Since ancient times, herbs have played an important role in politics, romance, religion, health and superstition. They can be classified as annuals, perennials or biennials:
ANNUAL HERBS: include anise, basil, chervil, coriander, dill and summer savory
PERENNIAL HERBS: include chives, fennel, lovage, marjoram, mint, tarragon, thyme and winter savory
BIENNIAL HERBS: include caraway and parsley
Growing Herbs Outdoors
SOIL: Most herbs prefer full sun and well-drained soil with neutral to slightly acidic pH (6.0-7.5). Drainage is one of the most important factors in successful herb gardening. If your soil isn’t draining well, either modify it or consider growing your herbs in raised beds or containers.
WATERING: Water the herbs only when the soil is dry to the touch a couple inches down into it. Soil conditions will be different every week due to temperature and humidity. Check the plants often, making sure not to over water them. Herbs in raised beds and containers will dry out more quickly than than those planted in the garden and may require more frequent watering.
FERTILIZER: Herbs do not require a lot of fertilizer. A light application of fertilizer such as Espoma Garden-Tone twice during the growing season is recommended.
PESTS: If necessary, handpick any insects you see damaging leaves or remove leaves that have become infested. Control aphids, spider mites or whiteflies as they appear by spraying leaves (including the undersides) with an insecticidal soap such as Bon-Neem by Bonide.
Growing Herbs Indoors
Indoor herb gardening is relatively simple. Herbs should receive about 5 hours of sunlight per day. You can maintain an indoor herb garden indefinitely by periodic light feeding, yearly repotting, renewing annuals and seasonal moves outdoors for perennials.
Indoor herbs will need essentially the same conditions as herbs grown outdoors; sunlight and well-drained soil mix. Place them near a southern or western window exposure. Different herbs have different light requirements but most need lots of sun.
Water herbs as needed but don’t overwater. Use several planters or a divided one to allow for the different moisture needs of each plant. Misting and grouping the plants on a tray of moistened pebbles will help maintain humidity.
Annual herbs can spend their full life cycle indoors. Perennial herbs, however, will do best when placed outdoors during the summer. Plunge the pot in soil up to its rim or keep it in a sunny location on a porch or patio. To prevent the loss of foliage and avoid plant damage, bring herbs indoors before the first frost. There are a few exceptions; a light frost can be helpful for mint, chives and tarragon. It induces a rest period, making new growth firm and fresh.
Harvest herbs by cutting back a shoot to just above the leaf, which will provide you with a sufficient harvest and encourage growth. Do not allow plants to flower or the taste of their leaves will lost potency; harvest just before flowering. Fresh leaves may be picked as soon as the plant has enough foliage to maintain growth.