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Neo
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Problem with my Herbs

I maintain a tiny balcony garden. For my work, I have to live for extended period in different countries. Right now I am in a city in China. Weather here is a little strange for me. Temperature and amount of sunlight fluctuates a lot. These days the temperature is usually between 20 and 30 deg C and it is mostly cloudy and rainy.

I usually love to grow different foliage but this year I tried growing several herbs. Mints are growing great and wild. Citronella is also growing well. Sage and Rosemary are in sort of non-responsive state. They are neither growing new leaves, nor in a bad shape. I actually bought two Rosemary and just one survived. Oregano and Thyme are in bad shape. Nearly dead. The soil is moist but not too wet. Leaves nearly all dried up. One of the herbs that I love most but have not been successful is Basil. I bought some Lemon / Thai Basil in the beginning they had tough time surviving and after a long time, they are alive but not growing much. I bought a pot of Sweet basil which had three plants in it. They were not growing much so I pruned them but it did not help. I thought they might be having space problem and so separated the three in to three separate (larger) pots. Since then they are having tough time. I am not able to make out what is going wrong with them. The soil is moist but not wet. When I place them in the balcony leaves seem to start falling more then when they are in the room. At times an entire stem droops down and eventually I have to pinch them off. I am trying to avoid watering them as I am not sure about the problem. I loosened the soil a little and mist the plants about once in a day.

Kindly advise what can be done to help my herbs grow well. Where am I going wrong ?
Attachments
Rosemary.jpg
Sage.jpg
Thyme.jpg
Oregano.jpg
Mint.jpg
Basil3.jpg
Basil2.jpg
Basil1.jpg

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applestar
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Re: Problem with my Herbs

Do these pots have drainage holes? They should. And Rosemary, Sage, thyme, and oregano should be in very well draining soil/potting mix. (You didn't show Sage, right?)

When watering, water thoroughly until it runs out of the drainage holes in the catch tray, wait 20 minutes then pour out any remaining water. Don't water again until they need it -- the pot feels lighter when hefted compared to when thoroughly watered. Don't water the drought tolerant plants until surface of the soil feels dry.

I'm not seeing what I would call citronella plant, and one plant that might be what you are referring to looks to me like a variety of perilla. If so, this one should be treated as drought tolerant.

Is your balcony sunny? How much direct sun do they get when out on the balcony and from what direction? Is it windy? I'm guessing the transition from inside to outside is too great. You need to acclimate them to the outside conditions in increments.
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imafan26
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Re: Problem with my Herbs

You have warm moist conditions with high humidity. Mint likes it moist and humid and can handle the heat. It will look nicer in partical shade. Rosemary blooms in summer and does not do much growing as it is dormant. It should start growing again in the early part of the year. It like to be well drained, does not need a lot of fertilizer and water when it is almost dry. Oregano, sage, thyme, and lavender like a lot of sun and can handle the heat. They need a poor well drained soil and they do not like to be rained on. the leaves of sage and lavender will turn black if it rains a lot. Oregano can take a little more water, but it likes to be almost dry between watering. I grow them in terra cotta pots with cinder. They like a more alkaline soil so a little gypsum or dolomite lime won't hurt. Either that, or use a cactus mix. If I keep sage and lavender in the yard they will turn black when it rains constantly and I have to cut it back to the ground every January. Sage does better in the alkaline herb garden that does not get a lot of water. To keep rain off the lavender and sage, I keep them on the edge of the lanai under the eaves so when it does rain they don't get rain directly on them.

Herbs have to be cut back regularly to keep them from getting woody and also divided when they start to look good so they won't crowd. Mint will choke itself when the roots wind so I repot it as soon as it looks good. Oregano and thyme I ground layer to make new plants, once the old one gets woody, it dies for me so I have to keep making new ones. Lavender needs to be cut back to keep it compact and less woody. Cut only the new wood. Cutting into old wood can be dangerous. I cut back half the plant and when I start seeing young shoots coming out, then I cut back the rest. I have been making cuttings from the lavender and they root well, but I am having trouble keeping transplants alive. I used to be able to do this better, I may have to leave them in the cutting box longer to establish a larger roots system. Oregano and thyme root easily from divisions or cuttings. Mint needs to be contained.

I think your sage and oregano are probably getting too much water or rain. Move them back or put them in a shelter so they can get the sun but keep the rain from getting on the leaves. They do need good air circulation especially in a humid climate, their hairy leaves capture and hold water but will develop black fungal diseases if they cannot dry off.
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Neo
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Re: Problem with my Herbs

applestar wrote:Do these pots have drainage holes? They should. And Rosemary, Sage, thyme, and oregano should be in very well draining soil/potting mix. (You didn't show Sage, right?)
Yes they have drainage holes
When watering, water thoroughly until it runs out of the drainage holes in the catch tray, wait 20 minutes then pour out any remaining water. Don't water again until they need it -- the pot feels lighter when hefted compared to when thoroughly watered. Don't water the drought tolerant plants until surface of the soil feels dry.
I will try doing that
I'm not seeing what I would call citronella plant, and one plant that might be what you are referring to looks to me like a variety of perilla. If so, this one should be treated as drought tolerant.

Is your balcony sunny? How much direct sun do they get when out on the balcony and from what direction? Is it windy? I'm guessing the transition from inside to outside is too great. You need to acclimate them to the outside conditions in increments.
My balcony receives a little Sun in the second half of the day.
My Basils are not growing fast enough. What should I do ?

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Neo
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Re: Problem with my Herbs

imafan26 wrote:You have warm moist conditions with high humidity. Mint likes it moist and humid and can handle the heat. It will look nicer in partical shade. Rosemary blooms in summer and does not do much growing as it is dormant. It should start growing again in the early part of the year. It like to be well drained, does not need a lot of fertilizer and water when it is almost dry. Oregano, sage, thyme, and lavender like a lot of sun and can handle the heat. They need a poor well drained soil and they do not like to be rained on. the leaves of sage and lavender will turn black if it rains a lot. Oregano can take a little more water, but it likes to be almost dry between watering. I grow them in terra cotta pots with cinder. They like a more alkaline soil so a little gypsum or dolomite lime won't hurt. Either that, or use a cactus mix. If I keep sage and lavender in the yard they will turn black when it rains constantly and I have to cut it back to the ground every January. Sage does better in the alkaline herb garden that does not get a lot of water. To keep rain off the lavender and sage, I keep them on the edge of the lanai under the eaves so when it does rain they don't get rain directly on them.

Herbs have to be cut back regularly to keep them from getting woody and also divided when they start to look good so they won't crowd. Mint will choke itself when the roots wind so I repot it as soon as it looks good. Oregano and thyme I ground layer to make new plants, once the old one gets woody, it dies for me so I have to keep making new ones. Lavender needs to be cut back to keep it compact and less woody. Cut only the new wood. Cutting into old wood can be dangerous. I cut back half the plant and when I start seeing young shoots coming out, then I cut back the rest. I have been making cuttings from the lavender and they root well, but I am having trouble keeping transplants alive. I used to be able to do this better, I may have to leave them in the cutting box longer to establish a larger roots system. Oregano and thyme root easily from divisions or cuttings. Mint needs to be contained.

My Basils and Rosemary have so few leaves and they grow so slowly that I feel afraid in pruning them. Any advise ?

I think your sage and oregano are probably getting too much water or rain. Move them back or put them in a shelter so they can get the sun but keep the rain from getting on the leaves. They do need good air circulation especially in a humid climate, their hairy leaves capture and hold water but will develop black fungal diseases if they cannot dry off.

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applestar
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Re: Problem with my Herbs

I recently uppotted and planted out my basils. I have been marveling at how they have almost visibly grown. I wanted to say you should try uppotting into containers that are at least 3 times the current diameter. But then realized you mentioned you did uppot that one you photo'd separately.

So the next question is what kind of potting soil? I see a lot of what looks like regular dirt and sand, and a very small amount of what looks like shredded coir maybe? I think basil likes more organic matter. Shredded coir is a good substitute for peat moss. You could even use tea leaves and coffee grounds after making beverages with them. Coffee grounds are great. Buckwheat or rice hulls, or oat or wheat bran are some other ideas.

Basil is grown for tender fresh leaves and needs more fertilizer than the drought tolerant herbs or mints which are better grown in lean soil/potting mix to concentrate the essential oils. For nutrients, you want something with extra nitrogen since you want basil to grow leaves and not bloom. For the first permanent location/container planting, I used organic Fruit Tree fertilizer for the extra nitrogen and micronutrients as well as beneficial fungi/mychorrhizae, then added some kelp meal (ground up dried kelp) for the minerals which I think helps the roots establish as well as makes them taste better.

I also put some earthworms in the containers (garden bed already had plenty living in there). They are great for keeping the plants healthy and growing. I will fertilize with normal organic fertilizer to promote foliage growth after the initial nutrients are used up. A lot of people use fish-based fertilizer for their herbs.
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applestar
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Re: Problem with my Herbs

My balcony receives a little Sun in the second half of the day.
I think sun in the 2nd half of the day would be too strong for plants accustomed to indoor conditions. Try giving them a little shade. Rather than solid shade, try something like cloth or wicker/bamboo mat/lattice kind of shade. Do you have a basket?
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imafan26
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Re: Problem with my Herbs

Look under the basil leaves and make sure they do not have downy mildew. Remove fallen leaves to prevent disease. In mostly shady conditions basil will get tall and thin. Pinching the tops will promote branching. If you only have a couple of hours of light, then supplemental light will help. Although afternoon sun is not the best, most plants still need to have 4-6 hours of good light. If you only get a couple of hours of afternoon sun, it may not be enough. Your mint is nice but it is also lanky. I only get that with mint that is in shade for most of the day. Mint grown in full sun is more compact and not so tall.

Rosemary needs a bigger pot. You can just trim a bit off the top to promote more branching, but that can wait till the rosemary starts growing again. Rosemary usually will bloom in summer and be dormant. It usually starts growing again in the early part of the year.

https://www.extension.umn.edu/garden/ya ... ny-mildew/
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applestar
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Re: Problem with my Herbs

Good point imafan. I was just coming back to say the herbs should be acclimated to the sun and other conditions so they can be and placed out on the balcony full time without protection. Especially sun-loving plants which under normal circumstances would be grown in full sun.
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Re: Problem with my Herbs

You didn't really show us what the balcony looks like. If there are railings and especially if the railings are more like fencing, they cut out a lot of light when the plants are on the floor like that. It helps to get the plants up off the floor into the sunshine, by setting them on some kind of bench or plant stand etc.
Image

Image

Image

etc

Get them up where the sun is!
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Neo
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Re: Problem with my Herbs

applestar wrote:I recently uppotted and planted out my basils. I have been marveling at how they have almost visibly grown. I wanted to say you should try uppotting into containers that are at least 3 times the current diameter. But then realized you mentioned you did uppot that one you photo'd separately.
I uppotted it about a week or two back.

So the next question is what kind of potting soil? I see a lot of what looks like regular dirt and sand, and a very small amount of what looks like shredded coir maybe? I think basil likes more organic matter. Shredded coir is a good substitute for peat moss. You could even use tea leaves and coffee grounds after making beverages with them. Coffee grounds are great. Buckwheat or rice hulls, or oat or wheat bran are some other ideas.
Yes there is a lot of shredded coir in the soil.

Basil is grown for tender fresh leaves and needs more fertilizer than the drought tolerant herbs or mints which are better grown in lean soil/potting mix to concentrate the essential oils. For nutrients, you want something with extra nitrogen since you want basil to grow leaves and not bloom. For the first permanent location/container planting, I used organic Fruit Tree fertilizer for the extra nitrogen and micronutrients as well as beneficial fungi/mychorrhizae, then added some kelp meal (ground up dried kelp) for the minerals which I think helps the roots establish as well as makes them taste better.
If I just mix kelp with the soil will that help ? Do you think I might have to use some ready made fertilizers sold in the market ? I would like to avoid chemical based ones unless it is absolutely necessary. I am mainly worried why are they growing so slow (literally not growing at all). And I would also love to use Basil and Rosemary for cooking and if they grow so slow then it is impossible I will be able to use them in any way.

I also put some earthworms in the containers (garden bed already had plenty living in there). They are great for keeping the plants healthy and growing. I will fertilize with normal organic fertilizer to promote foliage growth after the initial nutrients are used up. A lot of people use fish-based fertilizer for their herbs.

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Neo
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Re: Problem with my Herbs

rainbowgardener wrote:You didn't really show us what the balcony looks like. If there are railings and especially if the railings are more like fencing, they cut out a lot of light when the plants are on the floor like that. It helps to get the plants up off the floor into the sunshine, by setting them on some kind of bench or plant stand etc.
Image

Image

Image

etc

Get them up where the sun is!
I do not think there is lack of Sun. My Mint at times looks wilted and drooping in Sun. I have to mist it once or twice a day and water them at least once a day, if there is bright Sun.
Last edited by Neo on Sat Jun 24, 2017 8:02 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Neo
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Re: Problem with my Herbs

imafan26 wrote:Look under the basil leaves and make sure they do not have downy mildew. Remove fallen leaves to prevent disease. In mostly shady conditions basil will get tall and thin. Pinching the tops will promote branching. If you only have a couple of hours of light, then supplemental light will help. Although afternoon sun is not the best, most plants still need to have 4-6 hours of good light. If you only get a couple of hours of afternoon sun, it may not be enough. Your mint is nice but it is also lanky. I only get that with mint that is in shade for most of the day. Mint grown in full sun is more compact and not so tall.

Rosemary needs a bigger pot. You can just trim a bit off the top to promote more branching, but that can wait till the rosemary starts growing again. Rosemary usually will bloom in summer and be dormant. It usually starts growing again in the early part of the year.

https://www.extension.umn.edu/garden/ya ... ny-mildew/

There are couple of holes in some leaves as shown in that link but neither the leaves are turning yellow nor black. They do turn black only if one entire stem suddenly start drooping.

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applestar
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Re: Problem with my Herbs

I don't think you directly answered/commented on what I said about the herbs possibly getting sun-stressed because they are not used to the direct sun when you put them out after being inside. Are you taking them in and out, leaving them in the direct sun for hours after living indoors for days?
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