Gardening Vivian | 01 Mar 2011 04:52 pm

Soil Preparations For Planting Herb Gardens

Herb gardens are not difficult to maintain provided they have been well planned and the herbs have been planted in a suitable type of soil. For this reason it is always worthwhile taking the time and effort to prepare your soil thoroughly before you start planting herb gardens.

Happily, most of the herbs that we plant today are resistant to disease and they are a lot tougher than many of the other garden plants that we grow. This means that they are able to survive and even thrive in relatively poor, thin soil, although generally all soil should be well drained.

Nevertheless, before you start planting your herb garden, it is wise to analyze the type of soil in your garden so that you can make the best of what you have got.

There are three basic soil types:

Clay, which is heavy when wet, hard and lumpy when dry, and tends to get waterlogged very quickly. Very few plants flourish in clay soil.

Sandy soil, which is loose and so able to drain off moisture easily. The problem though is that the water tends to take valuable nutrients with it, and so plants generally need to be watered and fed more frequently.

Loam. This type of soil contains some sand, sometimes some clay, and silt. It drains well but still retains the essential nutrients and moisture needed for healthy growth. This is the ideal soil for most of the herbs we plant.

Another factor to consider is the condition of your soil in terms of its acidity or alkalinity. To determine the condition of your soil before you start planting your herbs, test or have your soil tested to ascertain its pH. This is the measure of the alkalinity or acidity your soil, and the pH ranges from 1 (which is very acidic) to 14 (which is very alkaline). A measure of 7 is neutral. You can test your soil with a DIY test kit. DIY test kits are inexpensive and easy to use.

Most herbs do prefer a neutral type soil – one that is neither acid nor alkaline – or one that is very slightly acidic (5 or 6 on the pH scale). There are a few that do like alkaline soils, including lavender, rosemary, sage, thyme, salad burnet (Sanguisorba minor) and chives. With good planning, you can prepare a bed or beds especially for alkaline-loving herbs, adding lime (calcium carbonate) or a suitable fertilizer containing line to the soil when you prepare it. The remedy for soils that are too alkaline is elemental sulfur.

Remember that the pH of your soil and the amount of clay or sand in it will determine how much lime or sulfur you need to add before you start the planting process.

To prepare a bed for herbs, dig the ground over to a good depth. Add compost or well-decomposed manure and a fertilizer containing nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium, according to the instructions provided by the manufacturer. Mix the compost and fertilizer into the soil, level and rake the soil and then give it a good watering before you start planting.

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