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...
Sheridan Nurseries

September 3, 2015

Greenhouse Grower’s 2015 Operation Of The Year Sheridan Nurseries Raises The Bar

Ontario-based Sheridan Nurseries has long been an innovator in the Canadian market, but during the economic downturn, CEO Karl Stensson says the company decided to take things a step further. “We have survived the Great Depression, two World Wars and many other downturns in the economy,” he says. “During this last recession, our staff set out at being the best at what we do.” The company’s efforts have paid off. Sheridan Nurseries was named Operation of the Year at Greenhouse Grower’s Evening of Excellence, held July 13, at Cultivate’15 in Columbus, Ohio. The company was also awarded for Excellence In Perennials Production, based on its reputation for plant quality and the activities the nursery has led and been a part of, both within its company and in the industry at large. “We are elated and proud of our staff accomplishments,” says CEO Karl Stensson. “Over the last five years, we […]

Read More

September 3, 2015

Legalization Of Marijuana In California A Strong Possibility

The push for the legalization of recreational marijuana intensifies in California as proponents promote the crop’s agricultural and economical benefits.

Read More
More and more people are employing a landscape service, but that doesn’t mean they don’t still garden

September 2, 2015

Under Siege? Not Really, Just Go For A Walk

I have no trouble with people buying chocolates or wine instead of flowers to celebrate anniversaries, birthdays or peoples’ lives. We should all have choices. However, the other night I felt like I was entering the Republican caucus. I was minding my own business by the television set and became more than a little upset. A website called insteadofflowers.com came on the screen. It provided serene music and wholesome images of busy women doing busy things. It turns out that such busy women enjoy a small token of appreciation, but apparently their enjoyment, according to the voice-over, does not include flowers. This website delivers meals to the house, anything from beef brisket to beef bourguignon. It is a fine website with a good idea. But why pick on us? Why not use “insteadofbaloneysandwiches.com” or “insteadofgrilledcheeseandsoup.com,” “insteadofburgerdoodle.com,” or a dozen other things. When did flowers get to be the whipping boy? […]

Read More
Latest Stories

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
Asian-Vegetables-Lettue-Trio-American-Takii

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
Basil_Persian-AAS2015_620x329

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

July 18, 2014

Meeting The Demand For Edibles: Peace Tree Farm

Interest and response to Peace Tree Farm’s annuals and foliage plants continues to increase, but herb and vegetable starter plants is where the company makes its money. Read about it in one of four articles on how growers are appealing to the growing interest in edibles.

Read More

July 18, 2014

Meeting The Demand For Edibles: High Meadows Farm

Grants brought opportunities for High Meadows Farm to start growing raspberries and tomatoes. Read about it in one of four articles on how growers are appealing to the growing interest in edibles.

Read More

July 18, 2014

Meeting The Demand For Edibles: Altman Plants

Read about Altman Plants' venture into greenhouse vegetable production in one of four articles on how growers are appealing to the growing interest in edibles.

Read More

July 15, 2014

Cultivate’14: Vegetable Production Tour Highlight…

Check out photos from Greenhouse Grower's visit to CropKing Inc.'s research greenhouses as part of he vegetable production tour at Cultivate'14.

Read More

July 8, 2014

Veterans Are Well-Suited For Grower Jobs, And AgVets Is…

AgVets is breaking ground this summer with the first of up to 30 hydroponic greenhouse operations located throughout the country to provide produce to lower- and middle-income consumers.

Read More