Herb Culture

Commercial herb production - turn a hobby or passion into a career in herbs. Set up a herb farm, grow herbs to sell at markets, or retail. Learn and develop great business opportunities for a career as a professional herb farmer.

Course Code: BHT114
Fee Code: S3
Duration (approx) Duration (approx) 100 hours
Qualification Statement of Attainment
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TRAIN TO OPERATE A HERB BUSINESS


  • Learn to Grow Herbs Commercially as container plants or to harvest for market or processing.
  • Self paced 100 hour course for the herb professional, tradesman, business owner or enthusiast
  • Study with a team of herb professionals from both Australia and the UK

This is a fantastic course for anyone who is passionate about herbs - growing them and using them and who wants to learn more. Many who have studied this course have gone on to establish successful businesses or careers working with herbs; while others have studied this course to simply indulge their passion and become increasingly involved with herbs in their daily living.

 

Lesson Structure

There are 12 lessons in this course:

  1. Unit 1: Introduction to Herb Culture
    • Lesson 1.1 Introduction to Herbs - definitions, uses, classification of herbs, using a botanical key
    • Lesson 1.2 Cultural Techniques - planting, soils, drainage, feeding, mulching, composting, pruning
    • Lesson 1.3 Propagation Techniques - propagation mixes, growing structures, cuttings, seed, separation & division, layering
    • Lesson 1.4 Identification of Plant Health Problems - pests & diseases, frost, heat, water stress, etc.
  2. Unit 2: Using Herbs
    • Lesson 2.1 Processing & Use of Herbs - medicinal, culinary, perfumes, dyes, oils, distillation processes, etc.
    • Lesson 2.2 Harvesting & Storage - air drying, oven drying, microwave drying, freezing, fresh storage, when & how to harvest.
  3. Unit 3: The Mints (Lamiaceae)
    • Lesson 3.1 Mentha Species - peppermint, spearmint, applemint, wintermint, pennyroyal, corsican, ginger mint etc.
    • Lesson 3.2 Lavandula and Thymus (lavender & thyme)
    • Lesson 3.3 Other Lamiaceae Herbs - lemon balm, hyssop, rosemary, bee balm (monarda), basil, savory, marjoram, sage, etc.
  4. Unit 4: The Daisies (Asteraceae)
    • Lesson 4.1 Artemisia Species - southernwood, wormwood, tarragon, mugwort
    • Lesson 4.2 Other Asteraceae Herbs – chamomile, tansy, safflower, costmary, yarrow, calendula, dandelion, etc.
  5. Unit 5: The Parsley Family (Apiaceae)
    • Lesson 5.1 The Apiaceae (Umbelliferae) Family - parsley, coriander, dill, caraway, angelica, cumin, fennel, lovage, sweet cicely, etc.
  6. Unit 6: The Onion Group
    • Lesson 6.1 Chives, leek, garlic chives, tree onion, welsh onion, etc.
    • Lesson 6.2 Garlic
  7. Unit 7: Other Herbs
    • Lesson 7.1 Rosaceae - roses, burnet, strawberry, blackberry, etc.
    • Lesson 7.2 Miscellaneous Herbs - lemon grass, lemon verbena, bay, sorrel, dock, juniper, horseradish, evening primrose, etc.
    • Lesson 7.3 Scented Geraniums
    • Lesson 7.4 Australian Native Herbal Plants - eucalyptus and others
  8. Unit 8: Pests & Diseases
    • Lesson 8.1 Companion Planting
    • Lesson 8.2 Natural Pest Control - herb sprays, biological control, etc.
  9. Unit 9: Landscaping
    • Lesson 9.1 Landscape Design Principles and Practices - how to draw a landscape plan
    • Lesson 9.2 Home Gardening With Herbs - cottage gardens, hedges & borders, tubs, baskets, kitchen gardens, herb lawns, herb indoor plants.
    • Lesson 9.3 Public Landscaping - historic herb gardens (e.g. knot gardens), herbs for low maintenance & colour in parks, etc.
  10. Unit 10: Herb Farming I
    • Lesson 10.1 Establishing & Operating a Herb Nursery - open ground vs container growing, nursery layout, potting soils, pots and labels, marketing, etc.
  11. Unit 11: Herb Farming II
    • Lesson 11.1 Establishing & Operating a Herb Farm - soil preparation and management (plastic mulch, organic mulches, cultivation), row cropping
  12. Unit 12: Herb Farming III
    • Lesson 12.1 Evaluating Herb Enterprises - assessing market demand, deciding how to proceed.

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 use of 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 an herbarium collection of one hundred different herb varieties.
  • Develop guidelines for the general culture of herbs in your locality.
  • Explain six 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 five 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 ten 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 of between 30 and 100 square metres surveyed by you, 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 your 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 locality.

TIPS FOR HARVESTING HERBS

For the best results, herbs must be harvested correctly, at the right stage of growth, and stored properly.

Know the part of the plant you are harvesting; choose a dry day (don't harvest when the plant is wet), and in most cases, harvest when the plant is growing rapidly.

Avoid crushing or bruising plant parts during the harvest.

Most herbs can be used either fresh or dried; but some are much better fresh though (eg. chervil, chives, parsley, rosemary and sage).

To preserve the aroma of fresh herbs they can be stored in a plastic bag in the refrigerator until you are ready to use them. You might treat parsley this way for instance, keeping a bunch in the fridge and taking out what you need for each meal.

Herbs can be dried very simply by hanging sprigs upside down in a dry, well ventilated, dark place. A garage or storeroom is often used. A kitchen with large sunny windows is definitely not the place to dry herbs.

Alternatively herbs can be spread on trays or shelves made from wire mesh and stacked to allow good air movement between layers. A fan might even be used to keep air circulating. It is useful to turn the plants every 1‑2 days.

In humid climates the herbs need more ventilation to ensure they don't become infected with fungal growths before they dry. This involves making the bunches smaller or spreading the harvest thinner on the trays.

Drying should be done immediately after picking.

Drying works best if the following conditions are met:

  • A steady warm temperature (25‑35 degrees celsius is ideal)
  • Low light (except for roots which are dried in full sun)
  • Ventilation ‑good air movement around whatever is drying

You may achieve a reasonable result with many herbs even if these conditions are not met exactly ‑but probably the result will not be quite as good as it could have been.

After drying, leaves are removed from stalks by rubbing, then sieved and stored in air tight containers.

 
 
TIPS FOR FARMING SELECTED HERBS ARE YOU READY TO GET SERIOUS ABOUT HERBS?

 

GARLIC


Garlic is one of the most widely grown herbs around the world. 

Garlic thrives in fertile, well drained loam soils, but will grow satisfactorily in any soil which grows onions. Heavy clay soils should be avoided. Varieties vary in their keeping quality. It is grown early autumn or early spring. Cloves are separated and planted in raised beds with two rows to each bed (12 inches between these rows, and 2 inches between each clove). It requires approx 900pounds of cloves to plant one acre..

Garlic responds to fertilizer, but does not require as heavy feeding as other crops. For high yields, the upper 2ft of soil needs to remain moist, however over watering can be disastrous. Weeds are controlled by shallow cultivation. The bulb clove development commences when the leaves stop growing. To get maximum yields, it is necessary to get maximum top growth before this point.


MINT

There are many different species of Mentha which can be grown commercially. The Egyptian pharaohs are known to have distilled oil from peppermint (Mentha piperita). Commercial production of mint oil in the USA is 1000 metric tons annually, mainly on moist soils on the north west coastal states of Oregon & Washington. Mentha arvensis, piperita & spicata are all grown commercially in the USA.

Typically spearmint & peppermint are planted as rhizomes in rows. Weeds are controlled by cultivation in the first year. In late autumn, the plants are ploughed in before the frost. It spreads rapidly giving a paddock of mint the next season. Mint is cut with a mower and left to dry until moisture content drops to approx. 35% at which point it is collected and distilled for oil using a steam distillation technique.

 

LAVENDER

The largest lavender farm in the southern hemisphere operates on 150 acres in the north east of Tasmania (Bridestowe Estate at Nabowla). Lavender oil is distilled from Lavandula officinalis. The south of France can produce more than 100 metric tons of lavender oil some years. Bulgaria is another major producer of lavender oil.


MARIGOLD

Calendula officinalis, a common garden flower is valued as a yellow dye, a pot pourri additive (ie: dried flower heads) and for use in cosmetics and soaps.

 

PAPRIKA

Paprika is a variety of Capsicum annum, with long fruits that are much hotter than the common sweet pepper (grown as a vegetable)

It is a short lived herb normally grown as an annual. Plant is woody at base and grows only to around 1.5metres in height. Flowers are borne singly with a ribbed calyx, which enlarges to enclose the base of the fruit. The fruit is a berry (capsicum) which varies in size, shape, colour and pungency.

Cultivation: Paprika is actually a Capsicum plant, so cultivation is as per capsicums. The following are important when growing capsicums

  • Good drainage is important to avoid leaf drop
  • High temperatures are good, but excessive heat will reduce fruit set. Temperatures below 16 Degrees Celsius. 
  • Grows very well at day temperatures between around 22 and 29 degrees celsius
  • Pests include aphids, fruit fly, root-knot nematode and thrips
  • Used as a culinary herb in curries, salads, etc.
  • Dried and ground to produce paprika powder

 

PARSLEY

 

Extremely popular herb, but grown widely by market gardeners alongside vegetables. Parsley seed can be slow to germinate, therefore it is often started in a hotbed or greenhouse. Young plants are transplanted to rows 40cms (15inches) apart, and 8cms (4 inches) between plants in the row.

Outer, older leaves are harvested regularly and bunched. Plants can continue to produce for up to 2 years depending on conditions.


Comment from one of our Herb Culture students
:   
'An excellent guide to self-learning"   E. Holsman

 
 

AFTER YOUR STUDIES

Some graduates will use this as a starting point for a new business enterprise, while others use it as professional development to enhance their skills and further a business or career they had already begun.

This course will build your knowledge and understanding of herbs, nourish your passion and raise your awareness of opportunities that you may not have even considered.

This course provides a unique opportunity to lay a foundation for developing a lifelong love affair with this fascinating group of plants.


ACS is a Member of the Complementary Medicine Association.

Principal of ACS Distance Education, John Mason, is fellow of the CIH.

ACS Global Partner - Affiliated with colleges in seven countries around the world.

Member Nursery and Garden Industry Association.

ACS is a Preferred Member Training Provider with the Australian Institute of Horticulture. ACS students meeting AIH criteria can join AIH as a Category 2 student member.

Long-term member since 1986.

ACS is an organisational member of the Future Farmers Network.


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Course Contributors

The following academics were involved in the development and/or updating of this course.

John Mason (Horticulturist)

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.

Maggi Brown

Maggi 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

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





Tutors

Meet some of the tutors that guide the students through this course.

Rosemary Davies

Originally from Melbourne, Rosemary trained in Horticultural Applied Science at Burnley, a campus of Melbourne University. Initially she worked with Agriculture Victoria as an extension officer, taught horticulture students, worked on radio with ABC radio (clocking up over 24 years as a presenter of garden talkback programs, initially the only woman presenter on gardening in Victoria) and she simultaneously developed a career as a writer.

She then studied Education and Training, teaching TAFE apprentices and developing curriculum for TAFE, before taking up an offer as a full time columnist with the Herald and Weekly Times and its magazine department after a number of years as columnist with the Age. She has worked for a number of companies in writing and publications, PR community education and management and has led several tours to Europe.

Alexander O'Brien

Alex was born and raised in Cork, in the Republic of Ireland. Having been trained in Architecture, Permaculture, Mechanical Engineering, Ceramics, Furniture Design/Construction, Sustainable building and Art,Craft and Design, his knowledge base is broad. Much of his professional work has been designing and making nature inspired spaces, creative reuse of materials, permaculture and natural ecology regeneration.

That being said, in his own words, "....my real passion is teaching. I adore sharing my knowledge and experience. Seeing students progress, and learning, that is my soul food."'

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