One of my favorite parts of gardening is having an herb garden. In my experience, herbs are easy to grow, require little care and many are perennials that come back year after year. There are literally hundreds of varieties of herbs, and because of this, it can be a little overwhelming knowing where to start when planning your first herb garden.
Herbs can be edible, medicinal or simply used for fragrance. When selecting edible herbs for your herb garden, you may want to start with herbs you already like and use in your cooking. If you aren’t used to buying fresh herbs – look in your spice cabinet. Many spices are made from the dried seeds, berries and roots of herbs.
Typically I plant my herbs in milk jug greenhouses in late winter or early spring. Then I transfer seedlings to my garden. At the end of the season, sometimes I will pot the annuals and bring them inside and enjoy them for a few more weeks. I have many perennial herbs in my gardening as well. Because they survive the winter, I do not have to move these herbs inside or re-plant them every year.
If you are new to gardening or new to planting an herb garden I would suggest trying mostly annual herbs planted by seed. If planting by seed is really not your thing you can buy herb seedlings in the spring at your local greenhouse. Keep in mind that seedlings usually cost more than seeds. Still stuck on what to plant in your herb garden? Here are a few suggestions:
• Parsley: If you want an herb that will come back for a second year and won’t require replanting, check out parsley. It’s what is called a biennial herb meaning it usually lives for two seasons and then dies. Parsley is popular as a garnish for meals and even drinks. It’s a mild herb but a staple in many kitchens. I like to grow curly parsley and dry it at home. Never buy parsley again!
• Basil: I love planting basil, and in mass quantities! It’s a common herb for cooking and extremely versatile. It’s also easy to care for. The only way you can really go wrong with basil is not watering it enough in the dead of summer. Basil is a popular herb in pizza sauces, caprese salads, stews, tomato soup and more. There are also many varieties of basil, from sweet to spicy.
• Chives: If you like onions and garlic, then growing chives in your herb garden is a must. Chives have a mild, onion and garlic-like flavor. They also have beautiful purple blooms in the spring. I frequently toss chopped chives in salads during the summer. They are a great topping for baked potatoes. Chives can also be mixed with butter or cream cheese to make your own homemade spreads.
• Cilantro / Coriander: The herb that goes by two names. Many people enjoy cilantro in salsa and as a topping on Mexican dishes. Because tomatoes are not in season until late summer, it’s a good idea to freeze your cilantro for later use. Coriander is the name for the seeds of the plant. The seeds are a separate spice often used for spice rubs on chicken and fish and in my St. Patrick’s Day favorite – corned beef and cabbage.
• Mint: You can’t go wrong with planting mint – with one caveat – don’t let it spread. Mint grows so quickly it can easily overtake a garden. Here’s a tip: plant your mint in a clay pot and then plant the pot underground. This will contain the root system and keep it from spreading. I like adding fresh sprigs of mint to my homemade sun tea. Mint is also a popular garnish for ice cream, lamb and is used in mojitos.
What is your favorite herb? How do you use it?