Understanding the right soil conditions to grow an herb garden will go a long way toward success. Most herb plants thrive in well drained soil. So what does that mean?
Well drained soil.
Usually how long your soil stays wet is pretty obvious. But if you are wondering, just dig a 2 ft. deep hole in the ground. Fill that hole up with water. If the water is gone in and hour your soil has good drainage. If you see standing water after that, consider planting a raised herb garden. A raised garden will allow for good drainage.
Types of soil
You will find that most soils fit somewhere between clay and sand. The hard compact particles of clay would make it impossible for the roots of your herbs to expand and get nutrients. Sandy soil will let the roots expand but dry out fast and have very little nutrient value. So correcting either condition is a must.
A perfect combination would be humus, clay and sand. Humus is compost or peat moss. A good compost humus will provide aeration and nutrients to a clay soil.
Herb plants are very sensitive the pH of the soil. Desert areas will tend to have a very high alkaline soil. Wet forested areas have a high acidity. Herb plants like to live right in between in a neutral pH. To find measure soil pH, you can buy a test kit. I suggest taking your soil to a lab, then you will get a complete picture.
Our local State Extension Service will test soil for a small fee. I get a print out that tells me what is wrong and how to correct it. Your local garden center can tell you where to find a lab to run your soil tests.
Your soil test will tell you;
- Too acid – (Add lime)
- To alkaline – (Add sulphur)
- Nutrient deficiency – (Add humus and fertilizer.)
Easy on the fertilizer. Herbs are happy with just a good compost mulch. I like to stir in compost every spring. But if your soil starts out deficient, add some granular fertilizer. I like “Osmocote. ”
Now I know this sounds like a big to do. But I promise it is worth it. And I also know from experience this is one area that is easily neglected. When ever I take over a garden, this is the first thing I handle.
Take the time to adjust your soil and you will have happy herb plants and you will grow an herb garden to be proud of.
Sheila, Herb gardening for beginners.