St. Louis Herb Society
  Growing Herbs  
Some Basic information for growing herbs, for more extensive information, you can order our publication "How to Grow Herbs in the Midwest".
Growing herbs is quite simple. Typically they take little space, can be planted as companion plants in an existing bed, or in containers. Many common herbs are quite attractive and demand little regarding pest control and maintenance. Proper growing conditions affect the production of essential oils on leaves, stems and flower parts which gives them the aromatic essence we want.
Choose a sunny location that receives at least 4 to 6 hours of full sun each day.
If only shade is available, try more shade-tolerant lemon balm, oregano, parsley, lovage, comfrey or mint, or grow herbs in containers, and position them for best light exposure.
Few herbs require fertile soil. Fertile soil tends to produce excessive foliage that is poor in flavor.
Soil testing for pH is available through Kemper Center for Home Gardening at Missouri Botanical Garden, and usually through your local state extension service.
Neutral to slight acidic, well drained soil is the best growing medium. For well drained soil composition, dig out the planting area to a depth of 12-18” and add 1/3 sharp sand or ‘Turface’, 1/3 organic matter such as compost, weathered manure or peat moss and 1/3 of the removed soil. For containers, use 2 parts soil mix to one part perlite.
If soil does not drain and tends to stay wet, try raised beds, or containers.
Know how plants grow:
Annuals - anise, basil, borage, chervil, chili peppers, coriander, dill, marjoram, summer savory.
Perennials – chives, fennel, lemon balm, lovage, mint, oregano, sage, salad burnet tarragon, thyme, winter savory.
Tender Perennials – bay, scented geranium, lemon verbena, rosemary, and lavender, should be treated as annuals in St. Louis.
Biennials –angelica, caraway, parsley.
Important Guidelines
Don’t crowd plants – they need air circulation. Allow room for growth. Use containers to keep plants in bounds. Mint is an invasive plant, growing rampant in gardens. Plant mint in a pot and sink in a garden bed to help keep it under control. Herbs make attractive window boxes, strawberry jars and hanging baskets.
Anise, coriander, dill, fennel, nasturtium, parsley, mustard are all easily grown from directly sown seed. It is probably best for beginners to start with potted grown specimens of all other herbs.
Care and Harvesting
Don’t over water - check one inch below soil level – watch for wilting. Prune flower buds as they appear, e.g. basil. Don’t harvest more than a quarter of an herb plant at one time.
When harvesting herbs, such as basil, chives, rosemary, etc., remove from the top of the plant. Snip from the top part of the plant, keeping the shape of the plant intact.
Do not pull herbs from stem with fingertips, it removes essential oils Harvest in the morning after the dew has gone and before the sun gets too hot. The heat causes the oils to evaporate from the leaves, lowering their smell and flavor. If washing is necessary, use cold water. Harvest herbs when you need them; do not harvest more than you can use at one time
Winter Protection
Spread loose mulch over the roots about 4 inches deep. Evergreen boughs, straw or oak leaves are also good. Do not mulch until after the ground is frozen in early winter. Do not remove mulch until you see signs of new growth in early spring.
Herbal Recipes
  • Moth Repellent Bags

  • Use dried herbs for this recipe.
    2 parts lavender, 2 parts southernwood (Artemisia abrotanum), 1 part rosemary, and 1 part pennyroyal(Mentha pulegium). Add 1 Tablespoon powdered cloves to every 2 cups of herbs. You can use powdered orris root as a fixative and some lavender essential oil for extra fragrance. Mix well and put in muslin or cheesecloth bags. Tie with twine or ribbon. Replace every year with fresh herbs. Herbs can be ordered from San Francisco Herb Company or from Penn Herb Company, Lts. Both companies are on-line.
  • Mosquito Repellent 1

  • 2 cups catnip (Nepeta cataria), with stems removed. 3-4 cups mild white vinegar. Rinse herbs, roll lightly with a rolling pin and place in a clean one-quart jar. Pour vinegar over herbs. Put a lid on the jar and store in a dark cupboard for 2 weeks before using. Shake jar lightly every day or two. Strain into a clean jar, put a lid on, and refrigerate for up to 6 months. To use, spritz on exposed skin and around outdoor dining areas. Re-spray every 2 hours or so. Although catnip is mild, be sure to test the spray with a small amount first to make sure your skin is not sensitive to it. You can always just spray your clothing. You can also steep the catnip in water, rather than vinegar.
  • Mosquito Repellent 2

  • 2 cups catnip. 1 cup rosemary, cut into 6-inch strips. 2 cups any light oil - olive oil, grapeseed, almond oil, etc. Roll herbs lightly with a rolling pin and pack into a clean quart jar. Cover with oil, put lid on and place in cool dark place for two weeks. Shake every day or so. Strain into a clean jar and refrigerate for up to 6 months. To use, rub on exposed skin.
  • Lavender Disinfectant

  • 25 drops lavender essential oil. 1 cup warm water. Combine in a spray bottle and spray the inside of the garbage can every time you change the bag. It will smell wonderful and disinfect as well.
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