Not only is it rewarding to grow your own herbs, but it’s also delicious! Fresh basil, thyme, or rosemary is so much tastier than wilting cellophane-wrapped herbs from the store. And when you buy in bunches, they tend to go bad within a few days before you get to use them up entirely. Growing and tending to your own little herb garden has other benefits—it’s calming to play in the dirt and incredibly satisfying to watch a plant grow.
And don’t worry about your lack of gardening skills—starting a successful herb garden takes little effort, money, or space.
Here are a few tips to get you started.
Select the Herbs You Want to Grow
First, you’ll need to decide which herbs you want to grow. Of course, the everyday cooking herbs like rosemary, basil, sage, or mint are a great place to start. But why limit yourself? Explore interesting varieties such as Moroccan mint, chervil, or bergamot (bee balm).
Need help deciding? Open your spice cabinet and take inventory of all the spices you use in cooking. Many of these you can grow fresh. And you may find you can’t go back to dried cilantro out of a jar after experiencing the fresh version.
What You Need to Get Started
Depending upon how much space you have on a window sill or outdoor patio, you can choose inexpensive smaller pots for individual plants or larger-sized containers to grow multiple varieties. Whatever container you choose, be sure it has holes in the bottom for good drainage.
Fill your containers with potting compost or garden soil. A watering can or spray bottle and a little trowel will come in handy.
Planting Your Herbs
You can purchase individual plants from a nursery or garden center. Add potting soil or compost, pop in the plant, and carefully surround it with soil. If you are using a large container, you may need to add a few rocks or stones to the bottom which will help drainage, and then add the soil on top.
If you choose to start with seeds, spread about a half teaspoon of seeds into the soil. Then cover with a thin layer of soil and lightly pat.
Give the containers a good drink of water so the roots can begin quenching their thirst and the seeds can soak it in.
Sunlight and Water
Sunlight and water are all you’ll need to foster growth. Herbs like thyme and rosemary love sunlight—lots of it! Mint does better in a shady, cooler environment. If you are growing your herbs outside, try to pick a location that has full sun. Check sun and shade recommendations for each type of herb you grow. And remember to water your garden regularly—water when the top of the soil is dry. Try to avoid oversaturation.
Soon it will be time to harvest your herbs and reap the rewards of all your hard work (or not so hard work). Because essential oils are most abundant in the morning, endeavor to harvest your herbs early in the day. And resist the urge to pick the best leaves all at once. Mix it up—a few new small leaves, a few older, larger ones. This selection allows the plants to be healthier and leafier for a longer period of time.
When you tend your herbs thoughtfully, they will grow for many months. You can also share cuttings of your plants with friends and neighbors so they can start their own herb garden.