It is easy to grow herbal and herb plants, but just watering these like decorative plants will not assure the nutritional benefits that we expect to get. Herbs are just like vegetables that need extra care to be able to supply good health.
Organic Soil Mix
Most herbal and herb plants need a good mixture of soil to be healthy. Garden soil is loose when wet, but too tight when dry. Adding sand loosens up soil, thus providing aeration and also good drainage to bring out excess water. It is also important to note though, that there are some herbs which prefer just sand with compost. An example of this is chamomile. But regardless of soil mix, organic fertilizer should be applied monthly so as to give the herbs, herbals and vegetables that required proper nutrition. (Visit Plant Care for more information).
Insects are part of the food chain. Although there are beneficial insects, non-beneficial insects need to be driven away to prevent infestation for the herbs to survive. When I water my herbs, I add crushed Oregano or any minty herb. When I pour it on the leaves, stems and soil, I often see insects flying away. Even herbs that do not need daily watering, surely, do not mind a little water trickling down their leaves and stem - just to get rid of insects affecting them. Oregano water can also be sprayed or be squeezed out from a recycled dishwashing bottle.
Insect Bites on Leaves
Insects are obvious when you see black hairy creatures lying down on the leaves comfortably or hiding under leaves by pairs or in groups. But some insects are trickier to spot because they are too small. When non-beneficial insects are not very visible, their presence can manifest in the reaction of the leaves. Leaves with insects and eggs tend to have a different form as compared to others. These can curl up, have a different color, or may even stick together. Some stems may even have black spots on them.
If any of the leaves or stems have insects and eggs, just remove the infected parts so that the plant may survive. Crushed oregano may also be applied directly on the plant to prevent more infestation. Any minty herb may be used as natural pesticide. Also, the infested stems and leaves can be soaked in water overnight to kill the pests and eggs. These may be used as mint water for the plants the next day.
In the natural world, there is no such thing as “harmful insects” since everything in this world is interconnected, according to Dr. Shinya, author of The Enzyme Factor. This is why I retain leaves with insect bites (with no eggs), because the insect’s body, hands and feet, while in contact with the plant, leave an enzyme called chitin-chitosan. This enzyme is found in the hard shell covering of the insect’s body which is the same enzyme found in the shell of shrimps and crabs. Chitin-Chitosan enzyme is an additional nutrient for herbs and also vegetables which is the factor that is absent in edible plants that are contaminated with chemicals and pesticides.
Gardening is challenging with the presence of insects. But it is good to know that insects, whether helpful or termed as “harmful” have such a valuable, nutritious and delicious contribution.
Em-em Tinasas, MBA
Shinya, H. (2014). The enzyme factor: Diet for the future. New Delhi: B. Jain Publishers (P) Ltd.