Tips for Growing a Culinary Herb Garden

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Tips for Growing a Culinary Herb Garden

Having fresh herbs on hand for cooking is such a treat. Fresh herbs can transform an otherwise boring, bland dish into something full of color and flavor, not to mention be a time and money saver.

If you’ve never grown your own herbs, it’s something you should consider. There are a variety of herbs that are easy to grow and many that are well suited for growing in pots or planters, so whether you live on a large estate or a cozy apartment, as long as you have a sunny spot, there are herbs perfect for you to grow.

Tips for Growing a Culinary Herb Garden

A few basic tips for beginning an herb garden:

- Drainage. Most herbs prefer moist, but well-drained soil with adequate sun. Very wet soils will not produce happy herbs.

- Not too much. Little fertilizer is needed with herbs. If too much fertilizer is used, plants will produce large amounts of foliage with low quality flavor.

- In plain sight. Choose a sunny spot for your new herbs that will not be out of site, and therefore out of mind, so you can keep them happy, and you will be more apt to use them.

- Keep it manageable. If you’re new to gardening, or limited with space, maybe choose 2 or 3 to begin with. Plus, depending on your style of cooking, you may find there are certain herbs you would use more than others.

- Read up. Every plant has different requirements for sun and soil. Be sure to check (especially if you’re planning on plants sharing pots) what those needs are and if they will work in your climate. Also knowing which herbs are annual, biennials, and perennial will help you decide about how to arrange your plantings.

- This other post on Planning a Garden includes a variety of helpful links and information.

 

Some herbs that I recommend beginning with:

Basil: Basil is one of my all-time favorites to grown, and to eat. There’s hardly a meal that I can’t find a reason to not add basil to when it’s in season, and with so many varieties, the creative culinary uses are almost endless.

Cilantro (coriander): If you like cilantro you know that a fish taco or homemade salsa with a little fresh cilantro is hard to beat. If you’ve never grown your own, give it a go. Please note, cilantro doesn’t like to be hot. I’ve yet to find a way to grow it outside during the summer months around here, so we use it up spring and fall as it grows quickly during that time for us. We allow ours to bolt and go to seed in the spring to reseed for the fall and again in the fall for a spring harvest. As well as grabbing some seed to grind fresh coriander. Many people don’t know that the leaves of the cilantro/coriander plant are known as cilantro and the seeds are coriander. So you get two for one with this plant.

Rosemary: A hardy plant that makes for a wonderful addition to landscaping. It’s a perennial and in most zones will act as an evergreen. I have a prostrate version planted in different areas around our home. It grows like crazy. I use it not only for cooking, but for cutting and adding to live arrangements.

Thyme: I have to admit, I don’t use thyme as often as I should, but when I do, fresh thyme makes all the difference. And like so many herbs, thyme can be used as a fantastic addition to your landscaping — not just restricted to your garden area.

Chives: A simple sprinkling of chives makes a baked potato, or creamy soup take on another personality all together. And that perky green is flavor for the eyes.

Oregano: Fresh oregano for sauces and soups is a must. We’ve found it easy to grow. One variety we have had success with is Greek oregano. It’s like a patch of green carpet. So fragrant too!

Sage: Leathery leaves of the sage plant are so attractive and can add great flavor to many savory dishes. Such a pretty plant, and I have found very hardy, returning each year. There are variety of sage plants to choose from.

Mint: Mint is a great herb for use in many desserts and beverages, but it’s very vigorous and can be quite invasive (as well as Lemon Balm and other plants from the mint family), so it needs to be planted in a planter. Unless you have a bare spot of ground that you want covered. Even with a planter you should have the bottom lined with landscape mesh or other way to prevent the roots from growing out the bottom and finding their way into the soil, because they will.

 A Culinary Herb Garden

I hope this helps encourage you to get growing some culinary herbs to add a little green to your plate this year.

What are your favorite herbs to grow and use to add fresh flavor to recipes? What are your favorite recipes that utilize fresh herbs?

 

Happy growing! AND happy cooking!

 

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Comments

  1. 1

    says

    I’ve been meaning to start an herb garden this year– maybe this will be the kick I needed to actually get going on it. Thanks for the tips– hopefully my herb-growing adventures will benefit!

  2. 4

    says

    Love my herb garden! I’ve planted herbs every year for a long time. They’re easy to grow and so nice to have on hand for the kitchen. When we moved from south Georgia, the thing I hated most leaving behind was my 15-year-old rosemary. Heard the new owners ripped it out and tossed it.

  3. 5

    says

    we ALWAYS have a culinary herb garden – saves so much money (seriously, more than $2 for a sad little sprig of herb that is past it’s prime?? no thank you!) great tips and purdy pictures Amy!

  4. 8

    Paula - bell'alimento says

    I couldn’t do without my herb garden. Waiting impatiently on spring ; ) Bring on the herbs!

  5. 11

    says

    Herbs are one of my very favorite things to grow and I just love your gardening posts! I took your advice and planted my mint in a container last year. I can’t wait for the weather to get warm enough to start planting again!

  6. 12

    says

    Gorgeous and informative post, Amy! The list you have is exactly what I include in my herb garden. My favorite recipes… I really enjoyed last summer when I would make a fresh lettuce salad and then sprinkle a bit of every herb I had over the top of it. It gives such flavor and depth. I canNOT wait for our snow to leave!!!

  7. 14

    says

    I flopped with cilantro last year (heat!) but my parsley did well. I’m thinking I should move my herbs closer to my kitchen area to keep an eye on them.

  8. 15

    says

    Ever since I went with my cousin (a master gardener like you) to an Herbfest, I have been fascinated with having fresh herbs in my garden. Thanks for these tips so I can hopefully expand beyond the basics!

  9. 17

    says

    I’ve been dreaming of a little garden out back…a mix of flowers and herbs. I’ve grown a few in the past and don’t know why I got out of the habit. And now I know why my cilantro never took! It goes so well with Mexican food, I just always assumed it would grow in the heat. ;)

  10. 19

    Michelle says

    This article is great! My family is full of chefs so having a personal herb garden will bring us great joy, as well as save us money in the long run. However, we are not great gardeners-so having stumbled across this blog, I am much more confident in starting a herb garden as your article is simple to understand! Thank you!

  11. 20

    says

    I love dill, but have just been too chicken to try to grow my own herbs. I keep thinking about just starting small with something inside. Sure would be nice to have the plants right there to clip from as needed. Thanks for this info – I hadn’t considered the different needs of the plants – will have to take that into consideration when I’m plotting out my window box.

  12. 21

    Richard says

    Coriander, is most definitely my favourite herb. I should say that we use a lot of cilantro and coriander in our cooking, mainly for curries and other Asian dishes.

    I find the best way to grow herbs, if you want them among your other plants, is to segregate them. You don’t want the roots of other plants to creep up and interfere with your precious herbs. Use bricks, stones or rocks on the the surface and before you put down and soil for the herbs, use massive rubbish bags to coat the area.

    The best way to enjoy the cilantro leaves are to wash them (stay safe, you don’t want any sand or unexpected creatures in your meal) and then garnish on top of a noodle dish or an Asian soup.
    The coriander seeds are great in Dahl (lentils) and other curries.

  13. 22

    says

    Great post and lovely pictures. My chives and oregano both come back each year and the patch is rather large. I love the purple flowers on the chives, so pretty. I grow basil, parsley, thyme, & dill as well. Leave extra room in your planters if growing basil as they can get rather large. I keep that one alone in its own planter for that reason. I grow my tomatoes and peppers also in large posts and they are delicious and I have tons of pasta sauce frozen each summer!

  14. 23

    Pro Carpet Cleaning says

    I tend to stick with basil and mint as they seem the easiest to maintain – plus work in almost anything! Sounds like people are having good success with coriander, so I think I’ll give that a go as well. Thanks. :)

  15. 24

    Verity says

    After reading this post, making a herb garden is now my number one priority for the weekend. I love using herbs but they can be so expensive to buy and often aren’t the greatest quality. This is the perfect solution! Those basic tips were so handy and I can’t wait to have lovely vibrant herbs just like the ones in your photos.

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