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Transplanting Herbs

People often ask me what is the best way to transplant herbs. Recently I had to move my herb garden because it was in the area where we want to build our house. This was quite a big job but all of the herbs have been moved to a new area and they haven’t turned a leaf or shown any signs of stress.

When it comes to transplanting, herbs are no different to any other plant. Just because most herbs are hardy and can tolerate harsh conditions doesn’t mean they don’t like good conditions; the better the conditions the more healthy and productive the herbs will be.

Before I transplant a herb from the garden or a pot I always prepare the new garden bed well by digging the topsoil. I never turn it over but loosen it with a spade so the topsoil stays on the top rather than being turned under. Removing all weeds and grass is essential. After this is done I add good compost to it and mix it in well. Adding fertilizer depends on the herbs I’m transplanting; some don’t like rich soil such as sage and rosemary while others like comfrey are heavy feeders.

When the new bed is ready I carefully dig the herbs out of the old garden making sure I allow plenty of room around the plant so as not to hurt the surface roots and I dig down deep enough so the tap root isn’t damaged. If I’m transplanting potted herbs I wet the soil well so they come out of the pot easily. I always take the herbs I’ve dug out and the potted herbs to the new garden bed before I’ve dug any holes for them. This is so I know how big the holes need to be.

After the hole has been dug to a size big enough for the plant I fill it with water and put the plant in. For potted plants I remove them from pots and gently tease the roots out. When the plants are in the holes I sprinkle dirt through the roots until they’re all covered then add the remaining dirt up to the original line on the trunk. I water them in well and cover the surrounding dirt with mulch that’s no more than 4 cm deep and away from the trunk.

There’s one more thing I do to ensure the health and vigour of my plants are not compromised when they’re being transplanted and that is I always do it when the moon is waxing (increasing) and close to the full moon. This is when  the plants are most vigorous. It’s very rare that I lose a transplanted herb. My new garden that contains transplanted herbs such as Echinacea, soapwort, valerian, aloe, comfrey, lemon balm, and lavender, is thriving even in the unseasonal hot and dry weather we’re experiencing at the moment.

6 comments to Transplanting Herbs

  • I was wondering if I can transplant some of my herbs that I have in my garden. I want it to be in their own spot and away from my regular garden. I’m in South Dakota and don’t know much about this area in terms of weather. I have Thyme, Lemon Balm, Basil, Mint, spearmint, and chives. They would be put together in the same spot where the Rosemany is.
    Thank you so much for helping me with this.

  • Hi Angela, Thanks for your question. I am in Queensland, Australia so am unfamiliar with your weather in South Dakota. There are certain rules to follow when transplanting such as the best season to do it but to be honest I transplant as the need arises. There are several things that are a must when transplanting and that is before you remove a plant carefully dig a hole right around the plant disturbing the roots as little as possible and dig deep enough to avoid damaging the tap root – if you do damage it badly enough the plant will die for sure. Dig the new hole making sure it’s wider and deeper than the root ball on the plant you’re transplanting – an extra third or half depending on your soil type. Fill the new hole with water then place the plant in there, back-fill and water in well. I always grow members of the mint family in pots because they’re very invasive in a garden and can overtake other plants. Lemon balm can be a bit of a problem too so I grow it in pots as well. Allow plenty of space between the rosemary and other tall plants and low growing plants so the latter can still get plenty of sun. I hope this information helps :)

  • Frances

    Thank you for your informative site. I appreciate your knowledge about herbs. My specific question deals with mint that seems to take over my little plot. The roots seem to go on forever, and I am unable to locate the source. Any tips about transplanting mint? Thank uoi. Frances

  • Hi Frances, Thanks for your question. Mint loves to creep and, as much as we love it, it can become a real nuisance in the garden as you’ve found out. Transplanting mint is easy but it’s always best to plant it in a place where you don’t mind if it creeps to its heart’s content or in a fairly big pot. It also does well in hanging baskets. The size of the pot will depend on the amount of mint you want to transplant and have growing. To transplant into a large pot use a spade to dig out the amount of mint you want carefully cutting through the runners and making sure you dig under the roots which are quite shallow. Fill the pot with good quality compost or potting mix that is well fertizled to about three-quarters full then lift the mint you’ve dug out and place it on top. Back fill around the roots with the compost or potting mix making sure the runners are not covered and water in well. For small pots just carefully dig out a few runners with the roots attached and plant in the pot as above. If you transplant the mint into a space in the garden where it will be on its own, prepare a shallow hollow and follow the instructins above for digging it out and backfilling. Hope this helps :)

  • Theresa Brown

    I just moved to a new place. It is the end of September. I have a bunch of established herbs that I want to move to my new place. Should I put them in the ground this late, or try and put them in pots?

  • Hi Theresa, Thanks for your question. It’s hard to give you advice without knowing your climate and which herbs you have. When moving house you’d have to have the new location prepared before digging the herbs out of the ground and then transplant them without delay. If you can’t transplant them immediately I’d put them in pots for a while until they recover and look like they’re doing well. In spring or autumn in harsh climates I’d put them in pots until they recover and transplant them when the weather is suitable; in mild climates I’d transplant them straight away. My husband transplanted a large parsley plant for me at the start of spring (southeast Queensland, Australia) and it didn’t turn a leaf. He had the new location prepared and planted the parsley in it as soon as it was dug out of the ground. Hope this helps.