An herb garden is a great way to have fresh herbs close to your home. The older herbs get, the less potent they become, so growing your own herbs is the best way to get the most nutrients and medicinal properties from them.
You can also dry any herbs that you can’t use fresh and save them for a time when your outdoor herb garden is not growing. This way you will always have a supply of fresh herbs, even when your garden is not in season.
If space is an issue, there are still plenty of options for growing herbs. You can plant an indoor herb garden in any number of patio containers or grow herbs inside as long as you have a window that gets at least 6-8 hours of sun a day (or use a grow light).
Planting an Outdoor Herb Garden
A must-have for anyone wanting to grow more herbs than what will fit in their window is an outdoor herb garden.
Here are the basic steps for getting started:
- Choose a location – Your herb garden should be as close to your door as possible (so you’ll actually use it!) but most importantly it should be a spot that gets full sun with well-drained soil.
- Prep the soil – Adding good quality compost or manure (to loosened garden soil) is one of the easiest ways to improve your soil health. But if you need a little more guidance, check out this healthy soil guide (there’s also some info there about starting a garden from scratch). If you’re using (or building) raised beds, the soil is usually easier to prep.
- Plant seeds and seedlings – Plant your seeds and seedlings in your garden bed. Most will need to be planted after the risk of frost is over but some can go in sooner. Check the seed packets for guidance.
- Care for garden – Make sure your garden has plenty of water and that you remove or suppress weeds and pests throughout the growing season.
- Harvest herbs – When it’s time, harvest your herbs and use them in your favorite recipes (or dry them for later).
There are some basic steps you need to take to get started with your garden, but each herb has different requirements. Choose the herbs you will use the most, and then learn about their needs individually.
Best Herbs for Your Garden
Choosing which herbs to grow can be overwhelming! These are the herbs that I like to grow in my garden the most (a lot of them are also good for medicine)!
Sage grows naturally in the Mediterranean region and has a flavor that reminds us of pine needles and citrus fruits, making it a popular choice for Thanksgiving dinners. Sage has many uses:
- remedy for sore throat and indigestion
- gives homemade sausage a distinct “sausage” flavor
- adds depth to chicken broth
- pairs nicely with winter squash
If your growing season is long enough, you can sow sage directly in the ground. It can also be grown from cuttings.
This plant can go long periods of time without water and still survive. A good rule of thumb for watering your plants is to let the soil dry out in between each watering. Water your plants well each time you water them.
If you only need a few sage leaves for your dish, you can just pick them off the plant. If you are harvesting a lot, you can cut an entire stem or more.
Make sure to not over-harvest sage if you are in an area where it grows perennially (zone 5 or higher). Leave the plant some time to recover before the first frost hits (at least a few weeks), otherwise it might not make it through the winter.
Oregano is a Mediterranean herb that is great for tomato sauces and Italian or Greek food. Oregano can be used in many ways:
- to make anything taste more like pizza
- adding flavor sauces and meat dishes
- to boost healing of skin infections
- in an ointment on fungal infections
- helps remove warts on the skin
Oregano can be grown from seed or from cuttings This herb does not need a lot of water, so it is best to wait until the soil is dry before watering again.
Cut the stems of the plants when they have grown to at least 4-8 inches tall. You should never cut off more than one shoot of the plant at a time. The flavor is best when the flower buds are just forming.
The herb Rosemary has a strong pine flavor and is woody. This herb’s flavor remains strong even after it has been dried. Potatoes roasted with rosemary will make a delicious and easy side dish, and your home will smell amazing.
Other uses for rosemary include:
- a flavoring for vegetables, meats, and broths
- boosting skin and scalp health
- fighting illness in when used in tea form
Rosemary is a Mediterranean herb that can survive in dry conditions. It is better to start this herb indoors rather than to sow it directly. Rosemary grows 4 feet tall and wide, so give it plenty of room to spread out.
To get the best flavor from your plant, cut the young stems and leaves. However, for a healthier plant, prune the old ones. Do not cut more than one shoot of the plant at a time.
Thyme tastes like a subtle combination of flowers, herbs, and pine needles or mint. This spice is most often used with poultry, but it can also enhance the flavor of lamb, fish, and eggs.
Thyme has many uses:
- aromatically for respiratory issues
- as a potent antioxidant
- to soothe the stomach
It can be difficult to get thyme to grow from seed, so it’s usually better to either buy a plant or take a cutting from another plant. Thyme can be planted 2-3 weeks before the average date of the last spring frost in your area.
Harvest leaves and sprigs as you need them. You can harvest thyme at any time during the growing season because it keeps its flavor.
The flavor of this herb is bright and recognizable.
Peppermint can be used in many ways:
- as a tea for upset stomach, indigestion, morning sickness, etc.
- to relieve colic
- in a tea or diffuser to promote relaxation
- to cleanse the air
Mint varieties are difficult to grow from seed and will not produce the same plant as the parent plant because many mint varieties (including peppermint) are hybrids. The best way to get a plant is to buy it or get a cutting.
It can spread quickly, so it’s best to grow it in a pot with potting soil, or plant it in a container without a bottom that is placed directly in the ground. Mint can be harvested at any time during the season, but if you want to harvest a larger quantity to store, you should do so just before the flowers bloom.
6. Lemon balm
Lemon balm is a plant in the mint family that tastes like lemons rather than mint. I know… mind blowing.
Lemon balm is a perennial herb like mint and does well when grown in a container in full sun. I have it mixed in my regular herb garden and it hasn’t spread the way my mint has in the past.
Lemon balm is not as popular as other herbs when it comes to cooking, however it can provide a sweet lemon flavor to chicken and fish dishes. It can also be used as a replacement for lemongrass in Southeast Asian dishes, such as Thai green curry and Vietnamese chicken and pork dishes.
You can use it to flavor and top ice creams and cheesecakes, or you can use it in place of mint to give a lemony twist to a classic mojito.
Lemon balm can improve your mood, help with digestive problems, regulate thyroid function, lower the risk of diabetes, protect your heart and liver, and even improve cognitive function.
Lemon balm can be eaten raw, made into tea, or taken as a tincture or extract. It can also be used to make balms and salves.
No summer garden is complete without basil! Basil is an annual herb that needs to be replanted each year, unlike many other herbs. This plant does best in full sun and makes a great companion plant for tomatoes.
Fresh basil can enhance the flavor of just about any dish, making it taste like summer. Basil is best fresh, not dried or cooked. It’s a great pizza or pasta topping, or try it in a Calabrese salad with vine-ripened tomatoes and mozzarella or bocconcini cheese.
Genovese basil is commonly used in Italian-style dishes, while Thai basil is typically used in Thai dishes (as well as other South Asian and Southeast Asian dishes such as Vietnamese Pho).
When Basil is blended into a delicious pesto sauce, it tastes even better.
If you’re looking to add something special to your berry pies and crumbles, give basil a try. This herb brings out the best in strawberries, blueberries, and blackberries.
The antioxidants in basil may help protect your cells from damage, which could reduce your risk of cancer. Honey is not only a delicious sweetener, but it also has many health benefits. It is a natural anti-inflammatory and antibacterial agent, and can help reduce fever, pain and swelling.
I think the best way to enjoy basil is to eat it fresh. When you consume this product, you not only receive the benefits of the medicine, but also the enjoyable taste of the dish.
If you want to store basil in your medicine cabinet, you can make an alcohol or glycerin tincture/extract and take a few drops every day as a preventative measure or take a more concentrated amount to ease acute symptoms.
Ah, catnip. Kitty weed. In fact, this perennial herb, also known as catmint, has a long history of use in humans as well. Though it is most commonly associated with its effects on cats, catnip has a long history of use in humans as well. It has some pretty amazing human uses as well!
Another member of the mint family, catnip, is a leafy perennial that grows best in full sun, away from kitty cats.
Although catnip is not as well known for its culinary uses as some of the other herbs on this list, it still has some great uses in the kitchen. You can use catnip to give a hint of minty flavoring to salads, stews, and sauces, or mix it into a smoothie.
Most commonly it is consumed as a tea. One way to try to win your cat’s love is to make them a special dinner with a catnip garnish. They may be less likely to try to kill you for a while after that.
Catnip is better known as a medicinal herb than a culinary one. The active chemical compound in catnip, nepetalactone, attracts and stimulates cats when inhaled, and sedates both humans and cats when ingested.
The plant known as catnip can have a sedative effect on both humans and cats, helping to relieve tension and anxiety and promote sleep.
Although humans typically consume it as a tea, cats will eat it fresh or dried. If you’re not careful, they’ll put their paw in your tea and knock it off the counter. Because, cats. Gotta love ’em:)
Parsley is a versatile and underrated herb that can be used in many different ways in cooking. Despite not being part of the mint family, it also grows and spreads easily.
Parsley is a plant that grows for two years and produces seeds in the second year before dying. Flowers appear. The flowers appear as a result of the seeds growing into new plants. You’ve got yourself a perennial.
Parsley is a herb that can be used in a lot of different dishes, either fresh or dried. It can be used to garnish a dish, or as a flavoring in pastas, chicken, steak, seafood dishes, or even classic Italian meatballs. Not only is it an essential ingredient in ranch spice mix, but it is also key in other dishes.
Parsley can cause menstrual bleeding in women, so it should not be consumed in large amounts if you are pregnant or suspect you are pregnant.
Parsley tea can help induce bleeding and release the afterbirth if you have given birth or miscarried. I have been prescribed parsley tea by my midwives in both cases.
It is strongly advised that you speak to a medical professional before consuming parsley tea or any large amount of parsley if you are pregnant or have recently given birth. Always better to be on the safe side. (Typical culinary use is just fine).
Parsley can also be used to treat urinary tract infections and bladder infections. Additionally, its metabolism-boosting properties can help with weight loss.
Cilantro tastes very different than flat-leaf parsley, even though they look very similar.
Cilantro haters and lovers have different genetics which affects the way cilantro tastes and smells. How’s that for random trivia?
If you’re like me and you love cilantro, then you definitely need to have it in your herb garden. This plant grows best in direct sunlight and soil that doesn’t hold water. It would be a great addition to a salsa garden, as it is often used in conjunction with tomatoes, onions, and hot peppers to make fresh salsa.
Cilantro is important in fresh salsa and pico de gallo. This type of chili pepper can be used to add flavor to many different types of salsa, including mango salsa and spicy peach salsa.
Both the leaves and seeds of cumin are commonly used in South Asian and Southeast Asian cuisine. The leaves and roots of cumin are also used in Thai cooking.
Cilantro is a good source of vitamins A, C, E and K, as well as folate, potassium and manganese.
It is known that cilantro can help remove heavy metals from the body, such as arsenic, aluminum, mercury, and lead. Having these heavy metals in the body can cause health problems, like heart disease, neurological conditions, and infertility.
Cilantro protects against oxidative stress, which has been linked to cancer, Alzheimer’s, and arthritis. Even if you don’t like it, you should still try it in your next taco or rice bowl!