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Herb Growing Secrets

CHOOSING WHAT TYPE OF GARDEN IS RIGHT FOR YOU.

Stop!  Before you pick up the shovel, before you plant a single herb. Stop to consider why you want an herb garden. What are your intentions for planting these marvelous plants?

Are you planning to use both fresh and dried herbs for culinary purposes — to add to your meals to enhance the flavors?  Are you planning on making flavored oils or vinegars to give to friends and family members as gifts (while keeping a couple stashed for yourself)?

Or have you discovered the many natural health benefits of herbs, and would like to grow herbs to brew teas or make infusions and pastes to help your minor health conditions?

Yes, your reasons do matter!  First, you may be planting totally different plants if your aim is to enhance your entrees than if it’s to empower your health.

Here are just a few of the different “classes” of herbs, each used for different purposes:

Culinary herbs – sometimes referred to as sweet Herbs — are annual, biennial or perennial plants that have tender roots or ripe seeds.  They also possess an aromatic flavor (they smell darned good!) and have a great flavor.

Medicinal herbs – are grown with the intent of remedying specific health conditions, from serious heart-related problems , the pain of arthritis and the loss of energy or memory.

Ornamental herbs – Just as the name implies, these Herbs are grown with the intent of pure enjoyment.  They’re cherished for their beauty.

Then there are the Herbs grown for brewing a great cup of tea.  And believe it or not, there are gorgeous, imaginatively designed gardens dedicated to this purpose.

The specific Herbs you grow depend, in large part, on which class of  Herbs you want and need.

Where you place your garden can be as serious a question to the novice herbal gardener as why you want to grow herbs in the first place.

When you envision an herb garden, you may think of a large, English estate whose acreage is covered with myriad plants — a private botanical garden, if you will.

And you may get disappointed because you just can’t create that same look at home. Especially if you live on the 10th floor of an efficiency apartment in the middle of Manhattan!

1. How large of a space do you have for your garden? Don’t be ashamed to say just a small balcony in the middle of a large city!

2. How much sun does this space get? Is it predominantly sunny, or are there more total hours of shade?

3. Which growing zone are you in? You can find this out by going to: http://www.usna.usda.gov/Hardzone/ushzmap.html

4. How are you planning to spend time in your garden? How do you intend to use your garden?

5. What type of soil do you have?

As you answer these questions, you’ll be able to tell whether you possess the right outdoor environment for growing herbs. If all the conditions can’t be met and you’re still determined to grow outside, don’t fret. It can be done.

My eBook, “Herb Growing Secrets,” can show you how to modify your outdoor surroundings to make it herb-friendly. The entire system can be found at http://www.herbgrowingsecrets.com

But I totally understand if you decide that perhaps your best initial step into the adventure of growing herbs is to explore the “great indoors.” This method has it’s advantages, too.

For starters, you get to admire these gorgeous plants and enjoy their fragrance all day long! And they add beauty to any home! What a joy!

Before you take your first trip to the local nursery, consider the following three culinary herbs.  These are three of the most delicious and versatile herbs you can plant. And they’re all easy to care for!

1.  Basil

Basil is the best herb for pesto, hands down.  It’s leaves have a warm and spicy flavor.  You only need to add a small amount of this delightful herb to such dishes as soups, salads, and sauces.  Basil is also particularly suited to season any dish with tomato flavoring.  Don’t hesitate to use basil to enhance the flavor of your meat, poultry, or fish.  You can even add it to your morning breakfast omelet.

2.  Chives

Who doesn’t love some fresh chives on a hot, newly baked potato?  They’re also an excellent addition to salads, any egg and cheese dish, cream cheese, sandwich spreads, and sauces.  Taste how chives add a little zing to your mashed potatoes as well.

3. Thyme

Yes, thyme.  And no, I have no idea why we have to spell it that way.  But despite its awkward spelling (and its fame in an old Simon and Garfunkel song), thyme is a must-grow choice for any self-respecting herbalist.

Thyme is a great seasoning for just about any meat.  Rub the chopped fresh (or dried) leaves on lamb, pork, veal, or even beef before you put them in the oven.

This herb also goes to work for you in various other capacities.  Consider adding it to eggs or cheese dishes, as well as vegetables.  And don’t be afraid to experiment with it on your fish or poultry either.  You’ll be pleasantly surprised.

Once you’ve tried all that, use thyme as a great seasoning for soups, stews, stuffing, and even rice.

Medicinal Herbs:

Before you make your final decision on what medicinal healing herbs to grow in your garden, give these three herbs some consideration.  I highly recommend all three.

1. Chamomile

This is one of the best-known healing herbs, thanks to the commercialization, marketing, and popularity of chamomile tea. You may already drink this tea prior to going to sleep at night, or when your nerves seem agitated.  The plant is best known for its calming effects on the human body.

More recently, scientific studies coming from England are conferring additional healing powers on this plant. It could boost your immune system as well, making you more resistant to colds, the flu, and other infections.

2. Echinacea

Definitely give this herb a chance in your healing garden.  You’ve no doubt heard about its wonderful properties.  For the last several years, Echinacea has been renown as a powerful booster for your immune system.

Many people take this herb in capsule or tablet form as a supplement, especially during the winter months, to avoid contracting colds and the flu.

This plant, with its large, bright flower, is also known as the purple coneflower. There are three distinct varieties of Echinacea:  Echinacea pallid, Echinacea angustifolia, and Echinacea pupuea.  All three have similar medicinal effects.

Many herbalists also use this plant to treat respiratory infections.  In Europe, it’s not unusual for doctors to prescribe Echinacea to their patients for a variety of remedies.

3. Lavender

No herbal healing garden would be complete without at least a small place dedicated to the lavender.  Lavender is to healing pain as to what Echinacea is to the immune system:  indispensible!

The health benefits of lavender are many. In addition to relieving pain, it’s noted for its remarkable ability to relieve anxiety.  Partly because of this ability, it’s used by many as a “cure” for insomnia and as a muscle relaxant.

There may also be some hard scientific evidence that lavender helps support healthy blood pressure levels.

If you’re not sure what the lavender plant looks like, I’ll bet you’d recognize it once you saw it.  It has bluish-grey needle-like foliage topped with violet-blue slender-looking flowers.  The long-blooming flowers are sure to delight you throughout the entire growing season!

Companion Plants:

When it comes to herbs, companion plants may prove vital in the overall health of your garden — not only your herb garden, but your patch of vegetables and your flower bed, too!

That’s because some plants actually grow better when they’re sitting next to other plants.  It might not sound very sensible at first, but the concept is really quite sound.

If you add certain herbs to your vegetable or flower garden, you may notice an improved level of overall health for all the plants.

Let me give you a classic example of this.  When white settlers came to North America, they soon learned that the Native Americans had what they referred to as the “three Sisters” — a combination of corns, beans, and squash.  You might assume these three plants were “sisters” because they were a vital part of the Native Americans’ overall diet.  And that’s true!

But here’s the rest of the story.  When planted together, these three plants actually help each other grow.  First of all, the beans are the “nitrogen-fixers” for the other plants, and they climb the stalks of the corn.  The squash shades the ground for the health of the other two plants, holding the moisture longer in the ground.

Here’s an example that might have come straight from your garden: garlic and roses.  The pungent scent of the garlic repels some of the rose plant’s worst pests, the aphids.  Cool, isn’t it?  To a gardener trying hard to stay organic, it’s quite exciting.

But you can also have the opposite situation.  Some plants just don’t grow well at all when placed together.  Irish potatoes, for example, don’t grow well when planted next to turnips or pumpkins.

While I may sound as if I’m not taking this very seriously, there are very good reasons for these companion plants — or in this case, non-companion plants.  Tall plants may block the sun from lower-lying, sun-loving plants.  Others may actually cause a negative biochemical reaction with the plants around them.

For a larger list of companion plants, see my easy-to-use gardening system, “Herb Growing Secrets”, located here: http://www.herbgrowingsecrets.com

If you talk to any three cultivators of indoor herbs then you’re likely to receive three very distinct and opinionated ideas about what kind of light to place above your herbs.  You have basically two choices: fluorescent light and high-intensity discharge light.

Let’s talk about fluorescent lighting first. This kind of light is the most recognizable to us; we see them everywhere.  They’re usually long and thin.  And believe it or not, home gardeners have used this type of lighting for years.  It’s especially useful for starting seeds and encouraging growth in plants.

The intensity of the fluorescent light is low, so they are ideal for encouraging the growth of seedlings.  They’re also ideal for low-growing herbs.  Even the lowest leaves are close to the light.

Consider this rule of thumb: a standard four-foot unit with two 40-watt bulbs — or tubes — illuminates an area about eight inches wide.

You can also buy specialty tubes for your specific needs.  There are an array of tubes available, depending on the needs of your herbs.

But don’t overlook a combination of the standard cool and warm white tubes.  These seem to be effective.  Verilux tubes are another choice.  Experts say this type of light is the closest approximation to the sun. (I’ll have to take their word for it!)  These lights cost about $10 or so each.

On the other hand, a brand called Vita-Lite is labeled as a “power twist” tube.  It produces somewhat more light per watt than the standard fluorescent. And the quality of this light is well balanced for optimum plant growth.  But the cost may be intimidating: bulbs cost $18 or so each.

The dry environment of your house may present a problem in growing your plants indoors.  If your house doesn’t have a whole-house humidifier (I certainly don’t!), you can still provide the perfect humidity for these plants — and it won’t break the bank.

First, remember to finely mist the plants with water weekly.  You can also add humidity to specific areas of your house by setting a dish of water near the heat source in the room.  As the heat source operates, it naturally evaporates the water, which in turn adds moisture into the air.

Another good way to “moisturize” the plants is to fill trays with pea gravel.  Then pour water into these trays so it fills about half the tray.  Now simply set your plants on top of the gravel. Any one of these methods — or all three — should solve even the toughest of the humidity problems.

How often should you water your indoor herbs?  That’s a good question.  Herbs grown in containers tend to dry out more quickly than those grown outside.  But don’t worry, it’s easy to check their status.  Simply stick a finger into the soil.  Make sure you get at least half an inch below the surface to feel the moisture.

If the soil feels dry to the touch, then water the plant.  As much as you may be tempted, don’t overwater these indoor herbs.  You’ll only be promoting root rot and the development of a disease called powdery mildew.

This plant disease is one of the most recognizable.  If your herb is afflicted, it will have powdery splotches of white or gray on its leaves and stems.

While this disease is not fatal, it does stress the plant.  Repeated infections will weaken the plant.  If the mildew is not corrected, it may cover so much of the plant and then it will cripple the plant’s ability to photosynthesize.

To learn more on keeping your herbs moist go here TODAY!

As you know every garden starts somewhere. If you choose to start your plants as seeds or seedlings, that’s great. But I have a little advice for you, too.

If you’re planting or even transplanting seedlings outside, the best method I’ve found is to dig the hole, add just a “dash” of compost and bone meal for drainage, and add extra nutrients.

As you grow a larger variety of herbs, you’ll discover that many herbs grow best in alkaline soil. Knowing this, you may want to add a tablespoon or two of agricultural lime. This helps the roots to absorb nutrients more efficiently. Mix everything into the soil in the hole before putting the herb in.

Even if your herbs are destined to be part of an outdoor garden, you’ll want to start them indoors. Some herbs seem to get a much healthier start when begun inside. Some of the plants you may want to start inside include basil, borage, marjoram, oregano, chamomile, catnip, sorrel, and thyme.

Simply place the seeds in flats containing well-drained, airy soil with lots of organic matter. Borage and sorrel, though, would rather be in soil that is moist and rich.

When your seedlings are about four inches tall and the weather is warm, you’re ready to “introduce” them to the outside environment. As strange as this may sound, the process of introduction is very necessary. Many beginning gardeners fail to do it, simply because they don’t know about it.Growing herbs is just part of the fun of maintaining an herb garden. Many people also enjoy harvesting and preserving their herbs once the growing season ends.

Ask five different herb gardeners and you’re bound to get five different ideas about the best method to harvest these plants. The great herbalist and nun of the 12th Century, Hildegard of Bingen, firmly believed that all medicinal plants should be harvested when the moon was waxing, just prior to it becoming full. She believed that herbs taken at this time possessed their greatest potency.

She conceded, though, that the herbs would be preserved for an extended period of time if they were harvested during the waning of the moon.

Many herbalists have other ideas. Many believe that herbs should only be gathered during a full moon. This is the time, they contend, when the sap of the plants and the strength of their oils are the greatest.

While you may consider these ideas to be old wives’ tales, they do seem to have some validity. The seasons of harvesting seem to play a part in herb potency.

Herbs whose active medicinal ingredients are found in their roots and rhizomes — like ginger, ginseng, and mandrake — are more potent when harvested early in the spring or in late autumn. At this time, they have actually reserved much of their energy and essence below the ground.

In harvesting these types of herbs, dig widely around the plants so you don’t cut or damage the root system. Wash the roots with cold water and thoroughly dry them.

It’s also true that the essence of a plant becomes concentrated with each hour of night. Herbs are therefore most potent when they’re picked in the early hours of the morning, well before the sun’s heat and the light actually dissipate any essential oils in them.

Hard to believe that this is the last secret I have to offer you through this Mini Course. But of course, it’s really not the very last secret.

Got more questions about gardening? To discover more secrets on how your garden can be the envy of all your friends.Go to Herb Growing Secrets

How to Grow Herbs