Annual herbs can be planted in the garden in spring. Annual herbs are also ideal for containers. Pots can be brought indoors for the winter and placed near a sunny window for harvesting through the cold months. Return the plants outdoors in the spring when the danger of frost is past, or simply replace with fresh plants
Prepare the garden by breaking up the existing soil (use a hoe, spade, or power tiller) to a depth of 12-16” (30-40cm). Add organic matter such as manure, peat moss or garden compost until the soil is loose and easy to work. Organic ingredients improve drainage, add nutrients, and encourage earthworms and other organisms that help keep soil healthy.
Check the plant label for suggested spacing and the mature height of the plant. Position plants so that taller plants are in the center or background of the landscape design and shorter plants in the foreground. To remove the plant from the container, gently brace the base of the plant, tip it sideways and tap the outside of the pot to loosen. Rotate the container and continue to tap, loosening the soil until the plant pulls smoothly from the pot.
New plantings should be watered daily for a couple of weeks. After that, depending on the weather and soil type, watering may be adjusted to every two or three days. Clay soils hold moisture longer than sandy soils, so expect to water more frequently in sandy settings.
Different plants have different water needs. Some plants prefer staying on the dry side, others, like to be consistently moist. Refer to the plant label to check a plant’s specific requirements.
Thoroughly soaking the ground up to 8” (20 cm) every few days is better than watering a little bit daily. Deep watering encourages roots to grow further into the ground resulting in a sturdier plant with more drought tolerance.
To check for soil moisture, use your finger or a small trowel to dig in and examine the soil. If the first 2-4” (5-10cm) of soil is dry, it is time to water.
Plants in containers can dry out quickly, depending on the weather, and may need water more frequently than plants in the garden bed. Apply water at the soil level if possible to avoid wetting the foliage. Water the entire soil area until water runs out the base of the pot. This indicates that the soil is thoroughly wet.
Herbs planted in the garden don’t require additional fertilizer. Apply a 1-2” (3-5cm) layer of mulch or compost. As mulch breaks down it supplies nutrients to the plants and improves the overall soil condition at the same time.
Herbs in containers can be fed lightly with a general purpose fertilizer at half the rate suggested on the package directions.
Invest in a good, sharp hand pruner or knife for harvesting. Pinching the stems off can cause damage to the main plant.
Herbs can be harvested throughout the growing season to be used fresh, dried, or frozen. It’s best not to prune more than 50% of the foliage at one time. This keeps the plant healthy and producing new growth for continuous harvesting.
Unless you are growing an herb specifically for its flowers (such as lavender), or seed production (such as fennel), it is best to remove flower buds as they appear. This keeps the plant’s energy focused on foliage production instead of blooms and seeds.
Harvest herbs in the morning, when the plant oils are at their peak. Prepare herb cuttings for use by gently washing and drying the foliage. If planning to preserve the herbs, check foliage for insects or eggs as well. Herbs can be dried or frozen for future use. The general rule for use in cooking is: use twice as much fresh or frozen herb as compared to dried herb.
Harvest seeds when the flowers start to fade and turn brown, but before the seeds fall from the plant.