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1st Garden - General Advice Needed!!

I'm trying gardening for the first time. I enjoy cooking so I figured an herb garden would be perfect. The area I'm looking at is and L shape - about 6 feet long on either side and 3 feet wide (there is room for expansion). I guess my first round of questions have to do with preparations:
-Should I do anything special to prepare the area? I'm hoeing all the grass off, tilling the area, and planning on adding humus, manure, and soil.
-Also what types of herbs are good to start with? The area is next to a fence so will not get full sun except for in the morning.

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I no longer grow herbs, but have in the past. My experience was that I got better and more intense flavor from my herbs with a lean, not too rich, soil mix. I would advise doing a soil test, or having one done (check with your nearest Extension Service, as they often do them for free), to determine if the soil really needs any additives or amendments. Of course, if your soil is heavy clay, you will want to add material to loosen it and improve the drainage.

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Location: Richardson, TX

I'm new to herb gardening as well but I do have one piece of advice....only plant mint in containers. Otherwise it will completely take over your little garden. I am watching my mint take over the container it's in and I can only imagine what it would do if I had planted it directly into my raised beds.

Happy gardening!
Thanks! Anna

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herbs for part sun

Most herbs really prefer full sun, but some of them will do ok with part sun (though not be as big as they would with more sun). Ones I've had work out in my kind of shady herb garden are lemon balm (makes lovely tea), lavender, tarragon, sage, fennel, oregano, mint, agastache. As noted the mint tends to take over, the oregano will spread a lot too. I also have comfrey and St. John's wort (though for some reason, my groundhog which won't eat the other herbs, has developed a taste for the comfrey, so now it's chewed down to the ground). I'm testing out thyme in the herb garden this year to see how it will handle the shade, not sure yet.

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I would suggest that you use some kind of heavy barrier covered by mulch around the perimeter of your herb garden. That will keep the grass from encroaching during the season. Heavy gauge black plastic covered with some kind of mulch looks great, defines the area, and keeps the grass at bay. You may also want to consider mulching between plants with several sheets of newspaper covered with a decorative mulch of some kind. That will keep the annual weeds from popping up and competing with your herbs. A little up front preparation can save a lot of headache and work later in the gardening season.
Eclectic gardening style, drawing from 45 years of interest and experience. Mostly plant in raised beds and containers primarily using intensive gardening techniques.

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I water my herbs once every 2 weeks, once a week in extremely hot weather. I don't fertilize them at all. Most herbs that we like to cook with are from the Mediterranean, and grow in crappy soil in full sun. The soil is a little better in my square foot garden that they actually like, that's why I water less.

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I have to back Kisal up and second the leaner soil thing; mine is in garden soil and it has not been as prolific as my mothers that we did in the spot in the yard where they filled in with the boulders and gravel from grading and just dumped sandy cr*p on top of (it had been a heather garden, but even that thin soil specialist had a hard time there). Lisa's right that a lot of them are Mediterranean plants, used to soils like you find there or Southern California or South Africa; small m mediterranean ecosystems that have thinner soils and moderate humidities. Steady organic fertilization rather than a lot of inherent soil nutrition and a free draining soil are the keys to so many of our best garden herbs, rosemary, lavender, thymes.

Some others like oregano and mint need corralling in almost any soil as they grow rampantly. I second Anna's advice wholeheartedly and suspect that the oregano might be easier to tend in a leaner soil than mine; I shear off half of the plant every year and hand it out, and everyone I know has a piece I gave them. My English thyme did badly last year piled under snow against a wet soil. There was some rooting but there was considerable die-off in the main body of the plant, which was only three or four years old and produced nicely last year. Probably wouldn't have been an issue in a freer draining soil; I have added sand around the starts I was able to salvage...

This isn't row crops; don't be overly fussy but be sure of drainage. For this reason above ground (i.e., raised beds) planting makes the most sense (it addresses Alex's excellent cooncern on edging as well). Sandy soils can be actually helpful for a change; just adding some compost for humus will be fine. If you have a clay soil I would add a pelleted gypsum to help with compaction and again, compost always helps to relieve compaction...

Get your soil right and the rest of gardening is easy...

Scott Reil

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I planted my first herb garden 18 years ago. I tilled a nice place in the back yard an made a 3 ft diameter circle with rocks. I planted basil, oregano and a few others we like in the kitchen. The plants were in full sun, the soil was just lawn dirt, I watered it, and it all died.

Next I found am article in a herb garden book that says to plant your herbs under your outside water faucet any time you use the garden hose the leakage will water your herbs. It worked out good for a few months then all the herbs died.

Next I tilled a spot 3 ft wide 6 or 7 ft long. I tilled in a 3.8 cu ft bag of peat moss and 2 wheel barrel loads of sand. The soil is loose and has very good drainage. I have been planting my herbs there for several years and they are doing fine. My plants are in full sun from about 10 am until 4 pm. I add a new herb every year. I only plant the things we use in the kitchen. The herbs seem to like it hot and dry. In the summer when it is 100 degrees every day the soil is very dry I very seldom need to water the plants even though sometimes they look wilted.

I visited a lady that has herbs all over her house in vases like flower arrangements, some were handing on the walls in bags, and some were in pots setting on the end tables and other furniture. WOW it sure did make the house sell wonderful. This year I am going all out to plant several more herbs in my garden so I can do what this lady did.

I use to go picking strawberries in the spring with my grandmother and aunt when they were still alive. My grandmother use to pick only the very tiny ripe strawberries while my aunt picked all the very large ripe strawberries. I ask my grandmother why she picks only the small berries and she said, because they taste several time better than the large berries. I tasted the berries and she was right. I assume the juices in the small berries are more concentrated that is why they taste better. I have learned from 40 years of making wine the small berries make the best wine. Moral to this story is, several people said herbs taste better if you don't water or fertilize them, I assume the juices in the herbs are more concentrated just like the strawberries were.

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