Are you tired of relying on store-bought herbs with uncertain origins and limited freshness? Discover the benefits of growing your own herb garden and learn how to create and maintain a thriving herbal oasis with these simple tips.

There is nothing quite like growing your own herbs. They are beautiful, aromatic and add to the flavoring of dishes.

If you love to cook but haven’t ventured into growing your own herb garden yet, I encourage you to try it this year. Most plants are easy-to-grow, easy-to-care-for and you’ll have a plethora of fresh spices for dishes.

Whether you have a sprawling backyard or a tiny balcony, cultivating an herb garden is an enjoyable and rewarding experience that offers lots of benefits.

In this blog post, we’ll explore the advantages of having an herb garden, provide tips on planting and maintenance, highlight easy-care herbs to grow, and discuss the distinction between annual and perennial herbs.

Get ready to embark on a journey of flavor, fragrance, and wellness. Let’s get growing!

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Why Should Everyone Grow Their Own Herb Garden?

I might be biased because I love growing things, but everyone should grow their an herb garden even if it’s just a plant or two. It’s really easy to do and it boasts a lot of benefits for the novice or home gardener. Here’s why.

Fresher and Healthier Flavors

When you grow your own herbs, you have the luxury of harvesting them at the peak of freshness, ensuring optimal flavor and aroma. There’s nothing quite like the vibrant taste of a freshly picked basil leaf or the zing of a just-plucked sprig of mint.

By incorporating homegrown herbs into your culinary creations, you level up your dishes to new heights with more authentic and robust flavors. When it is winter and I don’t have access to my fragrant herbs for dishes I’m making, I truly miss it!

Cost-Effective and Sustainable

Herbs are known for their versatility, often requiring only small amounts in recipes. Purchasing herbs from the grocery store can be costly, they expire quickly if you don’t store them well, and the excess packaging contributes to environmental waste. By having an herb garden, you reduce the need for store-bought herbs, leading to substantial savings and a more sustainable lifestyle.

Health and Wellness

Beyond the culinary advantages, herbs offer a multitude of health benefits too. Many herbs possess medicinal properties and are rich in essential nutrients. Incorporating fresh herbs into your diet can support digestion, boost immunity, and improve your overall well-being. Additionally, gardening itself has been shown to reduce stress levels and promote mental clarity, creating a therapeutic escape from the hustle and bustle of daily life.

two different sage plants in the potager garden

How to Grow Herbs

Creating a thriving herb garden doesn’t have to be a daunting task either. Follow these simple steps to kickstart your herbal oasis.

Choose the Perfect Spot for Your Herb Garden

Herbs generally thrive in areas with ample sunlight, so select a location that receives at least 6 hours of direct sunlight per day. And if you have limited outdoor space, I got you!

Herbs can be grown indoors on windowsills or under artificial grow lights, making them suitable for apartment dwellers or those with restricted areas. We got this!

I grow my herb garden in a growing space called the potager garden. In this growing space, I grow vegetables, herbs, and my cut flower garden. It’s a great space that blends the beauty of growing flowers with the functionality of harvesting your own food. If you have the space, I highly recommend it because it creates a beautiful ecosystem that looks amazing!

Select Your Herbs

Consider your culinary preferences and personal needs when choosing herbs for your garden. Opt for a mix of both common and unique varieties to add diversity to your culinary repertoire. Popular easy-care herbs include basil, rosemary, thyme, parsley, mint, and chives.

Prepare the Soil

Ensure your herb garden has well-draining soil enriched with lots of organic matter. Herbs generally prefer soil that is slightly acidic to neutral. If your soil is heavy or lacks nutrients, amend it with compost, leaf mold, and well-rotted manure to create an optimal growing environment.

herb and vegetable garden
Herb and vegetable garden in the potager

Planting and Watering Your Kitchen Herb Garden

Follow the planting instructions specific to each herb, as planting depths and spacing requirements can vary. The information can be found on the plant labels.

After planting, water your herbs thoroughly, and then allow the soil to dry out between watering sessions. Overwatering can lead to root rot and other pest or disease problems, so it’s important to strike a balance.

Pruning and Harvesting Herbs

Regular pruning and harvesting are vital for promoting healthy growth and maintaining the flavor of your herbs. Remove any dead or yellowing leaves and pinch off the tips of plants to encourage bushier growth.

When it comes time to harvest, be mindful of the specific herb’s optimal harvesting period. Generally, you can start harvesting when the plants have reached a sufficient size and have developed enough foliage. Remember to always leave a portion of the plant intact to ensure continued growth and productivity.

rosemary in the garden

Herb Garden Layout Ideas

Designing an herb garden isn’t just about picking your favorite flavors; it’s about creating a functional and beautiful space too. Before creating your herb garden layout, consider these factors so you get the most out of your space.

  • Accessibility: Place your garden near a water source that is close to the kitchen for easy snipping during cooking. Raised beds are great for accessibility and drainage, especially for herbs with different water needs.
  • Sunlight Matters: Group full-sun lovers like oregano and rosemary together, while shade-tolerant gems like cilantro can thrive under taller herbs.
  • Consider companion planting: Certain herbs benefit each other when planted side-by-side. For example, dill attracts beneficial insects that help protect other plants, while chives deter pests from other herbs.
  • Design with aesthetics in mind: Mix herb heights and textures for visual interest. Create borders with low-growing thyme or chives, and use taller herbs like lavender as focal points. Consider incorporating decorative elements like stepping stones or a small birdbath.
  • Remember practicality: Herbs like mint can become invasive. Planting them in containers allows for better control. Label your herbs clearly, especially if some look similar at first glance.

Designing your herb garden can be a fun and rewarding experience because you aren’t limited to what’s at the grocery store! Don’t be afraid to experiment and personalize your herb garden layout to create a space that reflects your style and culinary preferences.

close up of bee on cilantro that went to seed
Bee on cilantro that has gone to seed

Best Herbs to Grow for Your Garden

If you’re new to herb gardening or simply looking for low-maintenance options, these herbs are known for their resilience and ease of cultivation:

  1. Basil: A versatile herb with a delightful aroma, basil thrives in warm conditions and requires regular watering. Pinch off flower buds to promote leaf production.
  2. Rosemary: This perennial herb is drought-tolerant and prefers well-drained soil. It’s a robust plant that can withstand various weather conditions, making it perfect for beginners.
  3. Thyme: With its fragrant leaves, thyme adds depth to a variety of dishes. It enjoys full sun and well-drained soil and requires minimal watering.
  4. Parsley: An essential culinary herb, parsley prefers moist soil and partial shade. Regular trimming encourages fresh growth and prevents the plant from going to seed.
  5. Mint: Known for its refreshing scent and invigorating taste, mint is a fast-growing herb that thrives in containers. Keep it in a separate pot to prevent it from spreading and overtaking other plants.
  6. Chives: These onion-flavored herbs are low-maintenance and grow well in containers or directly in the ground. They appreciate regular watering and can tolerate both sun and partial shade.
  7. Oregano: This Mediterranean marvel thrives in well-drained soil and hot sun, rewarding you with pungent leaves perfect for Italian dishes.
  8. Cilantro: This bright herb loves cool weather and moist soil, offering a vibrant citrus zing to Asian and Mexican cuisine (though some find its taste soapy).
  9. Dill: This feathery favorite enjoys full sun and well-drained soil, adding a refreshing, dill pickle-like flavor to dips and seafood dishes.
  10. Lavender: This aromatic beauty flourishes in dry, sunny spots, attracting pollinators and offering calming fragrance and culinary uses.
  11. Sage: This silvery delight prefers full sun and well-drained soil, bringing earthy warmth to sauces, stuffings, and even simple butter.
  12. Tarragon: This licorice-flavored friend needs well-drained soil and prefers cooler temperatures, adding a unique touch to sauces and vinaigrettes.
  13. Chamomile: This daisy-like herb enjoys full sun and well-drained soil, offering delicate flowers for calming tea and ground cover charm.
dill and cilantro that went to seed for a pollinator friendly garden
Dill and cilantro in the potager garden

Annual vs. Perennial Herbs

Understanding the difference between annual and perennial herbs is helpful to know when planning your herb garden.

Annual Herbs

Annual herbs complete their life cycle within a single year. They grow from seed, produce foliage, flowers, and seeds, and then naturally die off.

Examples of annual herbs include basil, cilantro, and dill. You can save seeds from annual herbs if you want to replant them the following year. Just be sure to keep them in an envelope in a cool, dry, and dark location.

Perennial Herbs

Perennial herbs have a lifespan that extends beyond one year. Once established, they continue to grow and produce foliage year after year.

Examples of perennial herbs include thyme, sage, and oregano. There are also some herbs that are considered tender perennials, like rosemary. In my zone 6a garden, they are considered tender, so I treat it more like an annual. Perennial herbs provide long-term enjoyment and require less replanting.

basil and tomatoes in raised beds
basil and tomatoes

When to Plant Herbs

Planting herbs depends on several factors, including the specific herb type, your climate, and whether you’re planting seeds or seedlings. Here’s a general breakdown:

By Climate

  • Warm season herbs: These prefer warm temperatures and dislike frost. Examples include basil, dill, cilantro, and most Mediterranean herbs. Ideally, wait until all danger of frost has passed before planting seeds or seedlings outdoors, which is typically late spring or early summer in most climates.
  • Cool season herbs: These tolerate cooler temperatures and can even handle light frost. Examples include parsley, chives, lettuce, and some mint varieties. You can start these indoors from seeds 4-6 weeks before the last frost, or plant seeds or seedlings outdoors in early spring.
  • Perennial herbs: These come back year after year and can be planted anytime during the growing season, although fall is often considered ideal for many. Examples include rosemary, thyme, oregano, and sage.

By Planting Method

  • Seeds: Most herbs can be started from seeds. Warm season herbs are typically started indoors 4-6 weeks before the last frost, while cool season herbs can be sown directly outdoors in early spring. Follow the specific germination instructions on the seed packet.
  • Seedlings: Buying seedlings can give you a head start on the season. Plant them outdoors after the danger of frost has passed, following the spacing recommendations on the plant label.

Here are some additional resources that can help you determine the best time to plant herbs in your specific region:

herb garden with zinnias and tomatoes

Growing Herbs in Containers

Even if you have limited space, you can still enjoy the beauty and benefits of an herb garden by growing herbs in containers. Here are some tips for successful container gardening with herbs:

  1. Choose the Right Containers: Select containers with proper drainage holes and sufficient depth for root growth. Consider using pots made of terracotta or other breathable materials to prevent waterlogged soil.
  2. Use Quality Potting Mix: Opt for a well-draining potting mix designed for containers. This ensures proper moisture retention and provides necessary nutrients for your herbs.
  3. Mindful Placement: Place your containers in areas that receive adequate sunlight based on the specific herb’s requirements. Remember that some herbs, such as mint, can be invasive, so keeping them in separate pots is advisable.
  4. Water Regularly: Container-grown herbs may require more frequent watering compared to those in the ground. Check the moisture levels regularly and water when the top inch of soil feels dry. Use drip irrigation to ensure they are well-hydrated in summer. Not to mention, watering will be that much easier for you because it is set and forget.

With a little creativity and the right care, you can cultivate a thriving herb garden in containers.

parsley plant
parsley

Growing a Kitchen Herb Garden: A Guide for Beginners and Limited Gardening Knowledge

You might think that starting an herb garden requires extensive gardening knowledge and experience, but the truth is, anyone can grow an herb garden, regardless of their level of expertise. With a few basic guidelines and a willingness to learn, you can embark on a successful herb-growing journey. If you are a total newbie, here are some tips for getting started.

Start Small and Simple

If you’re new to gardening or have limited space, it’s best to start small and focus on a few herbs that are easy to grow. Choose a couple of your favorite herbs or those commonly used in your culinary endeavors. This approach allows you to concentrate your efforts and gain confidence as you witness your plants thrive.

Research and Learn

Before going all in on a kitchen herb garden, take some time to research your chosen plants. Understand their growth habits, preferred growing conditions, and any specific care instructions. Online resources, gardening books, and reputable gardening websites are excellent sources of information. Additionally, consult local gardening experts or visit your nearby nursery for personalized advice based on your geographical location.

vibrant zinnias in raised beds and oregano plants in potager garden
zinnias in raised beds and oregano plants in potager garden

Select the Right Growing Medium

For beginners, using a high-quality potting mix designed for herbs or container gardening is a wise choice. This type of soil blend provides good drainage, adequate moisture retention, and the necessary nutrients for healthy herb growth.

Provide Adequate Sunlight

Most herbs thrive in sunny locations, requiring at least six hours of direct sunlight per day. Find a spot in your home or garden that receives ample sunlight and place your herb containers there. If natural light is limited, you can supplement with grow lights to ensure your herbs receive the necessary light energy for photosynthesis. This can work particularly well if you are growing them indoors.

Water Wisely

Overwatering or underwatering can harm your herbs. The key to watering is to find the right balance. Before watering, check the soil moisture by inserting your finger into the top inch of the soil. If it feels dry, it’s time to water.

Use a watering can or a gentle spray nozzle to water your herbs thoroughly, allowing the excess water to drain out. Remember to let the soil dry out slightly between watering sessions to prevent root rot.

tricolor sage in the potager garden
Tricolor Sage

Regular Maintenance and Pruning

Keeping your herb garden tidy and well-maintained is essential for healthy growth. Remove any dead or yellowing leaves, as they can attract pests or promote disease. Regularly prune your herbs to encourage bushier growth and prevent them from becoming leggy. Pruning also provides you with a fresh supply of flavorful herbs for your culinary endeavors.

When the herbs flower, it can alter their flavor and focuses more on seed production. So make sure you are at least deadheading those blooms off to ensure the best flavor.

Stay Observant and Adapt

Pay attention to your herbs’ growth patterns and overall health. Observe any signs of pest infestations, nutrient deficiencies, or diseases. Early detection allows for timely intervention and prevents further damage. Don’t be afraid to adjust your care routine based on the specific needs of your herbs. Gardening is a continuous learning process, and adapting to the unique requirements of each herb will lead to greater success.

Enjoy the Fruits of Your Labor

As your herbs grow and flourish, savor the joy and satisfaction of cultivating your own fresh ingredients. Harvest your herbs when they have reached a suitable size, being careful not to strip the plant completely. Use them to elevate your culinary creations, share them with friends and family, or dry them for later use.

Remember, even the most experienced gardeners started as beginners. With a little patience, a willingness to learn, and some trial and error, you can grow an herb garden, regardless of your level of gardening knowledge. Embrace the journey, enjoy the process, and relish the rewards of having fresh ingredients at your fingertips.

dill that has gone to seed
Dill that has gone to seed and flowered

Growing Herbs FAQ

What Happens When Herbs Go to Seed?

When herbs go to seed, it means that they have reached their reproductive stage, and their primary focus shifts from foliage growth to producing flowers and seeds. Here’s what typically happens when herbs go to seed.

  1. Flower Production: As herbs mature, they start producing flowers. These flowers can vary in size, color, and shape, depending on the herb species. Flowers add beauty to your herb garden and can attract beneficial insects like bees and butterflies.
  2. Seed Formation: After the flowers are pollinated, the plants begin to form seeds. The flowers typically wither and dry out, and small seed pods or capsules develop in their place. Each pod contains numerous seeds specific to the herb species.
  3. Plant Growth Changes: When herbs go to seed, their growth pattern may change. Instead of focusing on producing new leaves or stems, the plant’s energy is directed toward seed development. As a result, the overall growth of the herb may slow down or become stunted.
  4. Flavor and Aroma Changes: Once an herb starts flowering and going to seed, its flavor and aroma may change. The foliage might become less potent and less desirable for culinary purposes. Some gardeners believe that herbs become more bitter or lose their distinctive flavors when they enter the seed production phase.
  5. Self-Seeding and Natural Propagation: If the seeds are allowed to mature fully and fall to the ground, they can self-seed and sprout in the following growing season. This natural propagation can lead to new herb plants appearing in unexpected areas of your garden. Depending on your preferences and garden design, you can either allow the herbs to self-seed or prevent it by harvesting the seeds before they disperse.
  6. Lifecycle Completion: For annual herbs, going to seed marks the end of their lifecycle. After producing seeds, the plant typically dies off naturally. On the other hand, perennial herbs will continue to grow and go through the cycle of flowering, seed production, and regrowth in subsequent seasons.

Thus, if you want to maintain the quality and flavor of your herbs, it’s generally recommended to prevent them from going to seed. Regular pruning and harvesting of the foliage before flowering can help promote healthier and more flavorful herb growth.

However, allowing some herbs to go to seed can be advantageous if you want to collect seeds for future planting, entice more pollinators to your garden, or to encourage self-seeding in your garden.

caterpillar on parsley plant
caterpillar on parsley plant

What Herbs Are Good for Pollinators After They Go to Seed?

After herbs go to seed and produce flowers, they can still provide a valuable food source for pollinators. Here are some herbs that are known to attract and support pollinators even after going to seed.

  1. Borage (Borago officinalis): Borage produces beautiful blue flowers that continue to attract bees and butterflies. Its nectar-rich blooms are highly appealing to pollinators.
  2. Dill (Anethum graveolens): Dill flowers are attractive to bees, butterflies, and beneficial insects. Allowing dill plants to flower and go to seed can create a pollinator-friendly zone in your garden.
  3. Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare): Fennel’s yellow flowers have a sweet fragrance that attracts bees, butterflies, and other beneficial insects. The flowering stage is particularly important for the Swallowtail butterfly caterpillar, which feeds on fennel leaves.
  4. Cilantro/Coriander (Coriandrum sativum): Cilantro produces delicate white flowers that eventually give way to coriander seeds. These flowers can still attract beneficial insects and provide a food source for pollinators.
  5. Oregano (Origanum vulgare): Oregano flowers are small but still attract bees and butterflies. Allowing the plant to go to seed ensures a continuous supply of flowers and nectar for pollinators.
  6. Lavender (Lavandula spp.): Lavender’s fragrant flowers are loved by bees and butterflies. While the plant’s primary blooming period may be over after going to seed, occasional flowers may still emerge, attracting pollinators.
  7. Sage (Salvia spp.): Sage produces vibrant flowers that are highly attractive to bees and butterflies. Allowing the plant to go to seed ensures a steady supply of flowers for pollinators.
  8. Calendula (Calendula officinalis): Calendula, often referred to as pot marigold, has bright and colorful flowers that are visited by bees, butterflies, and other pollinators. The flowers continue to provide nectar even after they have gone to seed.

By allowing these herbs to go to seed and keeping their flowers intact, you can create a pollinator-friendly environment in your garden, providing a vital food source for bees, butterflies, and other beneficial insects.

oregano with at last roses in the potager garden
Oregano with At Last Roses

More About Herb Gardening

So, why wait? Start your herb garden journey today and savor the bountiful rewards of growing your own herbs. Happy gardening!

Do you grow an herb garden too? What are your favorite herbs to grow? I would love to know more in the comments below.

And don’t miss joining my Gardening DIY and Decorating Community on Facebook for more chatter. And follow along there and on Instagram as well. There are behind-the-scenes daily things that I share on Instagram that don’t make it to the blog. Would love to see you there too!

If you prefer to binge-watch Bricks ’n Blooms on TV, we go more in-depth with tours and posts on my YouTube channel. Would love to hang out with you there!

And… If you’re catching up on blog posts you may have missed, be sure to sign-up to get my newest posts via email to stay up to date with everything that’s happening here on the blog and more.

Sage and zinnias in the potager garden

Garden Supplies I Use

Since I’ve been gardening for well over twenty-five years, I’m often asked about the garden supplies and tools that I use most. Here are some of my favorites that I use in no particular order.

dahlia kogane fubuki in the potager garden

Click here to shop my favorite garden supplies!

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picture of sage and basil in raised beds

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Stacy Ling

Want to learn more about me? I’m a master gardener who’s been gardening and growing things for over 25 years and author of the best-selling book, The Bricks ‘n Blooms Guide to a Beautiful and Easy-Care Flower Garden. Get the inside scoop about my background as a master gardener, education, and experience, as well as why I started blogging here.

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