Learn to be a Commercial Herb Grower
- Learn to start a herb nursery or herb farm
- Explore commercial business and career possibilities
- Start studying any time with maximum flexibility and tutor support
- A unique course from a unique school which has been helping people establish herb nurseries and farms since 1979.
Comments from Graduates of this course...
Thanks ACS, studying with you has been truly rewarding, because of your understanding, helpfulness and devotion to all students. I will certainly use the chance to study again with you! (Lerni)
(The course) has helped me achieve a 'greener' thumb. I now have lots more success with my garden. Beforehand, my thumb was the furthest from 'green' you could get! (Janice)
This course is divided into TWELVE UNITS.
Each unit comprises ONE or MORE LESSONS, as follows:
Unit 1 Introduction To Herb Culture
Introduction to herbs, definitions, uses. Classification of herbs; use of a botanical key.
Cultural Techniques...planting, soils, drainage, feeding, mulching, composting, pruning.
Propagation Techniques...propagation mixes, growing structures, cuttings, seed, separation & division, layering.
Identification of plant health problems...pest & disease, frost, heat, water stress, etc.
Unit 2 Using Herbs
Processing and Use of Herbs
Medicinal, culinary, perfumes, dyes, oils, distillation processes, etc.
Harvesting & Storage, Air drying, oven drying, microwave drying, freezing, fresh storage, when & how to harvest.
Unit 3 The Mints (Lamiaceae)
Mentha species ... Peppermint, spearmint, applemint, wintermint, pennyroyal, corsican, ginger mint etc.
Lavender (Lavendula varieties) & thyme (Thymus).
Assorted Lamiaceae varieties: Lemon Balm, Hyssop, Rosemary, Bee Balm (Monarda), Basil, Savory, Marjoram, Sage.
Unit 4 The Daisies (Asteraceae)
Artemisia species...Southernwood, Wormwood, Tarragon, Mugwort.
Miscellaneous Asteraceae: Chamomile, Tansy, Safflower, Costmary, Yarrow, Calendula, Dandelion etc.
Unit 5 The Parsley Family (Apiaceae)
Parsley, Coriander, Dill, Caraway, Angelica, Cumin, Fennel, Lovage, Sweet Cicely etc.
Unit 6 The Onion Group
Chives, Leek, Garlic chives, Tree onion, Welsh onion, etc.
Unit 7 Other Herbs
Rosaceae (Rose, Burnet, Strawberry, blackberry, etc)
Miscellaneous: Lemon grass, Lemon verbena, Bay, Sorrel, Dock, Juniper, Horseradish, EveningPrimrose, etc.
Scented Geraniums, Australian Natives, Eucalyptus and Others
Unit 8 Pests & Diseases
Natural Pest Control: Herb sprays, biological control, etc.
Unit 9 Landscaping with Herbs
Landscape Design Principles and Practices: How to draw a landscape plan
Home Gardening With Herbs: Cottage gardens, hedges & borders, tubs, baskets, kitchen gardens, herb lawns, herb indoor plants.
Public Landscaping: historic herb grdens (Knot gardens etc), herbs for low maintenance & colour inparks..etc.
Unit 10 Herb Farming 1
Establishing and Operating a Herb Nursery: Open ground vs container growing, nursery layout, potting soils, pots and labels, marketing, etc.
Unit 11 Herb Farming 11
Establishing & Operating a Herb Farm: Soil Preparation and management (plastic mulch, organic mulches, cultivation), rowcropping.
Unit 12 Herb Farming 111
Evaluating Herb enterprises, assessing market demand. Deciding how to proceed.
Example of How a Herb Crop Might Be Farmed
Three crops can be grown annually in most temperate areas without great difficulty.
A summer sown crop is harvested in autumn, an autumn sown crop is harvested in spring and a spring sown crop is harvested over summer.
Each crop is harvested continuously for a month or more before discarding.
As the crop gets older the quality can deteriorate.
The early harvest of the spring sown crop is generally the best quality.
Quality characteristics are a dark rich green colour, long stalks for bunching, clean unmarked leaves and a good water content (ie: not wilting at all).
Prepare a fine seed bed by cultivation using a disc plough first, then harrows or a rotary hoe.
Form up raised beds about 1.8m wide and rake the surface to level.
Plant three to four rows across each bed.
Control weeds using either mulch or by spraying weedicide before planting then following up with hand cultivation or hand weeding.
The amount of seed required varies from areas to area.
In Ohio in the U.S.A. growers achieve top yields with 12 to 20 lb of seed per acre.
Three main varieties are grown...
Petroselinum crispum var. crispum (Curley Leaf Parsley)
- has very curly leaves
- has aromatic leaves
- used fresh, dried or dehydrated in foods, or as a garnish
Petroselinum crispum var. neopolitanum (Italian parsley)
- has flat, not so curly leaves.
- usually considered to have more flavour than others
Petroselinum crispum var. tuberosum (Hamburg or Turnip rooted parsley)
- less common
- has an enlarged edible root.
Differentiate between different varieties of herbs in cultivation.
Explain the general cultural practices used for the growing of herbs.
Determine harvest and post harvest techniques for herb crops, including processing, storage and useof herbs.
Develop a production plan for a herb crop grown for harvesting.
Develop a production plan for a herb nursery.
Design a herb garden for a home or public garden.
Evaluate the production of herbs or herb products in a commercial business.
What You Will Do
Distinguish, using illustrations and minimum but adequate comments; between major plant families which herbs belong to.
Compile a resource file of fifty different sources of information regarding cultivated herbs.
Prepare a resource collection covering one hundred different herb varieties.
Develop guidelines for the general culture of herbs.
Explain different propagation methods suitable for herbs.
Demonstrate how to prepare cuttings for different herb varieties.
Propagate different varieties of commercially farmed herbs, using appropriate, but different propagation techniques for each.
Explain natural pest and disease control methods for a specified herb species.
Explain the concept of companion planting, including examples of proven companion planting interrelationships.
Write a maintenance schedule for either a herb garden, nursery or farm.
Describe different harvesting techniques for herbs, by outlining the steps to follow for each.
Determine criteria which are critical to success in the process of drying herbs.
Compare different drying processes for herbs, with reference to: *equipment used *procedure *cost.
Produce two marketable herb products by harvesting, and processing material from a herb plant.
Prepare different herbal products for home use.
Estimate the costs associated with processing four different herbs to a marketable stage, itemising the components of costs for each.
Determine different species of herbs which have potential to be grown commercially as broad acre crops.
Describe the process of producing a specified commercial herb crop being grown organically.
Describe the process of producing a commercial herb crop being grown hydroponically.
Compare broad-acre production methods, used for three different herbs, including: *propagation *planting *crop management *harvesting *post-harvest processing; by constructing a table or chart.
Design a simple trial, to test the commercial potential of different varieties of a specific herb species.
Conduct the simple trial you designed recording details of tasks undertaken.
Analyse the results of the trial conducted to test the performance of a herb plants.
Determine the variety with greatest commercial potential from those trialled.
Prepare flow-sheet broad acre crop production schedules for herbs; one each from Allium, Apiaceae, Asteraceae, Lamiaceae groups.
Determine minimum facilities required to produce saleable plants in a specified herb nursery.
Prepare a potting media suitable for growing a container herb plant of a specified species, as nursery stock.
Describe the procedures used in a commercial herb nursery, to produce plants for sale.
Differentiate between the procedures used for production of different products in a herb nursery, including: *Punnets of seedling herbs *Bare rooted plants *Standard container plants *Hanging baskets *Topiary.
Grow a herb plant to a commercially acceptable standard, as a tubestock container plant, through all stages of production, without supervision.
Prepare nursery production schedules for herbs from different minor herb groups.
Explain the use of general landscape principles and practices in the designs of different herb gardens.
Determine different applications for herbs in home gardens.
Determine applications for herbs in public landscaping, referring to both difficulties and advantages in different situations.
Design for a herb garden for a site surveyed by you, drawing showing the placement of at least 20 different varieties of herbs.
Explain the reasoning behind the herb garden designed.
Determine critical factors to establishing a new herb business.
Analyse the business operations of a specified herb enterprise.
Assess market demand for a herbal product, through a phone survey and information search.
Compare the commercial potential of different types of herb enterprises, in your locality.
Choose Herbs to Suit the Location
When you know how to identify different herb species; and understand the difference between those species, you then have a basis for deciding which herbs are most appropriate, for growing in the location you are considering.
This course develops not only your ability to grow and harvest herbs; but it builds your plant knowledge (an ability to identify and describe a wide range of different plant types).
Herbs do grow everywhere from the coldest climates to the tropics, and deserts to rainforests; but not all herbs grow in all places -even with a lot of attention, that is still not the case. Some herbs can be damaged by extreme conditions such as heat/sun in summer and cold in winter. Most of the more widely grown herbs, however, are fairly hardy.
Herbs which may suffer in extreme cold or severe frosts might include: Anthemis nobilis, Artemisia dracunculus, Lavandula officinalis (some varieties are a problem...others not), Origanum Majorana, Mentha pulegium, Petroselinium crispum, Rosmarinus officinalis, Salvia officinalis, Salvia sclarea & Thymus vulgaris.
Extremely cold hardy herbs include: Allium sativum, Chrysanthemum balsamita, Hyssopus officinalis, Melissa officinalis, Mentha arvensis, Mentha aquatica var. crispa, Mentha gentilis, Mentha piperita, Mentha rotundifolia, Mentha spicata, Ruta graveolens, Tanacetum vulgare & Thymus serpyllum.
Broad Acre Cultivation
Often young herb plants need protection when first planted.
Immediately after planting; water in (ensuring root zone is thoroughly wet)
and then sprinkle a light organic mulch (eg: compost) around the base to help minimize water loss from the soil.
Watering should be frequent & light (perhaps twice daily) until plants begin to grow.
Planting out and Growing Young Herbs
Never plant young, tender plants in the middle of a hot day; or in extremely windy weather.
Soil conditions of many herbs are commonly harsh in nature...and to some extent the same conditions need to be reproduced by the farmer (certainly once the young plants have taken hold). The aromatic oils in the foliage generally are stronger if the herbs are grown in full sun and soil which is on the dry side (though there are exceptions).
Ways of Producing New Herb Plants
There are many different ways of producing plants though most plants are produced commercially by either seed or cutting propagation. "Tissue culture" or "Micro-propagation" techniques carried out in a laboratory are sometimes used where very large numbers of one plant variety are required quickly. Other plants (eg. roses, deciduous fruit and ornamental trees) are traditionally produced by budding and grafting onto seed or cutting grown rootstocks. Division and separation are commonly used for the propagation of bulbs and herbaceous perennials.
Other propagation techniques (eg. layering or marcoting) may be important in the propagation of some specific types of plants however they are relatively insignificant when taking a broad view of the nursery industry.
There are normally four stages stage in nursery plant production:
- Growing on
- Marketing the fully grown plant
Often each of these stages will require specialised skills. Large nurseries have the luxury of being able to organize their staff to allow them to specialize in one or two of these stages of production, but smaller nurseries need to employ experienced staff, or train staff to be competent, in all stages of production.
The knowledge gained from this course will be valuable for anyone with a passion for herbs or who is working with herbs as their job. It is particularly useful though, for anyone contemplating starting a herb farm, or a herb nursery.