Using fresh herbs in your recipes make dinners amazing! Learn all about the most popular herbs to grow in this how-to guide on planting and growing herbs.
People have been planting and growing herbs for centuries, not only to add flavor to fresh home cooked meals, but also for medicinal purposes as well. Herbs are still very popular today and used in many different ways. Some herbs are used to bring unique flavors to drinks while others are used in potpourri, sachets and dried arrangements.
Herbs are well known for being somewhat low maintenance and for their natural resistance to pests. An herb is any plant that is considered useful, however it isn’t all about function. Sometimes herbs are grown specifically because they make beautiful decorative plants.
Most Popular Herbs
Usually when we start thinking of planting and growing herbs, we focus on the most popular ones, such as basil, thyme, rosemary, chives, and mint. Basil is great for soups and salads as well as sauces. I always add a dash of basil to my spaghetti sauce when cooking to give it a little extra flavor. Basil is also an excellent choice to add to meats such as fish and poultry.
Chives give us that mild onion flavor and taste amazing in salads and as a topping for baked potatoes. Egg and cheese dishes as well as mashed potatoes taste even more delicious when chives get involved.
Mint is an herb that is often added to cold drinks for a splash of refreshing flavor and the leaves can also be brewed right into teas.
Planting and Growing Herbs
Most herbs require at least 6 hours of sunlight each day with some needing up to 8 hours each day. Herbs need just enough water to thrive, but not too much because their roots will rot in moist soil. Try planting and growing herbs in raised beds or planters to prevent these issues.
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Where to get the plants
Annual herbs are best when they are grown from seeds, but make sure to read the seed packet before planting for important information. Herbs that are easy to grow from seeds include basil, dill, cilantro, and parsley.
Perennial herbs are slow growers, so it is best to buy these at a nursery or get them by dividing existing plants. Using a garden fork, dig up the roots of the pant and pull them apart by hand or cut them into several pieces. Herbs that grow well with division include thyme, chives, oregano, and bee balm.
Another great way to get herbs is from cuttings. When plants are healthy and strong, cut the stems at an angled cut and plant in a pot of soil that is already moist. Cover the cuttings with a plastic bag loosely and place them away from direct sunlight. If there’s too much moisture, remove the plastic bag. Once the plants are rooting well, replant them into larger containers.
Herbs that grow well with cuttings include lavender, mint, thyme, sage and oregano.
Lindsay from Shrimp Salad Circus has a great article on how to grow Basil from cuttings. She tells us how to grow 10 plants from 1!
Growing herbs in containers
If you have limited space or poor draining soil, planting and growing herbs in containers such as pots and planters is a good option. Perennials can be grown all year in pots as long as they are brought in during the fall season.
When planting and growing herbs in containers, use good quality potting soil that also has proper draining qualities. Typical garden soil does not do well in containers because it does not drain well. Herbs require regular fertilization during their growing season. Frequent watering is also required as long as you don’t water too much.
Remember that herbs need at least 6 hours of bring sunlight! If you plan to grow herbs indoors, consider putting them on windowsills that offer the most light. You may want to think about investing in HID grow lights if your home does not offer enough natural light.
Read more about having a windowsill herb garden with Kris from Attainable Sustainable.
Harvesting and Storage
Harvesting herbs is fairly easy because you just snip off what you want and that’s it! If you want just the leaves from herbs such as mint or basil, make sure to harvest them before they flower. Herbs grown from seeds can be harvested when their seed pods change color.
Consistent harvesting and pruning cause many herbs to grow better. Herbs that thrive better with regular pruning include mint, chives, basil, parsley, and oregano.
It’s best to wait to harvest herbs until right before you need them because the oils are fragile and break down quickly. However, some herbs will be okay in the refrigerator for about a week or so (chives, rosemary, thyme). For longer storage options, drying herbs is the best way to go because it gives herbs the best flavor retention and they can be kept for 2-3 years. Freezing herbs is also another way to store herbs for later use.
Chef Markus Mueller teaches us about harvesting and storing rosemary in a very informative article on how to grow rosemary.
Planting and growing herbs is not a difficult task and there are so many benefits for growing your own. Just remember to water them often and make sure they have proper drainage so their roots don’t rot. Don’t forget that they need a lot of sunlight as well. Keeping these tips in mind when planting herbs will allow you to have fresh herbs year round.