Healthy Homegrown Herbs for the Family by Jenny Slabber Talborne Organics
Health is to be treasured and increasingly we are seeing the link between nutritious food and good health. Not only does food supply us with essential nutrients, vitamins and minerals to build strong bodies, but other components such as enzymes, antioxidants, essential fatty acids and fiber are responsible for preserving our health.
Herbs have been passed down through all cultures for their undisputed health properties and are widely used as they are packed with very powerful qualities like,
CULINARY HERBS: They add great flavors and interesting aromas to home cooking like basil, oregano, rosemary and mint, used in stews, soups, breads, salads, pickles, teas and cocktails. They are especially rich contributors of nutrients to feed the body cells with Vitamin C, Carotene found in dark leafy plants which converts to Vitamin A, Iron, Magnesium, Phosphate, Calcium and Potassium which are essential to good health.
MEDICINAL HERBS: They contain health promoting properties such as anti-oxidants to keep our body cells young and strong, peppermint and sage promote good digestion thereby preventing indigestion after a rich meal, home remedies like cough suppressants made with ivy leaf or pelargonium root, anti-bacterial and anti-fungal treatments like garlic and tea tree protect against diseases. Turmeric and Dandelion are great for cleansing and detoxing the liver and colon. African potato is a great immune booster.
AROMATIC HERBS: Essential and aromatic oils are present in many herbs to calm, sooth and scent the home such as lavender, lemon balm and rose used in potpourri, scented candles, oil diffusers and home cleaning products. Cosmetics, perfume and aromatherapy oils now contain natural botanical ingredients from the herb family such as rooibos extracts, chamomile, lemongrass, and mint to cleanse, restore and maintain skin, hair and circulatory systems.
PETS HERBS: Even our pets can be indulged by growing herbs for their health. Cats and dogs are provided for with pet grass, catnip and penny royal and fresh herbs are very beneficial to health of birds, pigeons, hens and ducks.
Grow Your Own Herb Garden or Containers:
When herbs are grown organically in your own garden it gives the assurance that they’re safe and not contaminated by toxins which are often used in commercial herb production. Garden Centers supply vast selections of herb seedlings, herb seeds, composts, organic fertilizers, sprays and containers for easy herb growing at a fraction of the price of bought produce.
Organic Potting Mix for Herbs
Most often the commercial potting soils available to the gardener are very light and porous and the water runs through with minimum retention. It makes container gardening quite a challenge as plants too often die from either under watering or nutrients are leached as a result of overwatering. To improve water retention while still allowing for good drainage, adding soil life and organic nutrients to the potting mix use the following recipe for organic growing success.
1 X 30DM Commercial Potting Soil (Best Quality)
MIX into Potting Soil
500ml (2 cups) Fertilis Earthworm Castings
50ml of Talborne Organics VITA Veg 6:3:4(16) fertilizer for Herbs & Veg
100ml of Dolomitic Lime
Fill pots or containers right to top and now you are ready to plant herb seedlings.
Conditioning Soil in Herb Garden before Planting
Herbs will flourish if planted in soil that is well prepared and conditioned.
Do this by:
Loosening soil with a garden fork and tilling in for every 1m x1m size:
2L of good quality compost, (bought at garden centre or preferably homemade).
250ml (1 cup) of Fertilis Earthworm Castings
100ml of Dolomitic Lime
100ml of Talborne Organics VITA Veg 6:3:4(16) fertilizer for Herbs & Veg
Now you are ready to plant herb seedlings.
Planting Herb Seedlings
Research the herbs to plant according to the space and sight you have to plant. Select the herbs that you are most likely to use from the wide range offered in Garden Centers or germinate and grow from seeds your own herb seedlings. If you are a keen cook, then start with the ones you most frequently used to replace your favored dried or bought fresh herbs.
- Wet Herbs in containers about an hour before planting out to ensure that the growing medium holds moisture to prevent transplant stress and roots are hydrated.
- Squeeze plastic pot to loosen root ball, or cut planting sleeve to remove from container.
- Make a hole in soil that is deep enough to cover root ball, place seedling and cover with soil.
- Water with a thorough soaking immediately after planting and continue to water daily for the 1st week after planting in hot weather, or every 2nd day in cooler weather.
- Thereafter the herbs can be watered every 3 to 4 days, adjusting for climate.
Allow herbs to establish a bushy plant before harvesting regularly.
Maintenance of Herbs
Herbs are mostly fast and easy to grow and don’t require too much intervention.
- Harvest often either by plucking or cutting leaves with a kitchen scissors as most herbs continue to sprout new leaves.
- Trim old and dead leaves, or if bush gets too unruly. Woody herbs like lavender and rosemary can be pruned back hard to generate new growth if they become untidy.
- To maintain condition of herbs in pots, feed every 4 months with Talborne Organic VITA Veg 6:3:4(16) fertilizer using 1ml per L size of pot.
- If potting soil is leached over time, a thin layer of FERTILIS Earthworm Castings can be placed on surface which will wash in with watering.
- A liquid fertilizer like Biogrow Biotrissol can be drenched or sprayed as a foliar feed in times of stress to condition herbs.
- If insect pests are a problem, chose organic solutions from the Biogrow range to control such as: Ferramol Snail & Slug bait, Neudosan for spider mites, aphids, white fly, Bioneem for chafer beetles and other leaf sucking and chewing insects, and Pyrol for ants, cutworm, scales, mealy bugs and australian bugs.
- For Fungal disease on herbs use Biogrow Copper Soap as a preventative spray, and Phyta as curative or preventative solution.
10 Tips for Growing Organic Herbs:
- HERBS ARE SUN LOVERS – Choose a spot in the garden that gets full sun all day for best results.
- SELECT HERBS FOR SEASON – Select herbs to plant according to season and climate of the area you live in, some are annual as they are
- PLAN STAGED PLANTINGS TO ENSURE VARIETY AND CONTINUIOUS SUPPLY FOR THE KITCHEN & HOME – Plant a few seeds of each variety every month to ensure herb harvests over the full year.
- PREPARE BEDS AND DIG IN COMPOST BEFORE BUYING SEEDLINGS – Seedlings lose vigour and health if they stay unplanted for a period out of the ideal conditions of nursery care.
- OLD SEEDS EXPIRE – To ensure successful germination purchase fresh seeds each season.
- PLANT HERBS THAT YOUR FAMILY LIKE – There are a lovely variety of tasty flavours & aromas and textures to choose from, but if your family does not eat “frilly kale” do not plant it.
- FOR SUCCESS FERTILIZE HERBS ACCORDING TO VARIETY – Root and Bulb herbs like garlic, turmeric and ginger need good phosphates to develop strong roots and bulbs so plant with Vita Grow 2:3:2(16). Leafy vegetables like salad lettuce need nitrogen and potassium for green growth so plant with Vita Veg 6:3:4(16). Flowering and Fruiting herbs such as camomile, chilli’s and calendula need nitrogen with higher potassium to stimulate flower and fruit so plant with Vita Grow 2:3:2(16) and feed before flowering with Vita Fruit & Flower 3:1:5(18)
- WATER HERBS REGULARLY BUT NOT EXCESSIVELY – In dry, warm weather water soft leafy herbs like lettuce and mint at least 2 to 3 times per week and preferably in the morning to prepare them for the heat of the day. Woody herbs like Rosemary, Thyme and Lavender require less frequent watering and will suffer root rots is overwatered, especially if planted in clay soils.
- MULCH HERB BEDS AFTER SEEDS GERMINATE – To prevent weed growth, retain soil moisture and maintain a constant soil temperature.
- DO NOT SPRAY POISONS ON HERBS – Herbs are generally not prone to pest and diseases if given good growing conditions like good soil, regular watering and fertilizing. But if they do show problems, control these with Biogrow organic solutions available at leading garden centres.