Plants for herb garden

How to grow a mini herb garden (and save money)

Brian Bennett/CNET

Adding pops of flavor to your food is all about using fresh herbs. And what better way to add fresh flavor to dishes (and save money) than with your own herb garden?

It’s not as hard as it sounds. All you need are the right pots, materials and a plan. So whether you’re a home cook or a serious foodie — if you’re doubting your green thumbs, take heart. Growing flavorful herbs at home is within your reach.

Step 1: Pick some pots

One huge appeal of a home-grown herb garden is it’s always ready for action. Need to spice up that pasta or chicken roast? Just grab a few leaves of basil, sage or sprig of thyme. Trekking through a garden bed for those items can be a drag, though. That’s why you should grow your herbs in pots or planters. This way, they can be placed in convenient locations, like on your porch, deck or kitchen counter.

The material of your container can vary. Clay, wood, fabric and metal are all options. What’s most important is that it provides enough drainage. Any pot or planter you use must let excess water escape, which is why most planting container bottoms have holes in them.

So, while mason jars are pretty to look at, they don’t make the best herb gardens. Without proper drainage, your herbs will eventually experience root rot.

Pick a container that matches the size of the herbs you’ll grow. Choose something too large and your plants will spend excess energy growing their roots. A cramped planter will cause your herbs to become root-bound (in other words, pot-bound). That’ll hamper their nutrition, stress them or even kill them.

Flat leaf parsley is easy to grow and has lots of flavor.

Brian Bennett/CNET

Step 2: Choose your herbs

if this is the first time you’ve tried growing herbs, start simple. Parsley, mint and even basil are good options for pot-growing. They all tend to grow prolifically and don’t mind frequent harvesting. Here are some examples of staple herb varieties and their characteristics

Relatively easy to grow, basil prefers sunny locations. It also does best in rich soil that’s well watered.

Mint

With an aggressive growth rate, mint is best in its own container and above ground. It can handle shade but it’s better suited to strong sunlight.

Oregano (Greek)

This herb, not to be confused with marjoram, has small and flavorful leaves. It requires full sunshine and lots of drainage. Greek Oregano is also a tender perennial that you’ll have to bring inside during winter months

Parsley (flat-leaved)

Chefs prefer flat-leaved parsley over curly since it has more flavor. Parsley does best in moist, well-drained soil and can grow in partially shaded areas.

This herb has heavily scented leaves and prefers less water. You do need to give thyme exposure to full sunlight and well-drained soil.

The resinous leaves of rosemary are highly aromatic. The herb requires cool climates with plenty of sun and moist (not wet) soil. It’s also best to bring rosemary indoors for the winter.

Step 3: Forget seeds, use starter plants

Unless you’re an experienced gardener, use starter plants for your herbs. This will save you two to three weeks of grow time and increase your chances of a successful harvest.

Step 4: Get the right soil

When it’s time to plant, use potting soil — not garden soil. Potting soil drains water well, whereas garden soil does not. The former is lighter and porous, while the latter is dense and traps (or blocks) moisture inside containers.

Don’t forget to water your herbs regularly.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Step 5: Care and harvesting

It takes constant, regular care for herbs to flourish. That means you must water them on a consistent schedule. You’ll need to harvest them often, too, since this primes them for new growth. Just be sure to match any treatment of your herbs to their specific variety.

Want to make watering your lawn easier? Here’s CNET’s guide to making your own automated lawn watering system.

How to Plant a Raised Bed Herb Garden! : Recipes Using Herbs

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This will sound like a complaint but it’s not. We have a small yard…even by Southern California standards. That said, it’s perfect for this time in our lives. When we were younger with many little children we had a house with a big yard and we planted a large vegetable garden. Unfortunately with all the children and their activities we didn’t tend it like we should have and it became an eyesore. So we dug it up, planted sod and were done with gardening. One less thing for this busy mom to think about!

Thirteen years ago when we still had five kids living at home we moved to our current home with a mini yard. It wasn’t the most practical situation for a large family, but one by one the kids left for school, marriage and life. Now the yard fits the two of us perfectly. It’s small but pretty, lush and colorful with plenty of room and seating for entertaining and backyard BBQ’s. It also has a spectacular lake view.

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The irony is now that we have this tiny yard, we actually have the time and desire to garden! But as you can see it has very little room, if any, for a vegetable garden. And for 13 years I have let my self believe that. But not anymore. I have two gardening projects in the works! First is a raised bed herb garden, which I will be sharing with you today and the second is permaculture, which I will be sharing in a month or two! I am attending a permaculture lecture in May and am excited to begin planting food in with my existing landscaping…that is what permaculture is, simply working vegetables, fruits and herbs into your yard with the plants that already exist.

My first challenge with an herb garden was space and my second was bunnies. Our neighborhood has bunnies and they eat anything within reach! So we decided to plant in an Earth Box Garden Kit that comes with wheels or a stand, but there are more decorative choices here and hundreds of other choices here. I used bamboo skewers and mini clothes line clips to label my herbs.(affiliate links)

I can easily move this planter about the garden, even placing it in the flower beds above existing plants and the bunnies can’t reach the herbs.

Why We Chose to Plant Herbs:

First, herbs are easy to grow, nutrient rich and add flavor to food. Second, I cook a lot…obviously…and a pet peeve of mine is spending 2-4 dollars on cut organic herbs at the store when the recipe I am making requires only a teaspoon or tablespoon and the rest wilts before I can use it all. Now I can walk into my backyard and cut what I need when I need it. No waste! I started with organic planting soil and seedlings. I chose seedlings because this is my first attempt with growing herbs. Next year I will start from scratch with seeds. I planted the herbs we use most often and only planted one or two of each with several inches of space between each plant, you can see they filled in nicely. To see how to start an herb garden from seeds, click here) Now if you are thinking “This is all very lovely but what would I do with all these herbs?” I have you covered! Links are provided below for recipes using each herb.

What We Planted

Rosemary grows like crazy in California and was already planted throughout my yard but I wanted to mention it because it’s a great source of Vitamin B6, calcium and iron and makes food taste great! For recipes using rosemary click here, here, and here.

Mint:

Mint smells heavenly, is a natural pest repellant, mouth and breath freshener and helps soothe nausea and indigestion. Click here and here for recipes using mint. Helpful hint: Mint has a tendency to take over. You may wish to plant it in it’s own container.

Oregano:

Of course oregano is a staple of Italian cooking but also contains: fiber, iron, manganese, vitamin E, iron, calcium, omega fatty acids, manganese, and typtophan. Recipe using oregano here.

Thyme:

Thyme is a natural diuretic and as antibacterial properties! For recipes using thyme click here and here.

Cilantro:

Cilantro is staple of Mexican food and is a wonderful detoxifying herb used to remove heavy metals and other toxins from the body. Recipes: here and here.

Parsley:

Also amazing for it’s detoxification ability and is used as a garnish and breath freshener. Recipes: here, here, here, and here.

Sage:

Amazing in brown butter and tea this herb is a natural anti-inflammatory known to improve memory. Recipes using sage here.

Chives:

Chives are used to garnish many dishes and sometimes may replace onions in recipes. Chives contain allicin, an organosulfur that is being studied for its ability to help lower cholesterol and blood pressure. Recipes using chives: here, here, here, and here.

Basil:

Yet another aromatic herb used in Italian food that has anti-inflammatory benefits! Basil recipes: here, here, here and here.

Taking care of a raised bed herb garden is a cinch! I water it everyday, trim back as needed and that’s it! And it can pretty much fit anywhere, a small porch, an apartment balcony or a tiny courtyard.

A raised bed can provide the perfect environment for creating a herb garden. It can be positioned anywhere that suits you and can be maintained easily. A selection of plants can be mixed for a diverse range of foliage and aromatics.

Siting. If you intend to use the herbs for cooking it is best to place your raised bed conveniently close to the kitchen. It can be annoying to venture into the garden on a dark, wet, wintry evening to search for rosemary for your roast lamb. Choose a warm, sheltered spot without frost pockets bearing in mind that some Mediterranean herbs will appreciate full summer sunshine.

Soil. A general mixed compost with neutral pH is suitable for herb cultivation. Try to avoid high nitrogen feeds and improvers since these will promote fast growth at the expense of the delicate herb flavour. Herbs like a well drained soil so be sure to incorporate plenty of organic matter.

Layout. Plant the taller plants like rosemary in the centre of the bed and the shorter spreading herbs near the edges. This distributes shade fairly and allows you to reach across the bed for weeding and harvesting. When planting your herbs leave space between them to allow for growth and spread.

Crops to Grow. In most allotment gardens it is helpful to grow the vegetables that you like. This is mainly the case with herbs although many varieties can be planted just to provide a pleasant aromatic, ornamental display. Raised beds can give you the space to cultivate a broad selection of tasty culinary herbs while providing a splendid variegated display. Common examples are Basil, Rosemary, Parsley, Chives, Tarragon, Sage, Oregano and Thyme.

Care. Protect delicate, young herbs with cloches until they are established. Take time to weed around your plants and remove any dead leaves and branches. This can be achieved quite easily with the improved access of a raised bed. Feed your plants periodically with a general purpose fertilizer using the manufacturers instructions. Dead head flowers as they begin to fade, this will channel energy and growth into the foliage. Some herbs may only last one season although others will continue on year after year. Take the opportunity to increase your stock by taking cuttings or dividing the plant.

Harvesting. Most herbs will thrive from continued harvesting since foliage growth is stimulated as you take cuttings. Don’t cut back by more than a third of the plant and always snip just above the nearest leaf intersection. The cut herbs can used in the kitchen immediately or stored for later, frozen or dried. You can also capture the delicious flavour of your freshly picked herbs infused in oil for a tasty salad dressing.

Although buying dried herbs and spices can be convenient, the flavor is not as intense as fresh herbs, which can affect the flavor of your meals. Store-bought spices can also be costly, and they only last for a year at most. Replacing spices is necessary for the best-tasting food, but it can be difficult to remember when to get new spices—and it can feel wasteful if the spice hasn’t run out yet.

Don’t miss our comprehensive list of herbs from A to Z.

Growing your own herbs and spices in a garden is a simple way to save money and have the most flavorful food possible. Many essential herbs are easy to grow at home with the right care and attention. Replace spice rack staples with homegrown herbs for the freshest meals possible.

As one of the most forgiving herbs to grow, basil can thrive either indoors or outdoors. It needs well-drained soil and a lot of sunlight. If you start the plant from seeds and want to transplant it outside, plant the seeds around six weeks before the end of the winter season. Only move plants outside after all risk of frost is gone.

To get the most vibrant flavor, make sure to pinch off flowers before they bloom. Frequently prune the plant to get the most basil possible. Basil is an essential ingredient in Italian cooking; use fresh basil in marinara and pesto sauces. You can also use whole or torn basil leaves in salads and vinaigrettes.

Learn more about growing basil.

Cilantro, also known as coriander, is an annual herb that people either love or hate. People who don’t like cilantro tend to describe its flavor as soapy (there’s a genetic component to that impression), but cilantro is a vital ingredient in many cuisines. Add fresh cilantro to guacamole, or finish curries and noodle dishes with finely chopped cilantro leaves. You can also use fresh cilantro in salads, smoothies, or juices.

To grow cilantro, plant it in well-drained soil in either full sun or partial shade. The herb can be harvested three or four weeks after the plant sprouts.

Learn more about cilantro.

Chives are a member of the onion family and can be quite invasive if allowed to flower. They grow best in full sun and require rich, well-drained soil. They can be started inside, but only transplant them outside after there’s no risk of frost. Make sure to keep them watered, and maintain moist soil. Cut the leaves often to encourage growth.

Add fresh chives to brighten tuna, chicken, potato, and egg salads, or garnish baked potatoes, salads, soups, or deviled eggs. Combine chives and lemon juice to top seafood dishes, or use chives in cream sauces and flavored butters.

Learn more about chives.

Lavender

Lavender is a beautiful addition to any garden, boasting colorful flowers and a sweet fragrance. Although lavender is perhaps best known for its ability to relieve anxiety and stress and improve sleep, it can also be used in cooking. Make sure to only use a little lavender and work your way up to more as you develop a taste for it—using too much can make food taste bitter.

Add ground lavender to breads, pastries, and cakes. You can also use lavender in salads, sauces, and custards. To grow lavender, the plant needs a lot of sun, space, and well-drained soil to flourish. Remember to prune the flowers to keep the plant lasting as long as possible.

Learn more about lavender.

Lemongrass

Lemongrass is an easy plant to grow in a home garden, which is useful for home cooks because it’s not always available in grocery stores. To grow lemongrass at home, start store-bought lemongrass in a glass of water, and transplant it when it starts growing little roots. Lemongrass prefers a warm climate and needs a lot of sun. The soil around the plant should be kept moist. Lemongrass is a popular herb in many Asian cuisines, as it originates in India. Use lemongrass in tea, soups, and braising liquids. You can also use lemongrass to marinate meat or as an ingredient in spice rubs and curry pastes. Lemongrass’ citrus flavor can also be used to season seafood and stir-fries.

Learn more about lemongrass.

Almost all varieties of mint are quite invasive; they can quickly take over a garden if they’re not given their own space to flourish. Make sure mint plants have their own space, separate from the rest of the plants, or grow them in pots to keep the plants contained. Mint needs a lot of sun and moist soil.

You can either harvest leaves individually or cut the whole plant above the second set of leaves right before it flowers. The more leaves you harvest, the more mint will grow. Mint can be used in sauces, soups, and salads. You can also use mint in desserts, especially when combined with chocolate. Finally, consider throwing a handful of fresh mint into a glass to brighten up a cocktail.

Learn how to grow mint. Learn more about mint’s health benefits.

Oregano is a staple in the kitchen, and it’s known for its robust, woody flavor. The herb’s unique flavor makes it a wonderful complement to many meat dishes. Oregano goes best with chicken, and it can be used to spice up burgers. Sprinkle oregano on dinner rolls, or use it in stews and sauces. To grow oregano, start the plant indoors and transplant it outside after there’s no risk of frost. Oregano needs to be planted in full sun and have well-drained soil. You can harvest oregano as soon as the plant reaches about four inches tall.

Learn more about oregano.

Most people think of parsley as the sprig of green that comes on the side of their main course at restaurants, but it can be used for so much more. Parsley has a robust flavor that allows it to complement many different foods. Add the herb to sauces, salads, or soups to reduce the need for salt. Parsley is also a great addition to salads and stuffing. Plant it early—it’s slow to start and takes about a month to sprout. The plant needs warm soil and a moist environment. You can harvest the plant after it has three separate sprigs.

Learn how to grow parsley.

Rosemary is a unique herb. The plant has a piney flavor, with woody stems and lovely blue flowers. Rosemary is typically used in Mediterranean cooking. Use sprigs of rosemary to add a unique flavor to roasted meats, soups, or stews. Rosemary also goes well on pizzas and in tomato sauces. The herb can grow well either indoors or outdoors, though it still needs plenty of light if grown indoors. Rosemary plants need well-drained soil and do especially well in hot, humid environments. Make sure to prune rosemary plants often to promote growth.

Learn how to grow rosemary.

Sage has soft, slightly fuzzy leaves and showy blooms, making it one of the more beautiful herbs. To grow sage, plant it in the sun, and make sure to keep the soil moist—the plants need plenty of water to thrive. To keep the plant productive, make sure to prune the woody stems. Harvest sage as needed by clipping the leaves, and replace the plant every five years or so to keep the flavor at its freshest. Sage has many uses in the culinary world. The herb goes great with eggs, chicken, lamb, and beans. Add it to sauces, stews, and summer cocktails to freshen up your food.

Learn how to grow sage.

Thyme is an aromatic plant that’s a staple in Italian and French cooking. While this herb goes best with hot peppers and eggplants, it has many applications in the kitchen. Add thyme to sauces, soups, or stews. Marinate meats in thyme, or use it to flavor many different kinds of roast vegetables. To grow thyme, get plants from your local gardening center because thyme is very difficult to grow from seeds. Plant thyme outside after the last frost, and make sure to keep the soil moist and well-drained. Thyme can be harvested throughout the summer months.

Learn how to grow thyme.

Turmeric

Although turmeric may seem intimidating, it’s actually quite easy to grow. Turmeric is a native Indian plant, so it does best in hot, humid climates. Plant turmeric in the summer, and make sure to keep the soil damp at all times to encourage growth. Be careful to plant turmeric in well-drained soil. You are able to harvest turmeric after approximately nine months, when the leaves begin to dry. Pull up the whole plant, and use the roots in your cooking. As a staple of Indian cuisine, turmeric is an essential ingredient in curries. You can also use turmeric to season roasted vegetables, rice, or soups.

Learn how to grow turmeric.

Herbs and spices bought at grocery stores can be more expensive and have less flavor than fresh herbs. However, it can be difficult to find fresh herbs at the store, and they are often quite costly if they are in stock. Save money and improve your cooking by growing fresh herbs in your garden.

Many of the herbs listed above are simple to grow and can help take your cooking to the next level. If you want to replace your dried spices, try growing some of these essential herbs.

Author Saffyre Falkenberg began gardening with her grandmother as a child in Southern California. She continues to keep plants in her apartment in Texas and has a special love for succulents.

Best Herbs to Grow In Your Indoor Herb Garden

Would you like to have quick access to herbs for pesto pasta, salad, or to flavor the soup? If you can’t plant herbs in your backyard or don’t have one in your apartment, you can still grow an indoor herb garden so you have your fave herbs at your disposal. Without further ado, here are the best herbs that you can grow indoors:

  • Basil

Delicious with tomato-based pasta, pesto, and salads, this herb is a must if you enjoy Italian cooking. Indoor-grown basil can be useful for a few weeks until it becomes woody. You may need to plant basil in batches with a few weeks interval to ensure you have a good stock of basil at hand. Take note that basil won’t grow in cool places and during the winter.

  • Bay laurel

A must for Asian cuisine, this herb is best planted, picked, and dried ahead of cooking to achieve a strong flavor. Like most herbs, bay laurel requires bright light, good air circulation, and fast-draining soil.

  • Chives

This flavorful herb is not just for garnish but it can also add an interesting flavor to soups and stews. Be sure to trim the leaves regularly to keep it from flopping. To ensure the chives re-sprout, leave at least two inches of the plant.

  • Cilantro

Also known as Chinese parsley, this herb is essential to many Chinese and Southeast Asian cuisine. In some countries, this herb goes by the name coriander and can add spice to Mexican and Indian dishes. Take note that cilantro or coriander leaves have an aversion to warm soil.

  • Dill

This herb provides a delicious flavor to fresh-caught fish. It is one of the easiest herbs to grow indoors. However, it is also prone to wasps.

  • Oregano

This all-around herb goes well with American, Italian, and Mexican dishes. Its leaves pair well with tomato-based sauces, stews, casseroles, and meat dishes. Like bay laurel leaves, oregano leaves are more flavorful when dried.

  • Mint

The leaves of mint perfectly complement tea and even some desserts. They are also fragrant and aesthetically-pleasing as an indoor plant. This perennial plant can tolerate moderate as well as strong light.

  • Parsley

Like mint and chives, parsley is also one of the few herbs that are shade-tolerant. It is one of the essential herbs you can have in your indoor garden as it gives flavor to meat and vegetable dishes. It can be included in chicken stuffing or used to garnish the soup and some sauces.

  • Rosemary

This is another favorite herb in meat stuffing, especially during Thanksgiving and Christmas time. It also lends flavor to creamy and tomato-based sauces. You can grow rosemary in the winter season as well as in the dry summer months. Be sure to have grown lights to maintain your indoor herb garden during the cooler months.

  • Sage

A skillful cook can turn many dishes into a flavorful and aromatic delicacy with sage. This herb tends to be overpowering when used too much. Still, it is easy to grow and care for indoors.

  • Thyme

A versatile and main flavoring of many dishes worldwide, thyme can provide any cook with the unique flavor a dish needs. It is pretty as a house plant too. Be careful of overwatering herbs like the thyme. It prefers fast-draining soil.

  • Winter Savory

Add a kick to chicken, fish, and beans with this spicy and aromatic herb. It is also useful as a garnish to salads. It is nice to know that winter savory also has antibacterial properties to keep you healthy.

Buying the herbs

You can buy young plants or cuttings of herb at a local garden center. Your local flower shop may also sell seeds of the basic herbs like basil and cilantro. If you purchase potted herbs or cut from your garden, be sure to check the plant for aphids and other pests. Most pests will leave behind sticky droppings or webs on the leaves. A pest-free plant is essential to succeed in growing an indoor herb garden.

Choosing a location

Herbs grow best when they have access to natural light for most of the day. It is best to position the plants where it can get 5 to 8 hours of direct sun. If your kitchen is located where no natural light can enter, you may utilize full-spectrum grow lights for your indoor herb garden. Position the artificial lighting at least a foot away from the potted herbs and provide at least 12 hours of light.

Choosing a container

Opt for clay pots as these do well in providing proper drainage for your indoor herbs. Adequate drainage is a must as herbs can die in soggy soil. Metal and plastic containers may also be utilized provided that these have adequate drainage holes at the bottom. To catch the water that drains from the container, be sure to use a drain pan or saucer under the pot.

Caring for your indoor herb garden

There is a higher chance of herbs dying from too much water than the lack thereof. Avoid getting the soil soggy when watering your herbs. It is okay to let the topsoil dry in between watering. Some herbs fare better when you let the plant absorb the water first before the next watering session. The way you let the herbs drink also matters. Be patient and water your herbs slowly to give the plants time to absorb the water. Most herbs require watering two to three times a week.

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You can start an herb garden indoors or out without many problems. Indoors has the advantage of a year-long growing season as well as ease of use (no heading outside to weed!). The disadvantage of growing herbs indoors is that they are generally less productive and less flavorful. Of course, the opposite is true for plants grown outside — more work, but higher yields and, generally, more flavor. Whether you choose the great outdoors or the window sill in your kitchen, the needs of your herbs are the same: plenty of sunshine and good, well-draining soil.

Get your herb garden off to a great start and keep it productive with premium quality soil amendments. Need advice? Our Soils Blog provides the ideas, information and practical experience you need to get the job done right. Now, let’s grow!

Indoors

Start by choosing your herb growing spot. Window sills are great, particularly those that face south or west. In the winter, you may need to supplement natural light with grow lights or other plant lights to keep your herbs humming along (see Bring in the Herbs). Adequate light — usually six to eight hours daily — helps herbs produce their essential oils which gives them their fragrance and their taste.

A good growing medium for herbs in containers is a soilless mixture of peat, vermiculite and perlite. Add a cup of dolomite lime per bushel of soil or about one teaspoon per five-inch pot to keep the soil non-acidic.

You’ll want to water well, but be sure that your pots have drainage holes. Keep the soil moderately moist. That means not sopping wet, but not so dry that your herbs wilt from lack of moisture.

If you’re using seeds, plant annuals in the late summer. They can be kept indoors in pots or other receptacles for their entire life. For perennial herbs, it’s best to keep them outside during the summer and then bring them in before the first frost. During their time outdoors, keep herbs in containers in a sunny area that is well protected from intense heat and/or wind. Keep in mind, that soil in pots dries faster than what’s in the ground, so herbs grown in containers may require more frequent watering during the summer months.

Outdoors

Although, exact requirements vary by plant, here are some general guidelines about herb gardens.

Before you decide where to put your herb garden, figure out how much sunlight the plants you want to grow need. Most herbs enjoy sun, however, a few, including angelica, woodruff and sweet cicely are better grown in partial shade (see Growing Herbs in the Home Garden – PDF).

Determine the size of your garden by deciding how many herbs you want to grow — usually a dozen or so will give you great variety — and how much space they need.

Actually map out your garden on paper. This will help you with your planning.

Choose a site that receives at least six hours of direct sunlight each day and is large enough to meet the needs of your herbs. (Or consider several different plots if necessary.)

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Just add your favorite soil! The Hydrofarm® Dirt Pot Box is a framed fabric raised bed that provides superior drainage and aeration for roots, ensuring a healthy, massive harvest. Built stronger than similar products, with a sturdy PVC frame that supports the entire planter.

Locate your herb garden on soil that drains well or improve the drainage by adding organic matter (compost, peat moss, composted manures). You can also use raised beds (see How to Build the Perfect Raised Bed). Group herbs according to their requirements. Place herbs that require lots of sun with like herbs and group shade loving plants together.

Herbs are less picky than many vegetables, but still require adequate soil. Usually you’ll get the best results from a soil that is close to neutral with a pH of between 6.5 and 7.0.

Drainage is also important. Most herbs do best in well draining soil. Only a few — such as mint, angelica and lovage — love fairly moist soils.

Watch out for too much of a good thing with fertilizer. Over-fertilizing your culinary herbs will cause more growth, but will decrease the concentration of essential oils and will make your bushy herbs prolific, but less flavorful.

To prepare your planting beds, dig down 10 to 12 inches and turn the soil over. You can do this with a spade or a garden fork. If you have it, add organic matter so that it gets down to the root level of the plants. Remove any large clumps and stones that you happen to find. Finish the preparation of your garden by leveling it with a rake.

Figure out the best way to propagate herbs. Some don’t transplant well and should be directly seeded. Others do better when propagated as cuttings.

Herb Gardening Tips for Beginners

Growing herbs, like vegetable gardening, requires some work, but the return on your efforts is so worth it: time spent outdoors and growing your own food are two biggies. You can grow herbs from seeds or from transplants found at your favorite nursery. Follow these herb garden tips and you’ll be snipping fragrant and delicious herbs in a few weeks.

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Herb Garden Plans for Beginners

The first consideration is where you will grow your herbs—in the ground or in a pot. Although both work, success depends on choosing the correct herb for the conditions. (No matter where you plant them, know that all herbs need 6 to 8 hours of sun and well-drained soil.)

Many herbs reach high and wide. Those will do best in the ground. Perennials are better suited where they won’t be disrupted when your garden tiller works the soil. Many gardeners tuck perennial herbs in their flower beds for pretty greenery among the flowers. If you enjoy picking herbs while harvesting veggies, intermingle herbs in your vegetable bed.

Do you prefer stepping out the back door to snip an herb or two? If so, plant herbs in a window box or a container near your back door or on your deck. Grow your herbs in fun containers.

If you don’t have a yard, pot some annual herbs in a container and place in any sunny spot. No matter where you plant them, make sure your hose will reach because herbs need daily water when the weather gets hot.

Annual Herbs

  • Basil
  • Borage
  • Chamomile
  • Chervil
  • Cilantro/coriander
  • Dill
  • Fennel
  • Lemon balm
  • Marjoram
  • Stevia

Perennial Herbs

  • Chives
  • Ginger
  • Mint
  • Oregano
  • Sage
  • Rosemary (tender perennial, can be over-wintered indoors)
  • Thyme

Biennial (every two years)

  • Parsley (the best flavor is the first year)

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Starting Herbs from Seeds

An inexpensive way to grow herbs is from seeds. Fill individual pots, a garden growing tray, a flat of six-packs, or cells with moistened seed-starting mix. Sprinkle one or two seeds lightly on soil in soil of each cell or pocket. In a growing tray create shallow rows and sow according to the seed pack. Or you can make your own cheap and easy seedling pots with newspaper.

Cover the seeds lightly with soil and press down. Spritz the surface with water to moisten it and settle the seeds. Keep the soil moist by covering the container with plastic kitchen wrap, a plastic bag, or a plastic garden dome.

Remove the covering when seedlings emerge. Place the container in a sunny (south-facing) window. Keep the mix evenly moist by watering it from the bottom: Soak the containers in a sink filled with 2 inches of water until beads of moisture appear on the soil surface. When the seedlings reach 2 inches tall, transplant them to individual pots or thin those started in small pots to one seedling per pot by snipping off all but the strongest-looking seedling.

Note: Sow borage, chervil, coriander, dill, and fennel directly in warm garden soil because they don’t transplant well.

Buying Transplants

Beginning herb gardeners may want to start with transplants from a garden center. Look for plants that aren’t droopy, have good color, and don’t have spots on their leaves.

Soil Prep

Herb and vegetable gardens begin with healthy soil. Spade your garden if it’s small, or use a rototiller if it’s large. Amend the soil with compost to get your transplants off to a good start. Use a hoe to break up any soil lumps. Dig a hole slightly larger than your transplant, set the seedling in the hole, and gently pat soil around the roots. Water well after planting.

Plant Care and Harvesting

Pull or hoe weeds as they appear. Water when the soil feels dry. The warmer the weather, the more you will have to water. Pests generally don’t bother herbs. But if you spot some, remove them by hand (wear gloves if you’re squeamish about touching them) or apply an insecticidal soap. Don’t use chemical products on herbs.

You can start snipping herbs when flower buds start to appear. Cut 3 to 6 inches off, leaving about a third of the plant to regrow for future harvests. Rinse herbs in cool water, pat dry, and store in a plastic bag in your refrigerator.

Related: Regional Calendar of Herb Garden Care

To freeze herbs, place a couple of stems in a plastic bag and freeze. Or chop some and freeze them in an ice cube tray with a small amount of water. When you fix a soup, stew, or sauce, pop out a cube for garden-fresh flavor. You can also dry herbs by tying a couple of sprigs together and hanging them upside down in a cool, dark area, like a closet or basement storage room.

Fill individual pots or a flat of six-packs or cells with moistened seed-starting mix. Sprinkle seeds lightly on soil, following directions on the seed packet; sow one seed or two in each cell or pocket of a six-pack. Cover the seeds with about 1/8 inch of the mix. Press the mix down lightly and spritz the surface with water to moisten it and settle the seeds.

Note: Sow borage, chervil, coriander, dill, and fennel directly in warm garden soil because they don’t transplant well from pots.

Starting your own herb growing business won’t take you much time at all. In fact you can be on your way to earning profits—good profits—in under a month. Here’s how you can succeed in the herbal business:

Potted Culinary Herbs For Sale

First of all, you need a place for the plants to grow. You can build a mini-greenhouse/raised bed for under $300. It’s important to have access to the mini-greenhouse/raised bed from all sides and that it has plenty of sunlight, so don’t locate it next to a tree or other shaded area. A 40 inch wide by 30 foot long raised bed/mini-greenhouse is a good size. That’ll give you room for about 400 potted plants (it’s recommended you use six-inch pots – a bigger size will produce a bigger plant).

Next you’ll need a good mixture of potting soil. This mixture, used by many professional herb growers, should do the trick:

8 cubic feet topsoil.

8 cubic feet washed sand

4 cubic feet perlite

12 cubic feet peat moss

10 pounds dolomite lime

10 pounds dry organic fertilizer

After you’ve decided what herbs you’d like to grow, you can buy herb seeds online from places such as Johnny’s Seeds and Richter’s. Be sure to focus on the most popular culinary and medicinal herbs to boost your sales.

Now you’re ready to begin growing! Soon those profits will be growing too. Many of your seeds will germinate within a week or two. Take good care of them. Only use organic fertilizers. These will help your herbs with a low-stress growth rate. Also, every week during the growing season, apply a liquid seaweed or liquid fish emulsion as a foliar spray. This will provide healthy nutrients.

It’s also important not to over water your plants. Generally water them just once a day in the morning. Also be mindful of which herbs can still grow in cold weather and which ones might need to be started indoors.

When your herbs are grown, you’re ready to start selling them. Based on your local laws, maybe you can sell them right out of your own garden. Or perhaps you can set up a roadside stand. A charity fundraiser can be a great place to sell potted herbs and people are often willing to pay more for them if they know some of the profits are going to a good cause. One grower in our area sells her herbs at 6 charity fundraisers every summer, and grossed over $32,000 at those six. She donates 25% to the charity. Win-win! The farmer’s market is another great place to get customers. The larger 6″ potted herbs seem to do better at farmer’s markets than the smaller 3 & 4 inch sizes, as folks are in a spending mood, and like buying a plant that’s almost ready to harvest.

Make up flyers and put them up on local bulletin boards. Or consider having business cards printed. One successful grower puts a recipe on the back and found that customers are less likely to throw them out. Whatever you do, add your personal, creative touch, and you’ll find the customers will keep coming back.

In under a month you can be in the herb growing business. It’s really pretty easy too. Grow your herbs and get out and start selling them! Soon enough you could be on your way to big profits. To learn more, read Growing Herbs for Profit.

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