Herbal Gardening - Soil and Pests

For proper growth, your herbal garden will require the proper soil and protection from pests.

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Whether in an outdoor bed or comfortably ensconced in a container, good soil is fundamental to the health of your herbs.

From the sun, they will receive the energy needed to perform all the activities that makes possible growth and reproduction. That energy, however, is used to drive chemical reactions that can occur only because many of the components which originate from the soil.

Water, nitrogen and phosphorus content, alkalinity and acidity, and much more is determined by the nature of the soil used to house and feed your herbs. Keeping all these at the right level is paramount to success in any garden. In container gardening, all that is up to you. In an outdoor garden, however, nature helps to some extent but you may have to give some additional assistance in order to achieve optimal results.

Lavender, for example, likes dry, alkaline soil with good drainage. Sage can suffer root rot if the soil is kept too wet.


Soil is categorized as either sandy, clay-like or something in between. Clay particles suspended in the soil readily absorb and retain water. Sandy soil, largely silicates, are more "glass-like" and hence produce good spacing for air to move around, but water flows through easily. It's helpful, therefore, to have a good mix of the two for most herbs. You will have to study each type of plant a little to learn its soil preferences as you will have to lean more toward one than the other for those plants that prefer more extreme conditions. Sage likes it dry, but peppermint does better in more moist soil. A good compost will help you achieve the right balance.


Just as with any other plant, there are a variety of pests that can spoil your herbs. Many can fly to the plant, others crawl to it under the surface. This is another reason to concern yourself with soil maintenance, by the way. The good news is, however, that often herbs can actually help with pest control.

Aphids for example, attracted by the odors, love roses and certain vegetables. Planting herbs can actually help deter them. Chives, mint, basil and cilantro can help. Basil, for example, can help deter tomato hornworm from attacking your tomatoes.

But, this sword cuts two ways. Which way you want to slice will depend on your goals. Dill and yarrow can attract parasitic wasps that feed on the eggs of certain beetles. That helps keep the beetles away, but brings wasps.

Nothing's ever easy, is it?

Another herb, dill, is a "trap crop" for tomato hornworms. A trap crop is one deliberately used to attract certain species, which then feed on that plant, rather than the ones you want to preserve. That means, they'll stay away from your tomatoes but eat your dill.

The way out of the dilemma is a judicious use of artificial and/or organic pesticides tailored to destroy the pests that are attracted to specific herbs. Take care in applying artificial pesticides, however, if you are growing your herbs for seasoning. Though tested safe, some pesticides can accumulate over time.

Prepare soil, and maintain it properly and you'll keep your herbal plants healthy and pests at bay..

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Herbal Gardening - Proper Soil and Controlling Pests
Page Updated 3:53 PM Saturday 6/28/2014