Increase Spring Sales With Multi-purpose Herbs

Salvia Golden Delicious

Herbs have a fascinating economic and social history. Ancient civilizations used herbs for healing and in religious ceremonies. Over time, herbs were woven into myths, lore and legends. Today, many herbs are commercially produced for various reasons, including usage for the food industry, natural health remedies and in perfumes and cosmetics.

In our horticulture industry, home-grown herbs are becoming more and more popular as consumers discover just how easy they are to grow, use and harvest. From a geometric English herb garden to an apartment balcony in Brooklyn, there is room for herbs in every household. Growers looking for something to add can count on herbs to have wide appeal.

The extensive selection can be overwhelming. Starting with a basic variety list is the best advice for a commercial greenhouse grower looking to supplement its offering. Common herbs that consumers routinely ask for include; basil, catmint, chives, cilantro, dill, lavender, mint, oregano, parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme.

Many herbs can also be promoted for landscape use as well as in the kitchen. These are dual-purpose plants that have ornamental value in addition to their culinary appeal.

Cultivars Of Interest For The Landscape


There is no rule against planting herbs directly into the garden border, if it can be managed without the use of chemicals. Herbs are often critter-resistant due to their strong fragrance, which is an added plus for the gardener.

The Lavandula angustifolia Ellagance series is a great example of lavender from seed that does not require vernalization to flower and comes in purple, lavender-blue, white and a new pink-flowering form. Nepeta ‘Junior Walker’ is a compact form of catmint that retains its habit, shape and floriferous vigor, year after year.

Ocimum basilicum ‘Kasar’ not only makes great pesto, it is fabulous as a landscape plant with its deep-green foliage splashed with purple and long-lasting lavender flowers.

Rosmarinus officinalis ‘Barbeque’ is a terrific shrubby rosemary that is very bright green in color. Plant it in the ground next to the patio and use the long, fragrant stems as skewers on the grill.

Salvia elegans ‘Golden Delicious’ is a gorgeous plant that becomes a shrub-sized specimen by late summer. When the bright red flowers appear in fall on the chartreuse foliage, it is a great thrill. The leaves smell just like pineapple, which is an additional draw for customers. There are also many choices of thyme that work well in stepping stone or rock garden plantings.

Crop Production And Timing


Herbs are generally produced in 31/2- to 41/2-inch containers. One liner or seed plug per pot is usually enough. A 128-cell will work nicely for this size. However, pinching is required to help shape the plant in most cases. Some growers prefer a bigger, 72-cell liner that will have already had a pinch or two and will not require additional handling after transplant.

Six-inch or 1-gallon containers can also be used as the finished size, especially for herbs that are more for the landscape. While most herbs are sold green in smaller sizes, the larger pot size for garden borders will sell better when they are in bloom. This is important to remember because many types of lavender require vernalization to flower.

Pinching is a must for most herbs. Liners or seed plugs that have not already been pinched will benefit from a pinch at transplant or about two weeks after transplant. It is best to evaluate on a case-by-case basis.

If growing from unrooted cuttings is an option, it is recommended to start with a small cell size that can be bumped up into the 31/2- to 41/2-inch containers. One cutting per cell is recommended, except for thyme, in which two cuttings per cell are recommended. Most herbs will fill out a 128-cell liner in about 6 weeks. A pinch after propagation is recommended.

Growers generally receive unrooted cuttings in December and January, transplant the liners or plugs in February and March and sell finished pots April through June. Not much is carried through the winter unless plants are in larger containers.

It will take about four to five weeks for basil, catmint, chives, cilantro, dill, mint, oregano, parsley, sage and thyme to finish a 41/2-inch container from a 72-cell liner planted in March. It will take about 6 to 8 weeks for curry, tarragon, lavender and rosemary.

If growing mixed containers of herbs, be aware of the growth rate for different types and adjust plant dates or transplant cell sizes accordingly. For example, plant the slower-to-finish rosemary early or begin with a larger container or cell for a mixed container with parsley, sage and thyme. Herbs that need more time are: curry, lavender, rosemary and tarragon. At retail, displaying a finished, mixed herb container next to the table with the small herb pots can boost sales.

Proper Culture, Not Chemicals, Is Necessary For Disease Control


Few chemicals are registered for herbs so it is essential to practice good culture and growing habits in production in the late winter and early spring months. Read labels carefully, as some chemicals may be labeled for specific herbs, but not all. Use good sanitation methods and discard diseased plant material. Eliminate weeds and scout often to detect problems.

The main disease problem when growing herbs is Botrytis. This gray mold is happy to take hold of tender, young herbs, especially when growing under damp or low-light conditions. Good airflow will aid in the prevention of Botrytis and other diseases. Downy mildew and powdery mildew are other common diseases that can be found on herbs. Common pests include aphids, two-spotted spider mites and whiteflies.  

Spacing is generally not required when producing in small pots, since the production time is relatively short. However, there will be better airflow and less chance of Botrytis with good spacing, and this is highly recommended if sales or shipping are delayed.

Herbs require well-drained media or soil and will not thrive in wet conditions. Use the maximum available light intensity for best growth. Supplemental day lighting may benefit growth during darker days in winter. Try to time watering for the mornings on sunny days.

Herbs Need Sunny Days And Minimal Fertilization


Fertilization requirements are relatively low. Apply 100 to 150 ppm nitrogen every third irrigation from a complete NPK fertilizer with micronutrients that contains the majority of nitrogen in the nitrate form. Plant growth regulators are not permitted on herbs, so avoid over-fertilization, which will encourage soft, stretched growth. This type of growth is also more susceptible to disease.

The soil pH should be between 6.0 and 6.5 with the exception of lavender and thyme, which prefer a slightly more alkaline soil.

Most herbs are produced with night temperatures between 55°F and 60°F (13°C and 16°C). Day temperatures are normally about 5° to 10° higher. An exception to this is basil, which requires warmer night temperatures of about 65°F (18°C). Heat or ventilate moist air at the end of the day to reduce relative humidity overnight.

Help your customers add an element of freshness and flavor to family meals along with the added benefit of season-long interest. We know growing edibles as well as other forms of gardening can boost your customers’ well-being. Growing herbs for the first time can hook a young or novice gardener and develop a customer for life. Entice them with these multi-purpose plants that are satisfying and easy to grow for culinary, landscape and even decorative use.

Leave a Reply

More From Vegetables...
Bee Vectoring Technology Bumblebee

December 1, 2015

New Crop Protection Solution Uses Bees To Deliver Biocontrols To Flowering Crops

The new system from Bee Vectoring Technology incorporated a powdered crop protection material into the lid of commercial bumblebee hives. Bees pick up the product when they leave the hive and deposit it on every plant they visit.

Read More
Smith Gardens Marysville outdoor field production

November 30, 2015

Why Smith Gardens’ Marysville, WA, Facility Is A Great Place To Work

Labor rates in Washington State are some of the highest in the nation, making competition for labor fierce. This is why Smith Gardens in Marysville, WA, wants to strengthen its reputation as a great place to work.

Read More
Feature - Agave ‘Blue Waves’ (Rancho Tissue Technologies)

November 30, 2015

Spice Up The Garden With 12 New Succulent And Miniature Plant Varieties

New succulents and miniature plants for 2016 offer a variety of colors and foliage textures that add interest and visual appeal to any size garden — indoors or out.

Read More
Latest Stories
This row of tomatoes with large fruit load is part of an on-going project with DeRuiter Seed Co

November 20, 2015

What To Consider When Growing Vegetables Under Cover

Some critical points to think about before adding vegetables to your crop mix include market, crop choice, and labor.

Read More
Pleasant View Gardens Savor Pot

November 16, 2015

Pleasant View Gardens Launches New Savor Edibles And Fr…

This new line of nearly 150 vegetables and herbs is aimed at Millennials and will be available to garden centers in 2016.

Read More
Increased customer demand led Good Harvest Farms to add hydroponic lettuce in 2000

November 13, 2015

Ornamental Greenhouse Growers Must Do Their Homework Wh…

Good Harvest Farms began growing hydroponic lettuce 15 years ago. Owner Chris Powell says having a reliable market and emphasizing quality are critical.

Read More
To offer consumers an attractive crop, Local Appetite uses high tunnels to grow cherry tomatoes

November 13, 2015

Vegetable Grower Makes The Move To Protected Agricultur…

High tunnels have helped one Alabama grower produce high-quality crops year-round while providing a significant return on investment.

Read More

September 18, 2015

Grimes Horticulture And Seeds By Design Form Partnershi…

The new alliance will allow the two companies to take advantage of each of their strengths in breeding and marketing of new vegetable varieties for greenhouse growers and farm marketers.

Read More

August 4, 2015

New 2015 California Spring Trial Edibles For The Patio …

If you are looking to capitalize on the foodie trend and spread your risk beyond Spring sales, new vegetables showcased at 2015 California Spring Trials offer plenty of opportunities to focus on unique, flavorful vegetables and edible plants that also hold ornamental value. Here are a few of new varieties Editor Laura Drotleff and Group Editor Carol Miller discovered at Spring Trials that will help diversify your crop mix.

Read More

April 20, 2015

Three Michigan State University On-Demand Webinars Offe…

The first rule of effective insect and disease control for vegetables is to take action to prevent problems before they occur. But in order to do that, you need to have an effective pest and disease management strategy in place that incorporates best practices to ensure a successful outcome. Michigan State University offers three pest and disease management on-demand webinars that will get you started and keep you on the right track.

Read More

April 16, 2015

American Takii’s Asian Vegetable Line Is Designed…

Unlike many of the other breeders displaying at Spring Trials, American Takii didn’t have many new introductions. But it did have a new program that has prompted many visitors to post to social media — its Asian vegetables. Takii, which is well known for its vegetable breeding, is in the process of vetting the eight to 12 vegetables it will include in the program, and it should have its list fully complete by fall 2015. It is selecting plants that will be easy to use in Asian cooking and will help it stand out from the many vegetable programs in the ornamental market. The Takii marketing team designed bright-red Chinese food takeout containers to act as plant sleeves and a small booklet with five recipes. Honey Chicken With Pak Choy looked especially tasty. Take a look at how the program looks and let us know what you think.       HilverdaKooij is a […]

Read More
Zucchini 'Brice' (Syngenta Vegetables)

April 14, 2015

18 New Vegetables For Easy Growing And Healthy Eating

Current breeding efforts have focused on vegetable varieties that cater to small space and urban gardening trends and offer consumers good performance with minimal efforts. As a result, new, easy care vegetable introductions packed with flavor and loaded with fruits have swept onto the market. Here are 18 of the newest vegetables already on the market or hitting the market in 2016.

Read More

April 13, 2015

Keeping Your Greenhouse Vegetables And Fruits Safe: Ove…

This is the first installment of a four-part series that will bring you up to speed on what it takes to fulfill food safety mandates for greenhouse production.

Read More

April 10, 2015

5 Selection Principles For Vegetables That Sell

You gain a competitive edge when you select vegetable varieties that are right for your greenhouse and right for your customers. Here are five pieces of advice from breeders to help you stay ahead of the game.

Read More

March 31, 2015

California Summer Vegetable Trials To Be Hosted By Nati…

Vegetable breeding companies will come together this August to host the Summer Vegetable Trials in California. Like the long-standing California Spring Trials that are held annually in California, attendees will have the opportunity to visit breeding companies' trial sites in seven locations throughout the state, from August 20-21, 2015. National Garden Bureau (NGB), the non-profit organization promoting gardening on behalf of the horticulture industry, is organizing and publicizing this event on behalf of its members.

Read More

November 24, 2014

Root Crops And Plug Trays: A Perfect Match

Growing a plant to maturity in plug trays might be foreign to ornamental growers, but with a little help from plug tray manufacturers and breeders, there is little to hold growers back in this root crop category.

Read More

November 14, 2014

First Vegetatively Propagated All-America Selections (A…

All-America Selections (AAS) honors two vegetatively propagated impatiens with AAS winner status.

Read More

October 8, 2014

Gotham Greens To Build Rooftop Farm In Chicago

Gotham Greens announced October 7 that it has partnered with Method Products, an eco-friendly cleaning product company - to build what they are calling the "world's largest rooftop farm" at Method's new manufacturing plant in the Pullman neighborhood, on Chicago's south side.

Read More

August 19, 2014

A Look Ahead At Food Safety For Commercial Greenhouse V…

If you grow food in your greenhouse that is sold for consumption, food safety regulations will affect you. Here is a recap of Debbie Hamrick’s (North Carolina Farm Bureau Federation) Cultivate'14 presentation on food safety for commercial greenhouse vegetable production.

Read More

July 22, 2014

Bright Farms Launches Crowdfunding Campaign To Build Ur…

Urban farming pioneer Bright Farms is attempting to crowdfund what it hopes will be the "world's most productive urban farm," in Washington, D.C.

Read More

July 18, 2014

Meeting The Demand For Edibles: Go Green Agriculture In…

Read about how Go Green Agriculture Inc. took its business from the classroom to commercial reality in one of four articles on how growers are appealing to the growing interest in edibles.

Read More
[gravityform id="35" title="false" description="false"]