Herb Gardening may be one of the easiest, most useful and rewarding garden types to get started in. They can be grown indoors or outside, are relatively disease free and typically pest resistant. Your fresh cut herbs when added to your cooking recipes will shock you with their incredible flavor.
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Most likely you started your day using herbs in the soap, shampoo and lotion that you used while getting ready to face your day. With your own home grown herbs you may begin to make your own soaps, lotions and shampoos using your own herbs. Yes, it is possible to make all of these items and many more in your own home.
First step in starting your own herb garden is to decide if you want to try to do it indoors or outside. There are benefits to each such as indoors produces herbs that are slightly less flavorful, grow slower and smaller, but can be grown year-round. In contrast, outdoor gardens produce more, better flavor but are unavailable during the coldest months. Whether you choose in or out the needs of your herbs are about the same, good sunshine and a well draining soil.
Planning your herb garden growing area is important in either decision. Choosing the types you want to grow, understanding space requirements, container size if going indoors and soil conditions if going outside all must be factored into your choices.
Indoor growing gives you the chance to build your own soil from scratch including soilless mixtures made from peat, vermiculite and perlite. You will want to water well but make sure your pots have good drainage so that your roots do not drown. If you are starting with seeds, plant annuals in late summer and they will stay inside for their entire growing cycle. Perennials you will want to take them outdoors during the summer and bring them in before first frost. Remember that potted plants outdoors dry out much faster than plants planted in the ground.
If your herb garden is outdoors, choose a site that gets at least six hours of sunlight each day and is large enough to satisfy your needs. Most herbs prefer plenty of sunshine, but a few like a bit less and a very small number prefer shade. Plan out your herb garden ahead of time so you can best layout your planting area in a way that your plants get the amount of sunshine they need.
Herbs are less fussy about soil condition than their vegetable buddies, but still require sufficient nutrients, good drainage and proper pH of the soil. You will usually get the best results with a soil pH of 6.5 to 7.0. With fertilizer, you can give your plants too much of a good thing. Too much will cause plants to grow larger, faster reducing the concentration of essential oils that make these plants so special.
Some herbs do not transplant well and do best if started in your herb garden from seeds. Other do very well when propagated by cuttings. Aside from that many plant nurseries carry a good selection of young plants ready to be placed in your soil.
Some Herb Garden Varieties
Angelica – This plant is biennial and likes light shade and moist soil. Best if direct seeded in your herb garden during the fall. This is considered a "hardy" plant and does best in cooler climates. Roots and leaves are harvested in late summer of its second year of growth. Angelica is mainly used as a condiment or confection.
Anise - This annual prefers lots of sun and a well-drained soil. Best if you sow seeds in the spring. Most often characterized as a "half hardy" plant and likes alkaline soils. Leaves and seeds taste like licorice.
Basil – Here is an annual that grows well in bright light and moist soil. Propagate in the spring. It is considered a "tender" plant and will grow well in containers. This herb is often used in cooking Thai recipes and in Italian food.
Bay – This is a perennial that requires light shade and well drained soil. Propagate with cuttings. Considered a "tender" plant, bay grows well in pots and its leaves used in meat broths to add flavor.
Borage - Another annual that likes sunny locations and dry soil. Direct seed these in the spring. It is considered a “hardy” annual and often self-seeds. The flowers and leaves of this herb give a cucumber-like flavor to drinks.
Caraway – A biennial that likes growing areas within your herb garden having full sun and well-drained soil. Sow seeds in spring or fall for summer production. It is a “hardy” plant. Caraway seeds are aromatic and are used in cooking and as an ingredient of liqueurs.
Catnip – This herb is a perennial that prefers full sun, adequate moisture and well-drained soil. It should be direct seeded in the spring or propagated through divisions or cuttings. It is considered a “hardy” plant and should be cut back in autumn. Often used for tea and is used to give cats a natural high.
Chervil – This annual likes a partial shade location with well drained soil. Best if seeded in the spring. This is a “hardy” plant and if sown early, will self-seed for the following year. Chervil is often used as a garnish, much like parsley is used.
Chives – A perennial that prefers partial shade and dry soil. Plant seeds in the spring or use divisions of the root ball to propagate this herb. It is a very “hardy” plant and will also do well indoors. Leaves provide an onion like flavor.
Cicely – This is a perennial that likes growing in some shade, rich soil and good drainage. Plant seeds in fall for spring growth. Sweet cicely is a “hardy” plant that was once used as both a sugar substitute and as a furniture polish.
Cilantro/Coriander – This annual grows well in sunny locations and likes rich, well-drained soil. Sow seeds in the spring. The leaves are known as cilantro while the seeds are called coriander. A “hardy” plant, this herb has a pungent taste that isn't for everyone. A popular herb in Thai and Mexican foods.
Dill – Here is an annual that appreciates full sun and rich, well-drained soil. Plant seeds in the spring. It is best known for its use in pickling.
Fennel – This herb is a perennial that likes sunny locations with well-drained soil. Sow seed in the spring or use divisions to propagate. A “hardy” herb, it has a faint anise fragrance. Used in Italian cooking, alcoholic drinks and medicines.
Horehound - A “hardy” perennial that requires a sunny spot and dry, alkaline soil to grow well. Sow seeds in the spring or use divisions or cuttings to propagate. This herb is often used to flavor candy.
Hyssop – Another “hardy” perennial that thrives in bright light and dry soil. Plant seeds in the spring or use divisions or cuttings to propagate. Hyssop has a flavor that is slightly bitter and minty. Used to flavor liqueurs or its young leaves can be added to salad.
Lavender – This perennial prefers herb gardens with full sun and dry soil. Plant seeds in the fall or use cuttings. Lavender is a “hardy” plant with fragrant leaves often used in potpourri.
Lemon Balm – This is a “hardy” perennial that prefers partial shade and moist soil. Seed in the spring or propagate with divisions or cuttings. Often used in jams, jellies and fruit salads.
Lemon Verbena – This herb is a “semi-hardy” perennial that thrives in partial shade and well-drained soil. Plant seeds in the spring or use cuttings to propagate. Lemon verbena is a semi-hardy plant that does well indoors. It adds a lemony taste to teas, cold drinks and jellies.
Lovage – This is a “hardy” perennial that needs light shade and a rich, moist soil to grow well. Plant seeds in the fall and it will likely self seed in subsequent growing seasons. Adds a spicy taste to dishes and is sometimes used in teas to reduce flatulence.
Marjoram – This perennial appreciates partial shade with rich, well-drained soil. Seed in the spring or propagate with cuttings. An excellent container plant, marjoram attracts beneficial insects and butterflies to the garden. It is both sweet and spicy and is often used in meat dishes.
Myrtle – This “tender” perennial requires a sunny spot with good drainage to thrive. This herb is often propagated from cuttings as well as it is often grown in containers. Its fragrant leaves are used in potpourri and herb sachets.
Oregano – A perennial that likes full sun and sandy, well-drained soil. Plant seeds indoors in spring and transplant or you can propagate with divisions or cuttings. Oregano is a “hardy” plant that should be cut back in late fall.
Parsley – This “half-hardy” biennial likes light shade and rich, moist soil. You can plant from seeds in the spring and often self-seeds. Most commonly used as a culinary garnish.
Peppermint – A “hardy” perennial herb that thrives in light shade and moist soil. Propagate through divisions or cuttings and remember that it spreads fast. For this last reason, many gardeners prefer to grow in containers. Used in a variety of products for both a minty taste and smell.
Rosemary - A perennial that likes full sun and dry well drained soil. Can be propagated through cuttings and is considered a “tender” plant. Does well indoors and is often used when cooking veal, lamb, shellfish and other meats.
Sage – This “hardy” perennial grows best in full sun, good drainage and rich soil. Plant seed in spring or you can use cuttings to propagate. Sage should be replaced every five years. Use with meats or in dressings.
Savory – An annual that requires full sun and very good soil to thrive. Sow seeds in spring. It is considered a "semi-hardy" plant. It is used as a condiment when cooking meats and vegetables.
Spearmint – This perennial appreciates partial shade and moist soil. This herb can be propagated with divisions or cuttings. Spearmint is a hardy plant that spreads easily. Can be grown as an indoors plant. Used in a variety of products for both a minty taste and smell.
Tarragon – A “hardy” perennial that likes full sun and rich, dry soil. You can propagate through divisions or cuttings. Tarragon often requires winter protection. Commonly used in condiments such as Béarnaise sauce and Dijon mustards.
Thyme – Another “hardy” perennial that needs a sunny location and dry soil to grow well. Plant seeds in spring or use cuttings or divisions to propagate. Thyme can also be grown indoors. Used as a seasoning when cooking meats and vegetables.
Growing your own herb garden can be a fun and rewarding hobby so don't hesitate to give it a try. Even if you don't get it perfect the first time it will still be good. So, happy herb Gardening!