Herb Culture

Course CodeBHT114
Fee CodeS3
Duration (approx)100 hours
QualificationStatement of Attainment

Turn Your Passion for Herbs into a Business Enterprise

Learn about all the aspects of herb growing from propagation through to harvest and post harvest

This is a course for people who want to get really serious about herbs: perhaps starting a herb business (shop, nursery, farm, product manufacturer), or seeking employment in the herb industry

It provides training for the herb farmer, nurseryman, classic garden designer or enthusiast.

This course is designed to develop a solid grounding in herb growing and the herb industry. Half of the course deals with general herb culture, including identification, soils, mulching, feeding, watering, propagation, pest & disease control, harvest, storage, processing, companion planting, nursery management and herb farming. The remainder of the course involves detailed studies of major groups of herbs such as: mints, thymes, lavenders, scented geraniums, garlic, roses, artemisias and parsley.

Lesson Structure

There are 12 lessons in this course:

  1. Introduction and Herb Identification
    • Culture (Soil, mulch, planting, feeding etc)
    • Propagation (Seed, cuttings, division etc.)
    • Plant Health
  2. Processing And Using Herb Products
    • Harvesting and Storage
  3. The Mints (Mentha spp.)
    • Lavenders and Thymes
    • Other Lamiaceae Family Herbs (e.g. Sage, Balm)
  4. The Artemisias & Compositae (Asteraceae) - The Daisy Herbs
  5. Umbelliferae Herbs (Apiaceae) - The Parsley Family
  6. Onion Herbs (Liliaceae) - (e.g. Chives, Aloe vera)
    • Garlic
  7. Miscellaneous Herbs
    • Rosaceae Herbs (eg. Rose & Strawberry)
    • Scented Geraniums
    • Native Herbs (eg. Boronia, Tea Tree)
  8. Natural Pest Control
    • Companion Planting
  9. Designing Herb Gardens
    • Home Herb Gardens
    • Public Landscaping With Herbs
  10. Herb Nursery Management
  11. Herb Farming
  12. Herb Enterprises


  • 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

  • With illustrations and minimum comments, distinguish between major plant families which herbs belong to.
  • Compile a resource file of fifty different sources of information regarding cultivated herbs.
  • Prepare an herbarium collection of one hundred different herb varieties.
  • Develop guidelines for the general culture of herbs in your locality.
  • Explain different propagation methods suitable for herbs, using illustrations.
  • Demonstrate how to prepare cuttings for three different herb varieties.
  • Propagate three 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 three examples of proven companion planting interrelationships.
  • Write a maintenance schedule for either a herb garden, nursery or farm.
  • Describe two 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 two 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 in your locality.
  • 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 four 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 production schedules for two herbs from four different minor herb groups, for a specified nursery.
  • Explain the use of general landscape principles and practices in the designs of two 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, preparing a scale 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, in the learners locality.
  • 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 three different types of herb enterprises, in your local area

Herb Farms

There are two main types of herb farms:

1. The Market Garden Type
This farm grows herb plants in rows and harvests the herbs to sell or process the foliage, stems, flowers, seed and/or roots.      The plants may be planted directly into soil, or grown hydroponically. They may be grown in the open or in some form of greenhouse.
The herb farm may process the herbs it grows either fully or partly itself. (ie: Drying, packaging, oil extraction making pot pourri, sachets etc.).

   2. The Nursery Type
This farm propagates and grows herbs in containers. It may sell direct to the public (ie: retail) or it might sell all of its product, wholesale only.

Harvesting Herbs
Herbs can be harvested for their leaves, stems, roots &/or underground parts, such as roots, rhizomes or bulbs.

Most herb leaves are preferred to be used fresh, though drying is often used for both convenience and to ensure supply when leaves are not available, or not at their premium. Kitchen herbs such as chives and parsley can be kept growing through winter in pots placed inside in a sunny and warm position. Leaves are best harvested before flowering on most types of herbs. They are best cut mid morning after the dew has gone, only on a clear, dry day. They are best dried in a shaded position (sun dried herbs tend to loose more of their natural colour, and can loose more of the natural oils).
Most perennial herbs (eg: Mints) will loose up to 60% of their vegetative mass when they go to flower. Other plants are only harvested after flowering. Some herbs may be harvested in full flower and both flowers and foliage are used (eg: Chamomile for use as a tea; Scented geraniums for use in pot pourris; Lavender....etc.).
Herbs grown for the aromatic qualities of the foliage have maximum quality with respect to flavour or scent, at the time when flower buds just start to form.
Air drying is normally adequate.

Roots are normally dug in autumn and dried whole. Extra large roots may be sliced first then the slices are dried.
Artificial heat is desirable for root drying.

Fruit and Seeds
Shade drying is preferable - though in commercial production, plants are often mowed then cocked for a while before threshing.
Coriander, caraway, anise and dill are field cured or ripened on canvas sheets or swaths or cocks.
With most seed harvesting it is best to cut in the early stages of ripening to avoid unnecessary losses from seed drop, and also to preserve maximum oil content and best colour in the harvested product. Seeds are ready to harvest when a slight tap on the seed head causes the seed to fall. Seeds harvested for culinary use may also be used for planting the next crop, provided viability is good.

Material for Medicinal Use
Leaves, flowers, roots, bark, bulbs etc. are commonly used in botanic drugs. To get proper results from such herbs they must be harvested and handled properly., and most of all, collected at precisely the correct time of year. The demand for pure, clean, properly handled material is high, both in Australia, and throughout many other parts of the world.

When to Harvest

LEAVES should always be collected on clear days, mid morning, after the dew. For most medicines, collect when the plant is starting to flower. Leaves of biennial plants are best collected in the second year of growth. To dry, spread out on a clean dry surface. Stir occasionally until thoroughly dry. Remove stems from leaves and only keep leaves which have retained their natural colour. Leaves can turn black due to dampness! Leaves so affected should be discarded.

FLOWERS should be collected immediately after they open. Dry the same as for leaves and only retain those which keep their natural colour.

BULBS should be collected immediately after the leaves of the plant die (usually autumn). Remove the outer scales of the bulb, slice it, then dry it using artificial heat, but not over about 100degrees Fahrenheit.

BARKS should be collected autumn or spring. It is normally the inner bark which is required (remove the outer bark first). Most barks should be dried in sunlight (but not wild cherry).

SEEDS should be gathered on ripening. Only larger, fully developed seeds are useful.


About ACS

ACS was started in 1979 by John Mason, who at the time was a gardening author, horticultural consultant and lecturer in horticulture. Mr Mason is a fellow of the Institute of Horticulture in the UK, and also a fellow of the Australian Institute of Horticulture.

Starting with Mr Mason, over the years ACS has built a team of international experts in horticulture across England, Australia and New Zealand. More than 100 different horticulturists have worked on developing our course notes, and continue every year to revise, update and expand the course materials. We have written more than 160 different distance education courses in horticulture, and over 50 horticultural text books to support those courses. 
Our courses are unique in that they are developed for the world and based upon information that has been sourced from around the world. This gives our students a broader perspective than what you might find in some other schools; and we have found as a result, our graduates tend to be different, having a different outlook and different mix of skills to what is often found elsewhere. Being different can give you an edge -and allow you to find a unique niche in industry. 


Who Will Benefit From This Course?

The knowledge 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.

Be a herb farmer, nurseryman or classic garden designer.

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