For many thousands of years Herbs and spices have been used. They provide a tangible link to the past ages. Although interest in particular herbs has tremendously increased over time and across cultures, still we have witnessed a decline in herbal popularity in industrial era. Botanicals and other natural products have been substituted by wholly synthetic drugs, food additives, chemical dyes and pesticides, and other manufactured products. This trend has been somewhat reversed in the late 20th Century, however, as shown by expanding herbal interest this renewed focus consists rediscovery and reevaluation of our pre- industrial herbal heritage, along with new interest in beneficial plants as renewable, biodegradable, or less-toxic resources.
Plant-derived medicines have greatly contributed to human health and well-being, and today, plant materials have provided the models for, a significant proportion of western drugs. Commercially-proven drugs used in modern medicine were initially used in crude form for other purposes that suggested potentially useful biological activity.
Drainage and soil fertility should be considered first while selecting the site for herb garden,. Drainage is the most important factor for successful herb growing. Herbs cannot grow well in wet soils. If the garden area is poorly drained, it is supposed to be modified. A raised bed is an excellent solution to poor drainage.
The soil at the site does not have to be fertile.A highly fertile soil tends to produce an excessive foliage with poor flavor. Adding several amount of peat or compost per 100 square feet of garden area helps in improving soil condition and retain needed moisture.
Sowing Herb Seed:
Always sow the seeds in shallow boxes in late winter and transplant seedlings outdoors in the spring. A well-drained light soil is best for starting the seedlings indoors. Do not cover the seeds too deeply with soil.The finer the seed, the shallow it should be sown. It should be noted that different varieties have different germination requirements.
In propagating certain perennial herbs cutting and division are two useful steps. The best time is early spring or first signs of growth. Excessive woodiness or bald middles is a sign that it's time of rejuvenation. Bulbous roots are pulled apart whereas others need to be cut. Discard all the woody sections and replant and water it as soon as possible. Providing the shading for the first week or so can be very helpful.
Layering is a fairly risk-free method that can be practiced throughout the summer and works well on some of the woody or Mediterranean-type plants that don't have extensive root system for dividing. Select only that branch(s) that can be easily bent to the ground and strip the lower branches from the section that touches the ground. Loose the soil and bury the branch just below the upper surface. Let nature take its tine of course. By the end of the growing season, roots will be formed and the branch can be easily separated from the parent and moved to a new location.
Root cuttings follows the same principles. Cutting is a faster process but is also more prone to failures because the new section should completely removed from the parent plant and requires controlled conditions and regular attention.
Types of herbs :Herbs can be classified on various different basis-
On the basis of uses:
Culinary herbs are most useful to herb gardeners, because of having a wide range of uses in cooking. These herbs, because of their strong flavors, are generally used in small quantities to add flavor to food. These are produced in largest amount and used mostly as a garnish.
Aromatic herbs have got some novel uses and are not as popular. Most are pleasant smelling flowers or foliage. Oils from these aromatic herbs can be used to produce perfumes, toilet water, and various scents. In home, the plant parts are used to scent linens or clothing. When dried, many aromatic herbs retain their aroma for a considerable period of time. Some common aromatic herbs include mint, marjoram, rosemary, and basil.
Ornamental herbs consist of brightly colored flowers and foliage. Many of them have whitish or light-colored flowers. Valerian has crimson blossoms while borage and chicory have blue-flowered. Such herbs as variegated thyme mint, lavender, and chives produce variegated foliage.
Medicinal herbs have thought to have curative powers. But present medical knowledge recognizes as some herbs have healing properties while others are highly overrated. Medicinal herbs should be used carefully. Some herbs are harmless while others can be very dangerous if consumed improperly.
On the basis of life span:
Herbs can also be classified as annuals, biennials, and perennials. Annuals bloom in only one season and then die. Biennials live for two seasons, blooming the second season. Once established, perennials overwinter and bloom each season.
Herbs for Beginning Gardeners:
Beginning herb gardeners generally have a problem deciding which herbs to plant. There are numerous herbs from which selection is to be made. A quick check of any supermarket shelf will give an idea of the types of herbs used in cooking and will also serve as a planting guide. Many cookbooks also offer information on uses of various herbs as flavorings.
Ornamental use of herbs on the land scape:
Herbs can be used for culinary, medicinal, fragrant or other household purposes and are thus defined in botanical sense rather than horticultural sense. These are members of the mint and parsley families (Labiatae and Umbelliferae) and most of them are aromatic plants. However, gardeners should not ignore their ornamental qualities. Herbs offer a wide range of foliage colors that vary widely; The foliage texture of herbs provide an absolute ornamental contrast; from the needle-like leaves of dill to the bold leaves of angelica. Few herbs have very decorative flowers, such as chive or lavender, while few others possess attractive plant forms, such as the compact form of santolina.
Certain herb plants are well suited to this function For example A vertical accent herb Angelica archangelica can be used like a sculpture in the garden, or can be placed in a pot to highlight its bold texture and exotic appearance. Both Artemisia aboratanum, southernwood and Artemisia pontica can be grown as a hedge; as they spread rapidly by their roots. The true lavender, Lavandula Augustifolia, is often used as an infort-nal low hedge or edging for a garden path: its foliage remains are very attractive well during the winter for added interest and its cut flowers can be used in arrangements.