The Best Soil for Herbs

Assorted dry herbs

Last Updated on August 10, 2021

Depending on its nativity, the type of soil for herbs is significant for their growth. This article shall discuss various types of herbs that do well in ordinary garden soils and the Mediterranean natives that thrive better in gritty soil with good drainage.

As well as some useful general information, we’ll take a close look at the best soil and conditions for growing:

  • Mint – Native to Europe and Asia, and has 20 plant species.
  • Thyme – Native to Eurasia, but is cultivated globally.
  • Coriander (Cilantro) – Originated from Italy, but is now cultivated in Central and Eastern Europe.
  • Basil – Native to the warm African tropics and South East Asia but used extensively in Italian cuisine.
  • Parsley – A Mediterranean herb first popularly used during the Greek and Roman empires.
  • Rosemary – Another popular Mediterranean herb used by ancient Greeks and Romans.
  • Sage – A Mediterranean herb that was adopted in Central Europe during the Middle Ages.

Most herbs do well in full sun, which is about six hours or more of direct sunlight. Therefore, depending on the garden location and amount of sun hours received, choosing the right herbs is essential. 

Additionally, most herbs do better in areas with mild winds. Strong winds can stress the plants, so it’s more advisable to grow them near wall perimeters or buildings that shelter the herbs and provide a warm microclimate that ultimately increases the gardener’s chances of a good harvest. 

Some herbs do not require soil to grow. Instead, the gardener can prepare what’s known as a potting mix to grow herbs in pots or containers. 

Best Soil for Herbs

What Are Herbs?

Herbs are plants that have leaves, roots, seeds, stems, and flowers that can be a good source of flavoring, aroma, medicine, coloring, or even aesthetic value (ornamental herbs). We shall start by looking at herbs that are non-native to the Mediterranean that typically do well in common garden soil. 

Next, we shall also discuss the Mediterranean natives that are woody plants that prefer gritty soil with proper drainage.

The Best Soil for Various Herbs

Thyme, mint, basil, and coriander will grow well in the typical garden or potting soil. The main thing to consider is how good the drainage of the soil is. If the soil is too heavy or takes too long to drain away excess water, it is advisable to grow these herbs in raised beds, pots, or containers.

The raised beds provide a free-draining soil environment that herbs love.

On the other hand, parsley, rosemary and sage are all native to the Mediterranean regions. This means that they do well in the warmer climate that this region has for most of the year.

Mint

Mint or Mentha belongs to the Lamiaceae family, which has around 20 plant species. Most mint varieties are native to Europe and Asia, though some varieties like Mentha arvensis are native to North America. They are quite popular within different cultures and are used either as fresh leaves or dried.

Mint will grow well both indoors and outdoors. It grows well in any soil that has good drainage and is rich in organic matter. Mint is highly adaptable to various soil types, but they thrive best in areas where the soil is light and well-drained. Their native habitat is along stream banks with just enough sunlight, away from strong winds. 

It is advisable to grow mint in pots or containers to ensure that it doesn’t take over your garden since it grows fast. Also, where the soil is thin, enriching the soil with organic manure will increase the chances of healthy growth. You can also plant it in a customized potting soil mix if your soil is too poor to grow herbs.

Mint plant

Thyme

Although Thyme or Thymus vulgaris is native to the Eurasia region, it is cultivated nowadays worldwide. It prefers gritty, rocky, or sandy soil that drains well. Thyme will also do well in a herb garden with the correct potting mix—such as perlite mixed with coconut coir.  

This herb has low nutrient requirements, requiring little fertilizer, preferably organic manure, compost or another type of slow-release fertilizer. You can grow thyme as a potted plant or in containers.  Plant it alongside sage and lavender to combat aphids in your herb garden.

Coriander (Cilantro)

Coriander, also known as Coriandrum sativum, originated in Italy but is now widely grown in Central and Eastern Europe. Coriander agrees with well-drained soil and full sunlight with a pH level of between 6.2 to 6.8. 

Coriander grows well in pots or raised beds, as long as the herb gets enough direct light. Therefore, when planting coriander, it is advisable to avoid heavily shaded areas. 

Most gardeners sow coriander seeds between late March and early September since this is when the herb receives enough direct light. It is best to grow coriander in summer and early fall. 

As with most plants, coriander will do well in potting soils. However, Miracle-Gro will help you get an excellent yield if your garden soil does not perform well. Organic manure such as coir or compost will also do the job. 

Additionally, the location of the plant is crucial. Like mint, coriander doesn’t enjoy strong winds. Therefore, placing the pots near a wall or a sheltered area is vital to avoid stressing the plants. Also, ensure that there are enough drainage holes to prevent destroying the root system.

Basil

Basil, scientific name Ocimum basilicum, does best in warm weather (African tropicals and S.E. Asia). Basil leaves are popular in the culinary industry, particularly in Italian cuisine. 

If you don’t have the luxury of a heated greenhouse in colder climatic regions, it is advisable to plant your basil for use in summer and early fall. It is essential to harvest your basil before the cold season since such weather destroys the plant.

The soil should be moist but well-drained and free of insecticides. Basil also does well in pots or raised beds since they allow for good drainage. It’s best to plant the herb away from busy paths since exhaust fumes can settle on the plants and ruin the taste.

basil

Parsley

Parsley, the scientific name Petroselinum crispum, is a very hardy biennial herb native to the Mediterranean. Parsley leaves have been used since the ancient Greek and Roman empires to add flavor to food and as a garnish. 

Parsley will generally do well in soil with good drainage that is rich in organic matter. As with many of the herbs we have discussed above, growing parsley requires the right kind of soil. It can comfortably grow in pots that are at least 30cm deep and wide. The soil has to remain moist throughout the germination period. 

Moist loam soils will work best for parsley, and it is important to add organic nutrients to help the plants thrive. To prepare poor soil for parsley, It’s advisable to add compost and keep the soil well-turned. 

Although parsley does better in warmer climes, it is possible to germinate it in colder temperatures. The ideal soil temperature is 21°C and a pH level of 5.5 to 6.7. Six hours of direct sunlight is enough to grow parsley successfully, so it is advised to provide a bit of shading in hotter climates.

Rosemary 

Rosemary, also known as Salvia Rosmarinus, is another native of the Mediterranean region. Rosemary grows best in loamy soils with good drainage that are slightly acidic. The soil pH should range somewhere between 6.0 to 7.0. 

Rosemary leaves are a great addition to many foods and drinks and, along with mint, is particularly well-matched with lamb and mutton. It is vital to ensure that your plants receive at least six hours of direct sun. Therefore, in colder regions, the best growing season is summer and early fall. 

Rosemary grows well in pots and raised beds, as long as you allow enough space for the roots to grow and expand. Also, ensure that the soil has good drainage since soggy soils rot the roots and kill the plants.

Rosemary plant

Sage

Sage, also known as Salvia officinalis, is a member of the mint family native to the Mediterranean. It was adopted in Central Europe during the Middle Ages.

Sage grows well, so long as the area where it’s planted has proper spacing between the plants, gets enough light and has rich, well-drained soil with a pH of 6.5 to 7.0.

Factors to Consider When Growing Herbs

Most herbs do well in pots or raised beds, or even in a kitchen garden. Below we shall discuss the most critical factors to consider before growing herbs.

Sage plant

Use the Right Soil Type

Finding the ideal soil is vital because soil provides the anchorage for plant roots. It also holds the valuable nutrients and water that are necessary for plant growth. In addition, many micro-organisms that live in soil decompose organic materials and help with nitrogen fixation, which is ideal for healthy plants. 

Before planting herbs, it is essential to have the correct garden soil for that particular herb. Although most herbs will grow in any soil type, it is better to know the exact soil type for individual herbs since some will die in very wet soils. 

If the soil is not fertile enough, adding organic matter will increase the nutrient level in the soil and ensure the plants thrive. 

Mulching keeps the soil moist in hotter regions and also enriches the soil with valuable organic matter. 

Potting Mix for Herbs in Pots

The best practice for your potted plants and indoor and outdoor herb gardens is making a customized potting soil mix. Potting soil mix is better drained, easier to handle, and more lightweight than garden soil.

Sunshine

As discussed above, sunlight is vital to all plant growth. Therefore, most herbs will thrive in areas where they can receive six or more hours of direct sunlight after germination. 

While many herbs grow well in full sun, some may require some shading. For those herbs that don’t need too much, having some shelter in your herb garden to reduce the effects of the sun will help them thrive. 

Moisture

As with every living thing, herbs need water for their growth. Some herbs will do well in heavy soils, but most herbs prefer well-aerated soils with good drainage. Where the climate may be hot, you will need irrigation to ensure that the herbs receive the correct moisture quantity.

Peat moss can also be used as mulching material to reduce moisture loss through evaporation. However, too much water in the soil may rot the roots and kill the herbs. Therefore, it is essential to use the correct amount of water and ensure that pots have enough drainage holes so that the soil drains well. 

Growing Season

Most herbs prefer warmer climates. Therefore, it is essential to choose the right season when the weather is warm enough to allow successful germination and growth. 

For a herb garden in colder regions, summer and early fall are ideal times to plant the herbs. In tropical areas, herbs can be grown all year round. Mulching the gardens can reduce the harsh effects of too much sunlight.

Parsley

Wind

Most herbs have soft stems and leaves. Too much wind would stress the plants and potentially kill them. 

When picking a location for your herb garden, ensure that the wind is not too strong or direct. It is most suitable to grow your herbs near walls—this mitigates the effects of strong winds and provides a warm microclimate that is good for the herbs. 

Soil pH

Some herbs will do well in acidic soils, while others prefer slightly alkaline or neutral pH soils. Therefore, before planting your herbs, it’s best to do a pH test on the soil to determine what herbs can grow in the type you have.

Space

As mentioned, you can grow most herbs in pots or raised beds. However, with potted herbs, you need to allow enough space, both horizontally and vertically, for the plants to grow.

Allow enough space downward for the roots to grow and expand, and have the correct spacing between plants to ensure that each herb will receive sufficient sunlight, nutrients, and proper air and moisture circulation. These ideal conditions also reduce the chances of pest and disease attacks on the plants. 

Ultimately, whether you grow the plants in a pot or a raised bed, you can be sure of a bountiful harvest if the right conditions are met.

Conclusion

All herbs require proper care to thrive. Getting the correct garden soil, potting mix or good potting soil is the first step towards a thriving herb garden. In general, loam soil is the best for most herbs and plants. However, additional soil amendments will help you get a flourishing plant.

Whether you are growing your herbs indoors or outdoors, it is vital to consider the amount of direct light they receive. Additionally, organic materials are preferable to artificial fertilizers for enriching the soil. You can also make a homemade potting soil mix according to your needs. 

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