sure you’re not putting unnecessary stress on the roots. Make a hole in the soil. Make sure it’s big enough so that you can put the seedling in and the seedling’s root cube comes out at ground level. (Please note that no one else refers to it as a "root cube," so don’t say that in public.) Press the seedling’s root cube into your soil to remove air pockets. Water and enjoy!

5. Maintain

If all is well and good, you shouldn’t have to worry too much about your plants. Just make sure they stay watered (but not overwatered — overwatering can be worse than no water at all). Check the dirt often to see if it’s dry to the touch.

When it comes to harvesting your plants, make sure to follow instructions specific to that plant. With practice and a little work, you’ll have basil, mint, and other herbs growing freely in the yard and flowing freely in the kitchen.

Image: Arno Smit