A farm where herbs are grown either for sale in the market, or for their essential oils or as raw materials for manufacture of herbal products, is known as an Herb Farm. However, herb cultivators across the globe are more interested in producing medicinal herbs, as they have become conventional routine products.
The method of growing medicinal herbs is similar to growing fruits and vegetables, as the horticulture principles are the same. So the selection of the site is the most important process. Whether one plans to cultivate the farm in open fields or in the woods, a well drained site, which has access to water, and good soil with very few weeds, would be the ideal location. Weeds are the biggest problems while growing herbs, and hence the site with very few weeds should be chosen to begin with, or weed control should be done even before sowing the crop.
The soil should be tested and modified, to suit the growth of crops; native ornamentals are suitable for the woods, and vegetable production for the open field. In case, the soil appears to have less organic matter, the composted material can be added. Raised beds help in better soil warming benefits and improved drainage. Organic mulch can be used for mulching the woodland herbs.
The planting stock or seeds should be of superior quality from a reputable company. In case, the root is being planted, check whether it is wildcrafted or cultivated and inspect upon delivery. Production of transplants is recommended for field grown herbs, which can be grown in the greenhouse. The seed packages should be checked for the germination rates. Whether transplanted or direct seeded, mechanical planters can be used for speeding up the task.
Though there could be no major insect problems while growing various herbs together in herb garden, in a commercial herb farm where medicinal herbs are grown in monoculture system, insect and disease problems will persist sooner or later. Air drainage and good water are very essential for keeping such problems at bay. Apart from maintaining healthy soil, over-fertilization and over-watering should be avoided.
Most of the open field herbs are harvested in the same season as when they are sown, for example, dandelion, milk thistle or burdock. Some perennials are cut and re-grown many times such as St.Johns wort or Echinacea. On harvesting, the herbs should be handled as per specifications from the buyer. Fresh herbs should be cooled and transported immediately to the processor, while the dried herbs should be transferred to the driers to maintain quality and color. Roots should be washed prior to drying. Drying should be done at temperatures below 95 or 100 deg F, with high air flow. The root or dried herb can then be packaged as per buyer specifications.