How to Kill the Potted Herbs You Just Bought in Four Easy Steps

by Preston Brady III,

Basil in raised bed, Mobile Botanical Gardens, Photo: 2023

Of course you do not want to kill your newly purchased herbs. But let’s say it’s not you growing the garden – it’s a roommate. And the roommate hasn’t paid their part of the rent for months. The roommate doesn’t really have a job – so they stay up all night listening to Led Zeppelin and Iron Maiden (their ears are allergic to ear buds so you get treated to their music through the speakers) then sleep until about noon, after which they mosey out to their garden and piddle around. When you get off work they’ve asked you for advice on how to plant the bunch of herbs they just bought (with the money you let them “borrow.”) You are very happy to oblige.

  1. Tell your roommate they will need the richest soil they can find.
  2. Tell your roommate to plant the herbs straight into a flat, not well-drained ground. Drainage is bad for Mediterranean style herbs.
  3. Instruct your roomie to plant the lavender in a spot where receives direct sunlight all day.
  4. Finally, inform this person you hope will move soon, to water the lavender every day – lots and lots of water. Maybe once all their herbs die they will take it as an omen and move.

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If they pay you all the back-rent and some in advance, and maybe get a job and you decide to have mercy on their soul, tell them the best way to plant most herbs is in a raised bed with excellent drainage to avoid what kills a lot of herbs: root rot.

Tell the budding herbalist the herb will not need sunlight all day, so a spot with some shade, some sun is probably best.

Tell your housemate many herbs come from a region in the Mediterranean, along the shore which is a mix of sand and soil. Lavender and similar herbs will not appreciate rich soil. Just ordinary sandy loam soil will do.

And finally, it doesn’t rain a lot in the Mediterranean. In fact it’s a dry climate region. Overwatering your herbs can cause root rot and just simply wilt and kill the plant. To recap on how NOT to kill the herbs: Raised bed: the water satiates the plants and then drains to the ground below. Most herbs do not need direct sunlight for most of the day. Some shade is appreciated. Big box store bought planters often contain too much fertilizer pellet. Transplant the herb, gently shaking off most of the pellet clinging to the roots. Plant the herb in ordinary soil, and a mix of sand in the dirt is native to many herbs.

Maybe you just want a ready made herb garden you can place in a window. Try this one at Amazon:

Preston Brady III lives in Mobile, Alabama where he grows and cooks with herbs.

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