HERBS: THEY CAN ADD SIZZLE TO YOUR PROFITS
However the main criticism against hydroponic herbs is that they lack pep or taste. So get your ducks in a row. Get your production methods down pat in order to insure that your herbs do in fact have plenty of pep and taste. Don't commit yourself to growing herbs hydroponically until you're sure these herbs will be just as good smelling and tasting as those grown in soil. You'll have to experiment a little. If you stay aware of each herb's fertilizer and culture requirements you should be able to keep your problems to a minimum.
The herbal market is growing rapidly because chefs are discovering they can get fresh herbs grown close at home. If you can furnish clean fresh herbs in small units of supply but with some variety, the customer is yours. You don't want to go broke trying to grow too many varieties. Basically the following herbs can be profitably grown: water cress, basil, mint, rosemary, thyme, sage, tarragon and dandelion.
All except dandelion can be grown in pots which will also open up the housewife market for you. A chef may only want a handful of one particular herb. But if you can satisfy all his herbal needs, you can afford to make the delivery. If you also program your deliveries within a restricted area, you can make them all that much more profitable. Your profit per square foot can be as high as $50-$60!The profit lies not only in furnishing fresh edible herbs to restaurants and markets but also in marketing dried herbs, fragrant herbal oils and for ornamental uses in landscaping. Suppose you over-produce one herb? A very high profit idea to exploit would be a product line which utilizes this over-supply. You could market herbal butters, herbal jellies, dried sachets. And you might find this end of the market more exciting than the fresh herb end.
The herbal market appears to be a growing one for at least several more years. The locally grown herb is attracting more and more attention. Chefs are no longer looking to Europe for such specialty items. And already one fast-food chain is featuring fresh herbs at its salad bar! Acceptance will gain momentum. Be ready to cash in on that momentum by learning and preparing yourself as much as you can.
How do you grow them? The old adage that herbs like poor soil is false. However you should not use a fertilizer which is too rich. This will give you a lot of growth but not much flavor and very little oil in the leaves. Use a fertilizer such as 5-5-5 or 10-10-10 where all three elements are in balance. Use in moderation and don't feed too often. The clue as to what's happening as far as flavor goes is this: if the growth is too lush, then quite possibly you're not getting much flavor.
Most herbs grow well at temperatures between 70-80 degrees F. They like moderate fertilizer, some sun and good drainage. They do not like a soggy medium. They prefer a humidity of 40-50%. You can propagate from cuttings (3-5 inches long) taken from the new tip growth. You can also propagate by layering. Most growers grow directly from seed which is less labor intensive. The only advantage of using propagation methods other than seed is that you have the plant sooner than you do with seeds.
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Last update = 1-31-06