Herb Garden 101
Whether we're plucking basil leaves for a Caprese salad or muddling mint into a mojito, we love fresh herbs from the garden. This year, we're growing a patio herb garden in our new collection of large-scale, all weather wicker planters. To keep our plants looking their best during the heat of high summer, we asked garden expert Karen C. for advice. Below, she shares her top five tips for happy herbs.
Planting: The vast majority of herbs want full sun, 6-8 hours each day. Some-- like mint-- can take partial shade, but this is rare. Full sun allows the essential oils that give herbs their taste and scent to fully develop. Containers with a drainage hole are a great solution for herb gardening. They regulate watering, keep over-eager herbs like mint from dominating the garden, and can be moved inside during winter to continue your harvest.
Watering: Most herbs can take surprisingly dry conditions, but it's best to water them deeply before they get wilted and stressed, as that can affect taste and scent. Plant your herbs in well-drained soil to keep the roots from getting soggy, and water them deeply when the soil begins to dry out. Avoid frequent, light waterings, which can cause plants to root only near the soil's surface.
Pruning: Pruning is beneficial for herbs as long as you don't remove more than a third of the plant. Most herbs are grown for foliage rather than flowers; allowing herbs to flower can negatively affect their flavor, since the plant puts its energy into the blooms rather than the foliage. Trim back buds or flowers as early as possible, snipping them to their base on the stem. Pruning also shapes a sturdier plant. Trim back some branches early, which will cause the plant to branch and encourage a fuller, leafier habit. If your plant dries out or doesn't look its best, feel free to cut it back significantly, water, and let it leaf out again.
Fertilizing: Herbs don't require regular fertilization. In most cases, adding compost to the top of the soil in spring is all they need for the year!
Harvesting: For maximum flavor, harvest your herbs early in the morning on a sunny day. Collect them right before flowering for the most flavor.
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Viva la thyme!