If you’ve taken care of plants before, you may be wondering if you can treat herbs the same way. However, unlike vegetables, herbs have different fertilizer needs and are usually lighter in consumption. The fertilizer you need highly depends on the kind of herb you have, the growing conditions, and your soil’s fertility and texture.
To ensure the best shot at growing fragrant, healthy herbs, you’ll need to determine whether your soil is sandy, clay, or loamy and its nutrient composition. A soil test will tell you what your soil lacks to provide your plants with the nutrients they need to thrive. Here’s what you need to know about fertilizing your herbs:
Herbs and Fertilizer
Herbs certainly need fertilizers. However, they require different ones, typically falling into two categories. Slow-growing herbs with tiny leaves or needles with woody, fibrous stems native to the Mediterranean thrive in dry, infertile soil. These herbs are typically perennials like thyme, tarragon, lavender, mint, oregano, rosemary, sage, and bay laurel. These herbs require less fertilizer to survive.
On the other hand, fast-growing herbs have large, thin leaves and are primarily annuals, like cilantro, basil, dill, and borage. Some of these herbs are biannual, like parsley, and perennials like chives. Due to their nature, they benefit from more fertilizer than slow-growing herbs.
The Nutrients That Herbs Need
It’s best to plant herbs in healthy soil full of organic matter. They’ll grow best from an organic slow-release fertilizer containing equal parts of the necessary macronutrients, like nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus. Slow-release fertilizer is even more critical if your garden has sandy soil since nutrients tend to wash away quickly. If you want to give an extra lift to your fast-growing herbs, apply fish emulsion, a quality organic fertilizer high in nitrogen.
The Frequency of Fertilizing Your Herbs
It is ideal to follow your herbs’ growth patterns to determine the fertilization schedule. If your soil has average fertility, all you have to do is add a balanced fertilizer in spring when they thaw from the winter or whenever the new growing season begins.
However, other herbs would benefit from a modest application of slow-release complete fertilizer every month unless your leaves take a yellowish cast, which typically signals nitrogen deficiency. Adding dry fish fertilizer is an instant fix, but be sure to rule out other possible causes beforehand.
Fertilizing Your Herbs in Containers
Growing herbs in containers require more frequent fertilizer applications since the fertilizer in the potting mix washes out faster. Similar to sandy soil, use a slow-release fertilizer to ensure your herbs get a sufficient amount of nutrients.
The roots of plants grown in a container are restricted to a tight space, unlike herbs grown in garden soil or raised beds. This setup increases the risk of over fertilizing, so it is essential not to give your herbs too much. It’s best to use organic fertilizers instead of synthetic ones, which usually have a high level of salts that will accumulate in the container.
Over Fertilizing Herbs
It may seem harmless to add too much fertilizer to your herbs, but doing so results in excessive amounts of nitrogen, which will harm your herbs. Although thin-leaved herbs like basil will grow leaves faster due to nitrogen, giving you lush herbs, it will cause other herbs like rosemary to be less aromatic due to the lower concentration of essential oils. As a result, they will give off a weaker flavor.
Fertilizing your herbs requires a delicate balance and knowledge of your planting conditions. Knowing the kind of soil you have and whether your herb is slow or fast-growing will help you determine the type of fertilizer you need and how often to apply it.
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