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Herb Culture

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

HOME STUDY HERB CULTURE COURSE

  • Learn how to Grow and Use Herb Plants
  • Correspondence course for the enthusiast or commercial grower
  • Start a Herb Farm, Herb Nursery or Herb Shop
  • Work with herbs or herb products, or pursue a passion for herbs

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.

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

Each lesson culminates in an assignment which is submitted to the school, marked by the school's tutors and returned to you with any relevant suggestions, comments, and if necessary, extra reading.

Aims

  • 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 Oil Production

This is only one way that herbs can be used The boom in the industries of natural health and tourism has resulted in an increased demand for locally produced herbs.

Herbs can be supplied as either fresh produce for culinary, medical or essential oil extraction; or as dried matter for culinary and craft uses.

 

ESSENTIAL OILS

Some possibilities that could be readily grown:
Benzoin   Styrax sp.   
Bergamot   Monarda didyma
Cedarwood   Cedrus atlantica   
Chamomile, Roman  Anthemis nobilis
Chamomile, German       Matricaria chamomilla  
Chamomile, Moroccan  Ormenis mixta
Clary Sage   Salvia sclarea
Eucalyptus   Eucalyptus globulus & other species
Geranium   Pelargonium graveolens
Juniper   Juniperus communis
Lemon   Citrus Limon
Lavender   Lavandula angustifolia
Sweet Marjoram  Origanum majorana
Orange, Bitter  Citrus Aurantium var amara
Orange, Sweet  Citrus Aurantium var sinesis
Peppermint    Mentha piperita
Rose Otto   Rosa centifolia
Rosemary   Rosmarinus officinalis
Sandalwood   Santalum album
Tea Tree   Melaleuca alternifolia
Sweet Thyme  Thymus vulgaris
Ylang Ylang   Cananga odorata

 

More About Selected Herbal Oils

Tea Tree Oil
Traditional harvesting was carried out by hand. Cutters walked along existing established trees and carefully placed leaves and branches into carry bags so as not to burst the oil glands. These bags were then carried to the distillation plant. More modern plantations generally go for regimental planting arrangements which allow easy mechanical harvesting. These machines drive "over" the rows of plants and remove a predetermined section of branches that protrude outward. This is collected, then taken to the distillation plant.

Some farms have sown seeds on a broad acre format or in rows, and then when plants have reached a predetermine height, the whole plantation can be harvested. Next season the entire "crop" is replanted by seed. For commercial growers the situation of optimum harvest time is a little complicated. They must consider not only the total biomass and amount of oil present in the leaf at the time, and the amount of material that can be processed at any one time, but also the speed with which the tree will regrow.

The percentage of oil in fresh tea tree material varies significantly in natural cultivars from 0.4% to 1.18%, and selected cultivars have shown a range from 1.2% to as high as 1.6% of leaf and stem. Poorly designed distillation plants can cause high losses. Some operators have experienced losses up to 50% oil loss.

Lavender
The essential oil is contained principally in microscopic glands in the calyx and to some degree in the lip of the corolla of the flower. Traditional hand harvesting, although high in labour, could ensure a high grade of uniformity of plant material which was to be distilled. Modern mechanical harvesting tends to produce a variable product for distillation (ie includes flowers, leaves and small stems). As soon as possible after harvesting the plant material should be taken to the distillation factory for immediate processing. Lavender oil has a raw odour immediately after harvesting but is best let to mature to develop optimum aroma. It can be used four months after distilling, but is best is left for a few years.
High yielding (but low Camphor content) Lavandula angustifolia cultivars (English Lavender) are most commonly grown for oil production.

METHODS OF EXTRACTING ESSENTIAL OILS

The main techniques used for extracting essential oils include:

  • hydro distillation
  • steam distillation
  • solvent extraction
  • head space analysis
  • liquid CO2 extraction.

A scientific comparison of these techniques can be found in the following reference:
Charles, DJ and JE Simon. 1990. Comparison of extraction methods for the rapid determination of essential oil content and composition of basil. J Amer. Soc. Hort. Sci. 115 (3): 458-462.

PRODUCING ESSENTIAL OILS
A means of adding value to herbs is to extract the essential oil from the plant material. Much of the flavour and fragrance of herbs is due to their aromatic compounds and when these are extracted by distillation, the resulting product is a volatile oil-like material. Distillation techniques have been recorded to have been used as long ago as 3000 B.C. Other methods for extracting herbal essences are effleurage, maceration and pressing, however for most herbs distillation is the preferred process of extraction.

The yield of essential oil is usually very low in relation to the amount of plant material used. Depending on the quality of the herb and the distillation method used, yields of between 0.005% and 5% may be obtained. Different plants contain their aromatic compounds in different parts of the plant. Often the leaves and flowering tops are distilled, eg. Lavender and Sage. Fruits, seeds, wood, leaf and stem, roots and bark are all used to obtain essential oil, depending on the plant.

 



Meet some of our academics

John Mason Parks Manager, Nurseryman, Landscape Designer, Garden Writer and Consultant. Over 40 years experience; working in Victoria, Queensland and the UK. He is one of the most widely published garden writers in the world; author of more than 70 books and editor for 4 different gardening magazines. John has been recognised by his peers being made a fellow of the Institute of Horticulture in the UK, as well as by the Australian Institute of Horticulture.
Maggi BrownMaggi is regarded as an expert in organic growing throughout the UK, having worked for two decades as Education Officer at the world renowned Henry Doubleday Research Association. She has been active in education, environmental management and horticulture across the UK for more than three decades. Some of Maggi's qualifications include RHS Cert. Hort. Cert. Ed. Member RHS Life Member Garden Organic (HDRA) .
Diana Cole B.A. (Hons), Dip. Horticulture, BTEC Dip. Garden Design, Diploma Chartered Institute of Personnel & Development, PTLLS (Preparing to Teach in the Life Long Learning Sector), P.D.C. In addition to the qualifications listed above, Diana holds City & Guild construction qualifications and an NPTC pesticide spraying licence (PA1/PA6). Diana runs her own landscape gardening business (Arbella Gardens). Active in many organisations including the British Trust for Conservation Volunteers.
Yvonne SharpeRHS Cert.Hort, Dip.Hort, M.Hort, Cert.Ed., Dip.Mgt. Over 30 years experience in business, education, management and horticulture. Former department head at a UK government vocational college. Yvonne has traveled widely within and beyond Europe, and has worked in many areas of horticulture from garden centres to horticultural therapy. She has served on industry committees and been actively involved with amateur garden clubs for decades.


Check out our eBooks

Scented PlantsScented plants can be either a delight or a curse. For many people, there is nothing more pleasing than a garden filled with fragrance, but for others who suffer allergies, certain plants can make them physically ill; sometimes very seriously.
HerbsHerbs are fascinating plants, mystical and romantic. They have a rich history dating back centuries. Used by monks, apothecaries and ‘witches’ in the past, herbs are undergoing a revival in interest. They are easy to grow, scented, culinary and medicinal plants. In a formal herb garden or peppered throughout the garden, herbs rarely fail! Find out how they are used as medicines, for cooking, perfumes and more. This book has nine chapters covering the following topics: an introduction to herbs, cultivation, propagation, pest and diseases, herb gardens, an A-Z plant directory, using herbs, features for herb gardens, herbs in pots - 113 colour photos 61 pages
Fruit, Vegetables and HerbsHome grown produce somehow has a special quality. Some say it tastes better, others believe it is just healthier. And there is no doubt it is cheaper! Watching plants grow from seed to harvest and knowing that the armful of vegies and herbs you have just gathered for the evening meal will be on the table within an hour or two of harvest, can be an exciting and satisfying experience.
Plant Pests & DiseasesThis is a great guide to understanding, identifying and treating problems in your garden. Discover how to systematically examine and determine what is wrong with plants. Read about all of the main types of pests, diseases, and other problems that can occur, from frost damage to viruses. 197 pages