How to Grow an Herb Health Garden
There is a great deal of pleasure and satisfaction in growing a garden. The pleasure is multiplied and the satisfaction is even greater when you grow an herb garden. An herb garden provides a healthy form of sustenance for your family and minimizes trips to the grocery store, saving you a lot of coins.
Know Your Cincinnati Climate and Soil
Before you begin digging holes, get to know your garden and its local climate.
Cincinnati, Ohio is in zones 6a and 6b of the Department of Agriculture’s Hardiness Zone Map. Zone 6a covers most of the city; plants there can expect to see temperatures down to -10 degrees Fahrenheit. The central business district and the areas to its southeast that hug the Ohio River are in 6b. Plants there need to tolerate temperatures down to only a balmy -5 degrees F.
Enter your ZIP code into this interactive map from the United States Department of Agriculture to find your exact hardiness zone.
Total precipitation is about 40 inches, with about half coming in April through September.
Soils types in Hamilton County are generally loamy and drain well — that’s good for herbs, which prefer a sunny, well-drained spot.
Ohio State University’s extension office offers a comprehensive guide to seeking a soil test. (In case you’re curious, check out this 1915 soil map from the Cincinnati Public Library showing soil types in Cincinnati and the rest of Ohio more than 100 years ago.)
Healthy Herbs That Flourish in Cincinnati
Health-oriented herbs that flourish in the climate of the Queen City include:
Catnip. A part of the mint family tree, catnip’s strong aroma repels pests. Cats go crazy for it and it is ideal for brewing tea.
Chamomile. You know it as a soothing tea made from its fresh flowers, but it also is one of mankind’s most ancient medicinal herbs.
Chives. A perennial that grows from seeds, clippings or transplant that has an onion flavor.
Cilantro. Bring a taste of Mexico to your garden with this annual plant, a staple of countless south-of-the-border recipes. It grows in the early spring and in late summer. Its seeds and leaves are edible and help flavor meals.
Lemon balm. It has a lemony scent and is used in teas for relaxation. Cook it to create an herbal remedy.
Marjoram. It soothes a mild cough or sore throat. It is also used in Greek and Italian cooking.
Oregano. Go Mediterranean in your kitchen with this ideal herb for Greek and Italian dishes. But don’t forget its healthy antimicrobial benefits.
Rosemary. This savory seasoning dresses up many recipes, and its purple blooms add a dash of color.
Sage. The earthy flavor of common sage gives it a home in many dishes. For variety, try the S. Sclarea species — use it as an eyedrop or drop it in your potpourri mix to make scents last longer.
St. John’s wort. This medicinal herb is used to treat depression.
Tarragon. It has an anise-like flavor that is ideal for treating indigestion and stress.
Thyme. It is used in cooking and for medicinal purposes.
Growing A Herb Health Garden
Just imagine walking a few feet from the side or back door of your home and picking herbs to enhance your cooking. There is nothing more convenient.
To grow an herb health garden, do these three essential things:
Maintain and harvest.
The first thing you do to prepare the garden is choose the most appropriate place. Choose a location that is in full sunlight. It should have sunlight for at least six hours a day. If summer temperatures reach more than 90°F, then the area should get sun in the morning only. The herbs should not be in direct sunlight in the afternoon. Spots with filtered sunlight provide the best herb homes.
Be certain that there is enough space to accommodate the garden. The amount of space depends on the herbs you are growing.
Rosemary, sage, mint, oregano and marjoram need 3-4 feet in diameter per plant. Basil, thyme, tarragon and savory need 2-foot diameters per plant. Cilantro, chives, dill and parsley need 1-foot diameters for each plant.
Herb roots don’t grow too long, so more-aggressive plants can compete for precious below-ground space. To prevent interlopers, form a barrier for the garden. Once you know the dimensions of the garden, place the barrier along the border.
Now you are ready to get the land ready. Use a large garden fork or shovel to break up the soil. This helps to promote root growth. Dig about 12 inches into the dirt and turn the fork a little to loosen the land.
Once the soil is loose, perform a pH test. You can buy a test kit from your local hardware store. The test determines the pH level of the soil. The best level for growing herbs is between 6 and 7. To raise or lower the pH level, if necessary, use compost. Spread about 3 inches of the compost on top of the ground and mix the substance into the soil. If you discover that you need to raise the pH level, find a compost that includes oyster shell lime. Use compost that includes elemental sulfur to lower the pH.
The best time to plant the garden is after the last spring frost. When planning out the garden, place similar kinds of herbs together. Particular types of herbs need different amounts of water. Grouping by type makes it easier to care for them.
Group rosemary, oregano, marjoram, sage, lavender, thyme and tarragon. They are dry herbs and need low amounts of water.
Group basil, mint, cilantro, dill, arugula and chives. They are wet herbs and need lots of water.
When planting with seeds, different herbs need diverse depths and diameters for growing. So follow the instructions on the seed pack to dig the appropriate size hole.
If you are planting seedlings, each hole should be as deep as and just wide enough for the root ball of the plant.
Remove the seedling from its container by holding it at the root ball and gently pulling it from the soil. If there is a problem, just turn the container upside down and tap on the bottom of the container.
When placing the seedling in the hole pull at the roots a little to loosen them. Once the plant is in place, fill the rest of the hole with dirt until the soil and the root ball are level. Tap down to compact the soil.
Once all the plants are in place, water the ground until it feels damp.
3. Maintain and Harvest
Watering your herb garden is a lot like watering your lawn in Cincinnati. Early morning is the best time since it gives the plants a chance to absorb the moisture before the heat of the day. How often you water the garden depends on whether the herbs are dry or wet — that is, do they need to dry out between waterings or do they prefer near-constant moisture?
Water “dry herbs” until the soil is moist. Let it dry before you water again.
Dry herbs include rosemary, oregano, marjoram, sage, lavender, thyme and tarragon.
“Wet herbs” need water more frequently. Pick up some soil to check if it is moist. If not, water.
Wet herbs include basil, mint, cilantro, dill, arugula and chives.
You need to prune about one-third of the growth of perennial herbs in the early fall. This helps to encourage growth in the spring.
As with any type of plant, herbs are also vulnerable to pests. Pests that chow down on herbs include aphids, spider mites, whiteflies, leafhoppers, leaf miners, parsley worms, flea beetles, weevils and spittlebugs.