How to Grow Culinary Herbs
Basil likes a rich, weed-free and well-drained soil, so prepare your designated space well before planting. Chose a sunny location. Space plants at 12" intervals. Cold, wet weather can cause basil leaves to blacken. It is best to plant basil when the late spring weather has stabilized, but it can tolerate cold spells if they do not last too long. Begin harvesting the top segments of the main stems when the leaves are of a useful size. Then harvest the side branches as they develop. This can continue until frost, which will halt all growth.
Plant 12" apart in rows, with rows 18" apart. Catnip is easy to grow and will establish itself almost anywhere, but for ideal conditions plant in rich soil and mulch. Harvest the leaves before they turn yellow. If drying, do so out of direct sunlight so the volatile oils do not dissipate. Plants may be divided in spring or fall.
Plant chives 4-8" apart in a sunny location with rich soil. Chives like a moist soil; the addition of a mulch layer to the garden bed will help retain moisture and discourage weeds. Cut the upper third of the stems to harvest. Do this before the round balls begin to form at the top of the spears unless you plan to let the plants flower or go to seed. Feeding periodically will keep the plants robust, especially after repeated cuttings.
Plant seedlings 12-18" apart in sun or part shade in rich, moist soil. Compost is an especially good amendment to work into the soil where parsley is to grow. When planting, take care not to disturb the roots because this can interfere with successful transplanting. Do not let parsley dry out. Harvest the large outer leaves by following the attached stem back to the core of the plant; do not leave the cut stems attached to the plant.
Space seedlings 24 - 36" apart depending on the mature size of the variety. Munstead and Hidcote can be planted closer; the other varieties will spread up to 4' and require more space. Plant in an area with full sun and good drainage. Lavender prefers alkaline soil with a pH of 6 to 8.2. Wet soil will cause root rot and kill the plant. Prune once a year. Do this in the fall in areas with mild winters and in the early spring in areas with severe winters. Once lavender is established it is drought tolerant.
Space seedlings 24-36" apart in full sun. The soil may be poor but must be well-drained because rosemary does not like excessive water around the roots. Fertilize lightly and infrequently.
Space seedlings 18" apart in full sun. Sage likes average to poor soil, but it must be well drained. Too much water will kill sage.
For the best quality leaves plant in light shade in moist, fertile soil. Place plants 8-10" apart in rows 12-18" apart. Cut seed stalks as they appear or leave them for finches to consume. Cutting the stalks will rejuvenate the plant so it produces leaves until fall. Harvest the side leaves until the plant is established. Thereafter all leaves may be harvested. Plants may be divided if they become too crowded.
Tarragon likes a moderate amount of sun in a fertile, well-drained location. Mulch is useful, although not so much as to keep the soil excessively moist. Tarragon has a lateral rather than vertical root structure. It is probably best to hand weed close to the plant to avoid damaging the roots. Feeding with a fish emulsion solution twice monthly during the growing season will make the plant thrive. You make begin cutting the stems as early as June. Leave 2-3" of stem so the plant can send forth new growth. Divide every 3-4 years to keep your plants vigorous.
Plant 9" apart in a sunny location. The soil should be well drained (sand is a good amendment) and need only be moderately fertile. The main consideration is to avoid soils that are heavy and wet. Thyme has fine, shallow roots. It cannot flourish if there are weeds competing with it. Pull weeds by hand so as not to damage the shallow roots. You may harvest thyme by cutting the upper third of the stems before the flowers open. Cutting too much too late in the fall will reduce thyme's winter hardiness. In any case, thyme should be mulched for winter.