Top 10 Questions About Herbs

Here at Gardening Know How we get lots of questions, and our goal is to provide answers to those inquiries to the best of our knowledge. Growing herbs in the garden, or indoors, is a great way to have an endless supply of all your favorite herb plants right at your fingertips. Below you will find the 10 most commonly asked questions we receive about herb gardening.

1. When should perennial herbs be divided?

There are several benefits to dividing perennial herbs. When allowed to grow unchecked, many herbs die out in the center, leaving a bare hole in the foliage, not very pretty. Also, overgrown herbs crowd out each other and other plants. Plus, dividing herbs provides you with new healthy plants to put in other areas of the garden or give to friends or family. To rejuvenate perennial herbs, divide them every 3-4 years.

2. How easy is it to start an herb garden?

It is incredibly easy to start an herb garden! In fact, you don't even need a garden; a few pots will suffice grown either indoors in a sunny windowsill or outside. Many herbs are very hardy and come from areas with hot, dry climates. This means they really only need some good soil, sunshine, and minimal water. Herbs such as parsley, basil, thyme and sage are the perfect starter plants for the novice gardener as they are quite forgiving.

3. What herbs grow well indoors?

Growing herbs indoors is an excellent idea; it puts the aromatic foliage as near as possible to the cook. The most popular culinary herbs that are compact and easy to grow inside are basil, chives, cilantro, mint, oregano, parsley, rosemary, sage, and thyme.

4. When do you start pinching herb plants?

Start pinching herbs when they have their first few sets of true leaves. You don't want to denude the plant, so it's best to wait until it has established and is around 6 inches (15 cm.). Once you start, don't be afraid to continue. Herbs respond very well to pinching; it just signals the plant to push out new, healthy foliage that is full of aromatic and flavorful essential oil.

5. Can you plant different herbs in the same pot?

Absolutely, you can plant different herbs together as long as you plant those with the same requirements together. All herbs love the sun, but some need more water than others. For example, thyme, rosemary and sage like it fairly dry, while basil and parsley require more consistent moisture. Mint shouldn't be planted with any other herb. It tends to crowd out any other plants.

6. What herbs are invasive and will take over herb patch?

Mint is hands down the most invasive of the herbs. It should be planted alone in a container or potted and then sunk into the ground. Other herbs may take over the herb garden if allowed to grow rampantly. To prevent invasive herbs from crowding out garden areas, deadhead flowers and prune the plants back regularly.

7. What product is best for treating insects on herb plants?

While not overly problematic, pests or disease of herbs is not unheard of in the garden, or in your container grown plantings. That said, if you want to be a good steward of our planet, I would recommend using neem oil. It is a naturally derived, non-toxic insecticide, which not only means it's environmentally friendly but makes it safe for use on edible plantings like herbs. It can be used as a foliar spray on young plants or a soil drench that is absorbed systemically into the plants vascular system. It is then taken in by insects as they feed.

8. Which vegetables and herbs grow good together?

Companion planting is a method of planting that goes back centuries. It can be tricky, as you need to identify plants that have similar requirements. A good rule of thumb is to group plants from the same family together. Herbs and vegetable plantings are an excellent idea. Planting herbs such as rosemary near beans can help repel beetle pests. Most herbs are known to help repel pests as well as attract pollinators in the garden.

9. How to grow herbs in water?

Many perennial herbs can be grown in water. Simply snip off a stem of sage, thyme, mint, oregano or lemon balm and tuck it into a glass or decorative vase of water and place it in a sunny windowsill. The stem will root and the plant will continue to produce leaves that can be picked to add flavor to your cooking.

10. How do you go about pruning herb plants?

Herbs love to be pruned back as long as you never cut more than 1/3 of the plant. Cut or deadhead flowers to facilitate foliage growth. Annual herbs can just be cut when you wish to use the herb, but perennial herbs like rosemary should be pruned once a year in the spring or fall.

We all have questions now and then, whether long-time gardeners or those just starting out. So if you have a gardening question, get a gardening answer. We're always here to help.

Amy Grant

Amy Grant has been gardening for 30 years and writing for 15. A professional chef and caterer, Amy's area of expertise is culinary gardening.