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Growing Guides - Growing HERBS

A Guide to Growing HERBS


Part of your vegetable or flower garden can easily be devoted to herbs. Be sure to plant herbs in an area where they won’t be disturbed when the garden is tilled. Be sparing with both water and fertilizer on your herbs. Lush, rapid growth may look good, but the plants won’t have as much taste and fragrance if they are pushed too fast with extra feeding. Herbs prefer to have ample space in well-drained soil and full to partial sun.

Perennial Herbs for Zone 5:

Catnip, chives, fennel, garlic, lemon balm, mints, oregano, tarragon, thyme, calamint, English lavender, sage and winter savory (underlined herbs are available at Strawberry Hill) Annual and Biennial Herbs: Herbs that are annuals must be planted each spring. These include: basil, chamomile, chives, coriander/cilantro, dill, ginger, jasmine, French lavender, lemon grass, lemon verbena, marjoram, rosemary, pineapple sage, and summer savory. Most of these herbs produce seeds and will reseed themselves if you do not apply a pre-emergent weed preventer to the area. Parsley is a biennial herb and needs to be seeded or replanted every two years. (Underlined herbs are available at Strawberry Hill.)

Soil Preparation:

Before planting, amend the area for your herb bed. This can be done early in the spring as soon as the ground can be worked. Add compost and light fertilizer then turn the soil several times with a spade or tiller. Be sure rain in your new herb bed drains well. Good drainage is important for healthy herbs.

Spring Planting:

In most cases herb seeds can be planted mid-April or after. If you begin your herb bed with starter plants, plant after the last frost free date, which is May 10 in mid-Missouri. Remove each starter plant from the container, leaving the root-soil mass intact. Be sure to space plants so they have room to grow and establish themselves. Water in the hole. Frequent light watering may be needed for a few days until the plants have “settled in”. Once established, water less frequently. Potted Herbs: Some herbs work well in pots. Mint varieties are invasive plants and can take over an herb garden. Mints do well in pots set in full or partial sun. Other annual herbs do well in pots and can be grown during winter months in sunny windows. Fertilizing: Do not over-fertilize herbs. Use organic or balanced general purpose fertilizer that contains essential minerals. Avoid fertilizers that have high salt content.


Culinary herbs are kept pruned as you use them through the growing serason. Other herbs, such as lavender, and herbs that overgrow their use should be pruned periodically to avoid legginess and to promote new growth. After the fall freeze, trim perennial herbs back about 1/3 and clean up your herb bed. Mulch the plants with leaves or compost to protect them through winter.

In mid to late April pull some of the mulch away from the plant base and cut the plant height to at least half. Remove the remaining mulch after the last frost day. Additional spring pruning can be done as new growth begins, to remove areas that may have winter-killed.

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