How to Start Herbal Farming
Herbs are one of the most popular edible plants which are very easy to grow and you don’t need a lot of gardening experience for growing them.
Herbs add a lot of flavour to a different variety of dishes and baked goods and it has been used since centuries as a food source and a means of livelihood for the peoples around the world.
It is also used in raw forms in order to use them in preparing herbal products. The Herbs are also used for extracting oils from them which is very essential for mankind.
Growing Herbs is very interesting and is very easy as they can be grown even in containers and they need a little Sunshine, Watering, Good Soil and a little Compost or Fertilizer. You can easily create a Herb Garden in a small space outside or even inside your home as indoor gardening.
Herbs have a very high demand in the market because of their medicinal and health benefits. Herbal gardening is similar to Vegetable Garden but they are fragrant plants which help in deterring pests and they are also very quick to harvest because you are just using the leaves.
Herb farming is a very lucrative business which can earn you huge profits, if they are handled carefully and almost every Herb is very profitable if they are provided with the right growing conditions, knowledge and a good niche market.
There are some popular herbs which are very easy to take care of and can earn you profits because they require less labour and provide more of the marketing opportunities. If you are starting herbal farming as a beginner, then it is recommended to start with culinary herbs as they have a wider appeal and they generate more profits.
Here we are going to study Some basic tips and Farming Requirements to become successful as a beginner in Herbal farming.
Types of Herbs
Herbs are green leafy parts of a plant which have fragrant and aromatic properties and are used for seasoning or flavouring many different types of dishes and they also include some natural medicinal properties in them.
There are mainly two categories of Herbs. They are:
- Culinary Herbs – These Herbs provide fresh and flavorful ingredients to spice up the dishes. For example: Oregano, Basil, Cilantro etc.
- Medicinal Herbs – These Herbs are said to be Healing Herbs which are used for health and wellness purposes and they can be made into teas, tinctures, lotions etc. For example: Chamomile, Calendula, Echinacea etc.
Different type of Herb Gardens
We can create different type of gardens for growing herbs. They are:
- Window Sill Garden – It is also called a Window box Garden which can be dressed up outside your house and you can even put them outside your kitchen window to get easy access to fresh herbs.
- Hanging Herb Garden – This type of Garden gives the herbs more flexibility as it provides better drainage and enhances air circulation. You can use containers for this type of gardens ss they dry out more quickly
- Vertical Garden – Vertical Gardening has become very practical these days and can also be used for decorative purposes. Vertical Gardens are free standing with 2 to 5 or more tiers for planter boxes and they can be constructed in various styles by decorating the walls and roofs. Some of the popular Herbs for Vertical gardens are: Basil, Chives, Cilantro, Dill, Lavender, Lemon Balm and Mint.
- Container Gardens – The Herb plants can be grown in almost all types of containers but the only requirement is that it should have a good drainage system and you can use different size and type of pots like Terra cotta, Plastic, Metal or Ceramic.
- Indoor Herb Garden – Almost many Herb plants can be grown indoors if you don’t have enough outdoor space or balcony and you can keep them near your kitchen so you can cook and have easy access to fresh home grown herbs. Herbs need a lot of natural sunlight if they are grown indoors, so make sure that you provide at least 6 hours of Sunlight for your herbs.
- Outdoor Herb Garden – Growing plants outdoors has several benefits as they get easy access to sunlight and rich soil which can be an ideal environment for growing plants. Herbs can be easily grown in Outdoor space and they can even be grown in Raised beds by filling the raised beds with high quality soils that they need.
Different types of Herb Farming
Some Herbs are easy to start off from seed but others take a long time to grow. In some cases, you can grow new plants with the help of cuttings. The Herbs should be taken care of during the early stage to avoid adverse growing conditions.
There are three different types of Herb farming:
- From the seed – Growing Herbs by sowing the seeds is one of the traditional methods and is the most effective. The quality of seeds determines the growing rate of your herb and the after sowing process results in a healthy plant even though the process is quite complex. It is very important to get all the required information before sowing them. Most herb plants are easy to grow from seeds and planting seeds is cheaper than buying transplants. You can create a Greenhouse effect by covering the containers using plastic wrap until the seeds sprout. Some Herbs that are easy to grow from seed are Basil, Borage, Calendula, Chervil, Cilantro, Dill, Parsley and Sage.
- From Division – Perennial Herbs are easy to divide. The division can be done using a garden fork to dig up the plant’s root system or you can even pull the roots by hand or cut the large parts of the plant roots into several pieces and place them elsewhere in the garden. Some of the Perennial Herbs that can be grown from division are Bee Balm, Chives, Garlic, Lovage, Marjoram, Oregano, and Thyme.
- From Cutting – The Herb stem cuttings should be taken in Spring or Winter when the plants are health Some good choices for growing Herbs from a cutting method are Lavender, Mint, Oregano and Sage.
Conditions for Successful Herb Farming
- Right Plants
Herbs can easily be grown in Vegetable Gardens, Raised beds or Containers, so it is very important to select the type of herb which can be easily suited in the environment you provide. The Herbs can be grown from seeds or cut from a branch of an existing plant which should be cut from the node and then soaked in Water until new roots sprout.
There are different type of Herbs including Annual plants such as Basil, Coriander and Dill; Biennial plants such as Caraway, Chervil and Parsley; and Perennial plants such as Chives, Fennel, Borage, Marjoram, Mint, Sage, Tarragon and Thyme.
You should select the Herbs according to the location and the management systems and the soil you have for them. Also, look for those herbs which have a great market demand and can earn you more profits and are easy to grow.
- Right Container
After selecting the type of herb to be grown, you need to find the right container for growing them. Growing Herbs in a container is beneficial in several ways. Herb plants don’t require much maintenance and they can be put up in different varieties of containers like coloured ceramic pots, vases, metal boxes or wooden boxes.
here are different types of pots for growing Herbs but the most important thing in selecting a container is that it should have a good drainage system and make sure to place a layer of pebbles in the bottom to catch excess moisture so that the potting soil doesn’t get saturated. You can even use small containers as Herbs don’t have large root systems.
- Right Location
Most of the Herbs require full sun so it is better to choose an outdoor area with 6 to 8 hours of direct sunlight daily. The morning Sun with the afternoon shade is very ideal for growing Herbs on summer days. In indoor farming, there is very little light especially in winter so make sure that you keep your Herbs in a Sunny place preferably in a south facing window.
Avoid planting the Herbs in wet or moist soil which has poor percolation. Avoid over watering as too much watering can inhibit their growth and can create ideal conditions for fungal diseases.
The soil should be amended with fertilizers and organic matter to help in improving drainage. Herbs grow well in full Sun and light with well drained, moisture retaining and fertile soil having plenty of organic matter in it. All the herb plants require sunlight but remember that different plants need varying degrees of Sunlight. Some require hot sun all day and some require only a few hours of direct sunlight.
- Right Soil
Most of the Herbs are not very particular about soil conditions and they simply require a well draining soil. If you are growing them in containers, it is better to create drainage holes at the bottom of the container before you start growing them.
You can improve the soil drainage by adding organic matter or compost around the Herbs before planting them. If you are growing the Herbs in the ground, you can place a layer of compost around them and then carefully mix them with soil.
You can cut a standard potting soil with sand or gravel for ensuring proper drainage. Potted herb plants can be damaged if they have been overwatered so it is better to use a mist sprayer so that it doesn’t get drowned.
Use high quality soil for container herb gardening to avoid Soil borne diseases or Garden soil contamination. For indoor farming, the herb needs a potting mix that provides additional drainage.
Make sure that your potting mix is blended with Coco Peat or Peat Moss, Perlite and Coarse sand as it modifies the ingredients to better suit the Herbs that you are growing. Soil mixes hold required nutrients for growth, drain water well and it also provides aeration to the roots of the herbs.
- Right Temperature
Herbs grow well if the temperature is between 18 to 21 °C in most of the home environments and some plants need a dormant period.
- Right Irrigation
Some Herb plants need to be watered daily and some of them need time to dry out between watering. For example: Thyme, Peppermint and Oregano plants need to be watered more frequently while Borage, Echinacea and Sage don’t require too much water. It is advised to irrigate heavily just after planting the Herbs.
It is important to understand that most herb plants are to be watered about once a week and during extreme heat or drought conditions they need water twice a week. In the cooler hours of the morning during 6 to 10 a.m, the roots should be watered to prevent them from evaporation and then it should be allowed for deep root soaking.
If the Herbs are grown in pots, they must be watered after every 2 to 3 days and to check whether they need water or not is to feel the soil. All the plants need regular watering, although there are certain herb plants that need more water than others and majority of them need water when the soil feels dry to the touch.
Nutrient Requirement for the Herbs
The Herbs should be planted in healthy soil which is rich in organic matter and it is important that the soil must be organic, complete, which releases fertilizers slowly and contains equal amounts of macronutrients – Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potassium.
For sandy soil, the fertilizer should be gently released so that the nutrients do not get depleted quickly. You can apply fish emulsion as an organic fertilizer which is high in Nitrogen with a NPK ratio of 4:1:1 or 5:1:1 to provide extra growth to the fast growing herbs.
Caring of the Herb Plants
The Herbs should be planted in high quality potting soil and once they are planted make sure that they are regularly watered especially in the summer season. If the herbs are planted outdoors, a good Garden hose will help you with your herb plant easily and will also save you time.
It is better to use only organic fertilizers as they help the plants to grow at a healthy and low stress rate. It is advised to apply liquid Seaweed or liquid fish emulsion as a foliar spray every week during the growing season as it can provide the right amount of nutrients to keep the plants healthy.
Harvesting of the Herbs
The Herbs should be harvested when there is enough foliage to sustain the plant’s growth and harvesting should be done early in the morning. Before flowering, the Herbs should be pruned because it can reduce the production of leaves.
The Herbs should be harvested before flowering and remember that every herb has a different flowering time during the season and the best time to harvest them is in the morning as oil and moisture in the leaves are best at this time. The leaves on the top of the herb are the tastiest and the
Herbs which are grown for the leaves should be harvested at the time of flower bud development and half opening. Remember that the more plants you pick, the more plants you will get to harvest often. Do not remove more than one third of the plant to promote growing and just pinch off individual plant leaves, not the whole stalk and remember to pinch back after harvesting.
Basic Tips for Herb Farming
- Herbs need well drained potting soil mixed with a little fertilizer or compost with at least 6 hours of Sunlight.
- The potting soil for the plant should be selected such that it could hold water.
- Before planting, the soil should be made loose and if the soil is compact or consists of heavy clay, it should be added with some compost, peat moss, or coarse sand to improve the drainage.
- The plants should be watered regularly, particularly an inch of water every week.
- Purchase the starter plants from a local nursery and plant them in your garden during the spring season.
- Most of the plants are easily grown from seeds and they should be planted indoors in Shallow containers for a month before the start of spring.
- The soil should be well drained which is designed for seedlings and make sure that the plants are not sown too deeply. In general, the bigger a seed, the deeper they should be sown.
- The young herb plants need frequent clipping to encourage them to branch out and become fuller so make sure to prune them but don’t cut them more than a third off. Don’t prune regularly if the Herbs are flowering, because the more you prune the plant, the more it will grow.
- Most of the Herbs prefer moist but very sunny soil so don’t make the soil too wet because it will not produce pleasant herbs.
- Don’t use too much fertilizer because the plants will produce large quantities of plants but it will have low quality flavours.
- Always consider selecting 2 to 3 herbs to start with and keep it manageable.
- Use proper insecticides to control the pests after confirming the type of pests and its solution.