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WHAT CONDITIONS DO HERBS REQUIRE? FEEDING

by admin - April 2nd, 2009.
Filed under: Herbal. Tagged as: .

Food for the young plants is best put into the soil before they are set out, particularly with a perennial bed, which will not be disturbed again for several years. I have found the only fertilizers to use are the natural organic manures and compost. All my own herbs are organically grown, with no chemical or synthetic fertilizers and no dangerous sprays, so their feeding is completely natural and their flavour and aroma unchanged.

Blood and bone, in my opinion, is still the best concentrated food to be deeply dug into the soil when preparing the bed, for its nutriment is released more slowly, and is available to the plants over a longer period. Dig down or break up the soil to a depth of 18 inches or 2 feet if possible. It will repay you in allowing strong, free-ranging root systems to penetrate the soil freely. Into this loosened bed dig blood and bone at the rate of about 5 pounds to a circular bed 12 to 15 feet in diameter. A smaller bed should have about 4 or 5 handfuls per square yard well dug into the loosened top 8 to 12 inches of soil. This is fairly heavy feeding, and if your soil is rich and full of humus already, less blood and bone will suffice. Do not overfeed: this is the worst possible treatment for herbs. You will have abundant growth, yes, but less flavour and aroma, more susceptibility to insect pests and diseases, and in many cases no flowering at all. The best herb plants for any use whatsoever are those with good bbasic feeding to start with. Then do not disturb them, but let their flavour and oil content mature slowly as they grow. The most flavourful thymes and marjoram are the little woody plants, not the leggy, overfed giants which the caterpillars will love as much as you do.

When the plants are set out, spread a layer of coarse compost material (peat-moss will pinch-hit for compost if you don’t have a bin ready) and fork it loosely into the top few inches of soil. This will stop the soil caking and crusting when watered, and will give the roots near the surface some loose material in which to spread.

If possible, give herbs only natural foods, and avoid the instant dissolvable fertilizers: they tend to upset the powerful little mineral and vitamin factories of the herb plants themselves, and can even be fatal. Regular dressings of organic compost, forked lightly into the top-soil, duplicate the natural conditions under which all the plants grow best.

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