Monique Rivett-Carnac, the co-founder of St. Francis Herb Farm, knows a thing or two about what goes into a successful herb garden. She’s been growing culinary and medicinal herbs for decades, has taught at herbal centres and colleges and is all-around passionate about the healing powers of herbs. “A home herb garden is intensive at first, but easy to maintain,” she says. Here are her best tips for a beautifully healthy, thriving herb garden.
Prep your soil
Test your soil with a home pH kit. If it’s too acidic, you can mix in dolomite, a form of crushed limestone that contains calcium and magnesium. Add organic mulch to make alkaline soil more acidic.
Chose a sunny, dry site
Herbs love heat and sun, so a spot that gets full sun for the whole day is best. “Herbs don’t like wet feet,” explains Monique. “I don’t really water herbs unless it’s been a solid couple weeks of hot dry weather.”
Fertilize on the side
“Side dressing” means that you dig a shallow trench beside a row of herbs or around a single plant, about 15-20 cm (6-8 inches) away from the plant, then add fertilizer. Monique recommends organic turkey dung or an organic seaweed spray for fertilizer. It’s best to do a side dressing twice in a season: when plants are established and are having a growth spurt, and towards the end of the season, she adds
Trim ‘em up
“Keep giving herbs that are growing well ‘hair cuts’ throughout the season; they love that,” she says. Cutting or pinching off leaves and branches helps herbs to grow and root well.
Invest in a small food dehydrator to easily dry your herbs so you can enjoy them all year round. Or, whirl herb leaves (basil leaves are especially good) in the blender with a small amount of water and spoon the mixture into ice cube trays, then just drop a frozen herb cube into your cooking.
If you want to grow herbs from seed indoors, begin by late March.
4 Herb Formula