Soil Types and Maintenance for Herbs

Soil is the organic and inorganic substance on the earth’s surface that serves as a growing substrate for plants. Roots can form and spread quickly in good soil, which increases the water and nutrient intake required for healthy and productive plants.

Too much nitrogen produces leafy vegetables and leafy plants, while too little nitrogen leads to vegetable, flower, and root growth that is too slow or no growth at all. Nutrients should be applied through plants that are adapted to the soil’s type, such as annuals or perennials. Apply nutrients with caution in the fall if the soil is frozen or had a heavy rain before application.

There are three different kinds of soil types that need special treatment: clay, silt, and sand. These are usually considered together as a soil-forming type. They are all quite porous and the organic matter in soil must be mixed into those pores to provide the soil with structural integrity and make it able to hold nutrients and water. Organic matter should be organic or composted material that can break down and become soil microorganisms that need the nutrients in the soil to do their work. The best organic matter to use is animal manures that have been aged and have a lot of natural sugars. Leaf mold is also good.

The type of soil is determined by the amount of water that comes through it on a daily basis. Ground water is cool and tends to stay below the surface of the soil. When water flows through the soil, it goes at different rates depending on the drainage capabilities of the soil. Loamy soils hold water longer than those that are less deep. Soil types that drain water slower are typically clay soils. If the drainage rate of the soil is good, then nutrients and organic matter will come through. If the drainage rate is poor, then the organic matter will stay at the surface of the soil and the soil will hold onto the nutrients and moisture longer. This is true of sand and clay soils.

Soil types that drain nutrients well are typically sandy soils. The organic matter and nutrients will come up through the surface of the soil and find the pathway that the water takes to drain through the soil. Sand and clay soils are the most nutrient-hungry because they have so much surface area to absorb the water.

The organic matter that plants need to function normally is called humus. The best humus is formed by nutrient-rich compost. Organic gardeners can buy compost, or can make compost at home. They use the organic matter to form a healthy organic garden. This is not recommended for gardening indoors, because the moisture-resistant pots are less likely to allow the water to diffuse. The most humus that a plant will ever need is three inches deep. The humus needs to be stirred up each day, as it is created.

Basic Maintenance and Needs of Your Herbs

Watering – Most herbs grow well in very light soils. Some like rosemary, grow well in just a few inches of soil. They need a little too much water, to keep their leaves from yellowing. If you decide to grow them in a pot, your potted plants can sit in a tray or planter that has just a couple inches of soil, and they should be fine. When growing indoors, use the most water proof pots, made from plastic, which allow the soil to dry off naturally.

For all plants, allow for good drainage.

Pruning – Most herbs need a well pruned garden. Most herbs will grow better if they are grown close together. When the herbs are allowed to grow, be sure to allow each plant space of ten to twelve inches, for each branch. If the plants are growing too close together, their growth will become stunted, and they will grow very spindly. Many gardeners do not like the idea of each plant being too close to the next, but it is necessary for a healthy herbal garden. In the event that you want to prune your herb garden, then allow between one and three inches between each plant. If you prune just one plant, then you may need to allow around three inches between each plant. All herbs have that natural tendency to grow rather bushy, so it is necessary to prune slightly, on a regular basis, to keep them growing.

If you decide to prune, use the sharpest pair of secateurs you can find, to cut through the plant, so that you can use a secateurs with a rounded blade to cut through the bush.

Light – Most herbs prefer to be covered by sunlight. Therefore, a south facing windowsill is perfect, especially if it is an unheated one. A warm, sunny windowsill is ideal. The south facing, warm and sunny ones tend to give the best results.

Water – Most herbs prefer a moist, well drained, well aerated soil. If you have clay soil, then the best solution would be to mix the planting medium with peat moss. This will allow the soil to hold moisture. Some herb plants such as mint, are more compact and in this case the planting medium should be broken up into small pieces and mixed with soil.

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