The Most Common Herb Garden Mistakes

Learn How to Avoid These Gardening Goofs

overcrowded herb garden

The Spruce / Autumn Wood

When it comes to gardening, herb gardening seems to be in a class all its own. Although many gardeners wouldn't think twice about planting 25 different types of tomatoes, they won't consider growing their own cilantro.

However, there's no reason not to start your very own herb garden, especially when you are armed with the tips and tricks that will help you avoid the 10 most common herb garden mistakes.

  • 01 of 10

    Choosing Unhealthy Herb Plants

    yellowing tarragon

    The Spruce / Autumn Wood

    Your chance of success with your herb garden begins when you buy the plant. Look for healthy specimens, bright color, plenty of foliage, and absolutely not one bug or egg on it. Finding one aphid means there are many more that you can't see, all waiting to invade your other herbs. Do not have sympathy for a sickly looking herb, unless you have plenty of space to keep it quarantined from your main garden area while you repair the damage. The time and effort used to repair an infested herb garden is time wasted. Take the extra step and look for the healthiest herbs you can buy.

  • 02 of 10

    Planting Herbs in the Wrong Environment

    full sun location might not be suitable for all herbs

    The Spruce / Kara Riley

    It is important that you know what type of environment—from sun to shade, and from moist to dry—your herb needs before placing it in the soil. Are you planting rosemary, a dry and chalky soil loving plant, in a moist and humid area? If so, your rosemary will die in about two weeks time from wet feet. 

    If you want to plant herbs in a shady area, look for herbs that can stand less sun. The sun-loving herbs will become pale and weak from not enough bright sunlight every day. If you have neither too sunny or too shady an area, consider planting in pots that can be moved or rolled into the optimal lighting. 

  • 03 of 10

    Cutting Back too Little

    person pruning mint

    The Spruce / Candace Madonna

    What makes an herb grow quickly and neatly is pruning. Of course, pruning an herb means that you are actually harvesting the great tasting leaves and stems. If you do not prune, the plant grows taller on only a few stems and the leaves age, dry, and fall off. This results in long stems with no leaves.

    You are also allowing the herb plant to start and finish its life cycle. By harvesting regularly, you are keeping the herb in its growth stage for as long as possible. This promotes stem and leaves, keeps flowers from forming, and keeps the herb producing for a longer period of time. Your herb plants look better and are healthier if pruned back on a regular schedule.

  • 04 of 10

    Overcrowding or Planting Incorrectly

    It is very common to buy more herbs that you can possibly grow in one area. When purchasing your herb plants, read the plant tags that come with each pot and pay close attention to the height and width of the fully grown plant. You can always plant a quick- growing annual between the herbs if you don't like the look of mulch.

    It is always better to underplant than to put herbs in too close together from the start. Overplanting is not only a waste of money, but it also doesn't allow for your herbs to grow a healthy root system, one that will help them survive the winter and expand the following growing season.

    Continue to 5 of 10 below.
  • 05 of 10

    Allowing Flowers to Turn to Seeds

    Herb plants grow lovely flowers. Although many have edible blossoms, it is not a good idea to allow your herb to flower early in the growing season. Once a plant flowers, this is the signal that its life cycle is about to end. Your herb is making a flower, then a seed, then it dies back for that season.

    So, it is best to keep any flowers from forming in the first place. As you see a flower budding, simply pinch the entire thing off. If you find that the herb is persistent, cut back below the flower, or even the entire stem if needed.

  • 06 of 10

    Spraying Chemicals Onto Herb Plants

    If you are used to reaching for a bottle or box when faced with fertilizing and insect control, you should think twice when treating your herb garden. Herbs, which are often rinsed and used fresh, should never be exposed to any treatment that could be potentially dangerous or toxic when ingested.

    Even if a product says that it is safe around people and pets, look for the words "safe for edibles." There are many ways to keep ahead of the problems that may need chemical applications, such as weeding regularly, watching your herbs closely for insect attack, and fertilizing with a natural product like compost tea.

  • 07 of 10

    Overlooking the Small Details

    It is important to watch herb gardens closely. Knowing what the plant looks like while it is healthy will allow the gardener to notice a problem when it first happens. Watch for any damaged leaves, stems, and disturbed ​soil around your herbs. If you find that your leaves and stems are starting to fade, turn brown, or curl, you will have detected the problem early enough to possibly save the plant.

  • 08 of 10

    Watering Improperly

    Herbs' needs are minimal. Although easy to care for, they will be providing you with fresh bounty all season and do require a proper watering schedule in order to remain stress-free.

    Water your herbs in the early morning if possible; the water will soak further into the soil, without evaporation being an issue. Always water the soil around the herb—never water over the leaves. This only promotes mildew and disease.

    A good mulch is a must for your herbs, as well. Mulch keeps the moisture in the soil and may extend the time between waterings. Do not mulch right next to a herb's stem though; you may be inviting insect and other invaders to make their homes.

    Continue to 9 of 10 below.
  • 09 of 10

    Lack of Protection

    Although herbs are notoriously hardy and resistant to bug and disease problems, these situations can still arise. Many times herb gardeners are afraid to use any means to protect their plants, but it does not have to be this way. There are many organic and homemade controls that are safe for edible plants like herbs. Organic gardening starts before the plant is even in place; beneficial insects and good soil all work towards a chemical-free herb garden.

  • 10 of 10

    Forgetting the Fertilizer

    Once you have herbs planted and growing, it is important to keep them growing well with a light, all-purpose fertilizer. A compost tea, once a week, works to give them a boost. Herbs are going to be harvested multiple times in the growing season. This means they will be needing extra energy to keep in their growth cycle for an extended period. When applying, water the soil and not the leaves themselves with the compost tea. It is healthier for the plant and you will avoid any contamination of the leaves that might be eaten fresh.