How to Actually Grow a Kitchen Herb Garden Confidently
An herb garden is one of the simplest and most rewarding gardens to grow and you can actually grow one and feel super confident about it! It is simpler and easier than you would think. No matter your skill level or the space you have an herb garden is an option for you! I am a huge fan of herbs and have been for so long. Below I detail everything you need to know about growing it successfully, herbs to grow in your garden, and most importantly why an herb garden is the best garden to grow!
What is a Kitchen Herb Garden?
A kitchen herb garden is a garden full of only herbs which vary from varieties of flowers and even some things you may consider lettuce (hi Arugula!). These plants are usually quite resilient and fun to grow. Most kitchen herb gardens can grow in small spaces and even in patios so they are ideal for pretty much EVERY gardener.
Why grow an herb garden for my kitchen?
The herb garden is literally the most rewarding and best garden to grow. Here is why:
- Pollinators will thrive: The herbs I suggest will all bring in many types of pollinators from butterflies to bees and more. Pollinators LOVE herb flowers and you will benefit the health of the ecosystem while doing very little work.
- Experience new parts of herbs the grocery store and farmer’s market won’t allow: Every bit of herbs offer something edible and amazing. What I love about growing my own is I can use the flowers, seeds, early tender bits, and more along the way. Every stage is an offering to us, but they are less marketable and harder to harvest on scale so this is a unique thing to growing your own herbs.
- Herb Gardens are Pest Resistance (mostly): Growing a veggie garden is full of pit falls. I won’t lie. There are so many issues with pests and fungus and more. This means a lot of people feel unsuccessful, but with herbs you can create a gorgeous garden without the issues of pests because guess what? Pests are not fans of all the herbs. This is why I tell every vegetable gardener to integrate their herbs with their vegetables. They deter pests so when you have an herb garden you can believe you will see very few if any pests issues. The most you may catch is a swallowtail caterpillar nibbling your dill, but it is short-lived and your dill mostly recovers.
- You can grow your own herbs, teas, and fresh herbs for impressive flavor: Growing your own herbs means you have an amazing selection of herbs available. You can dry them and save them for spices (yes you can make your own spices) and you can make tea to last you all winter. It is incredibly easy, just check out this post.
- Herbs are incredibly good for your health: Herbs contain TONS of medicinal benefits. Though they are not the end all be all in health, they are greatly beneficial to helping during the winter and in cold season. They offer various benefits such as calming, helping lessen cold symptoms, and even strengthening the immune system and so much more.
- They require very little maintenance: Because herbs are pest-resistant it comes down to basically occasional weeding and a good watering. Each herb has various watering needs. If you grow them in pots which you absolutely can (in fact some should be grown in pots) then you will want to do pots with good drainage but avoid terra cotta as it can dry out herbs too much such as basil and cilantro. If you use terracotta use the dry soil loving Rosemary, Thyme, and sage for these. Other than that, just weed here and there to make sure they are not fighting the weeds when trying to grow.
- Herb gardens are amazing for any gardener or any level: Any gardener whether an expert or a beginner will greatly enjoy an herb garden. If you are looking to create a garden for yourself or someone who doesn’t have a lot of time but wants something to tend to and enjoy, the herb garden is the best choice!
Where is the best place to grow my herb garden?
You can literally grow an herb garden almost ANYWHERE. Truly. Even the sandiest soils can still be some of the greatest with the right strategy of herbs. The one consistent thing is you will need sun. 8-10 hours a day is ideal for most varieties. Protect them from the wind as much as possible as well. But here are the places I would suggest your herb garden go:
- Containers: Use a variety of pots to create beautiful pots of herb gardens. Most herbs like to be together and you can create collections of them in grow bags, galvanized tubs, and more. Just make sure there is good drainage. This offers you the ease of amending your soil each year as well. You can also mix in a few lettuces as well to make a nice easy to grab collection of things for fresh food. This is best for people with patios, but can also be done on a deck. Just make sure the is good sunlight every day for the greatest success.
- Indoors: Yes you can grow them inside. I told you EVERYONE can grow an herb garden. A garden is any patch of soil with plants we caring for as humans. That includes inside. You can use a kit like this inside to make it really straightforward and simple if you live in an apartment without an outdoor space.
- In-Ground: Easily create a simple garden bed using this method of weed removal and laying compost. No-till needed if you don’t want to. Then go ahead and plant. Most herbs need very little soil amendments and specific things. You can just amend every year by adding a little more compost on top in the spring a few weeks before planting.
- Raised Bed: Simply fill your raised beds using this method and then place your herbs into the ground. It is really that simple with raised beds. This is a lovely option for people who are older as you can do larger elevated raised beds like this as well so you don’t have to bend over for harvesting.
What herbs are the easiest to grow?
No matter the style or placement there are specific herbs that are the easiest and simplest to grow without much work. Here are the ones I suggest most to people:
- Parsley: This biennial is really a wonderful option in every garden. Once it gets older I move it out of my garden area and allow it to simply seed and grow as a flower and plant. The herb becomes bitter when it flowers but the flowers are beautiful additions to salads and dishes to counter tenderer flavors and spice things up. It is really beautiful and very easy to grow.
- Chamomile: This lovely plant comes back every year. We grow German Chamomile and it reseeds every year for us 6a/5b zone. It loves a little more shade but tolerates heat. It is quite frost resistant as well so great in colder climates. Harvest and lay flat the flowers to dry and save for a beautiful tea that is calming and florally.
Basil: There are many types of basil…I believe over 150 to be exact. That said, play around with them. They are beautiful and have various offerings in a garden. But know that most want to be away from wind and need pinching to bush and thrive. They also want consistent watering. The flowers are absolutely beautiful as well and don’t fear them. Use them in salads or dishes or on top of this personal take on Panzanella to add a floral touch.
- Tulsi: Also sometimes referred to as Holy Basil by some. It is a beautiful beautiful version of Basil. The smell is unlike anything else I have ever grown. We love it in sun tea in the summer and then dried for hot tea in the winter. It offers respiratory health properties as well.
- Thai: One of the most impressive flavors from a basil you will find. The beauty of this plant is also stunning. The flowers are purple and the leaves are green and purple. I dried it and it smells unreal. I crush it and top it on fish for a dry rub with paprika and coriander seeds.
- Sweet: This is the classic basil you see in many Italian dishes and it is amazing. This is the type used in pesto recipes such as this one. We grow a lot of it in our garden all year. Beautiful with it’s broad leaves, but not as aesthetically impressive as others. But it is a necessity in the garden.
- Sage: Sage is the greatest plant I have ever grown. It is always giving without asking for much. It is beautiful and we love harvesting it. It is abundant and beautiful. Seriously the flowers are my favorite as it is an early bloomer in our garden and the highlight of early June for us. It is perennial in many climates without any work if it is in the ground. It also overwinters really well.
- Lavender: One of my favorite plants to grow. Lavender is also very low maintenance if you stick to varieties like English ones and my favorite Grosso. There are many types with different offerings, but these are very hardy and low maintenance. Clip back all flowers when they are in full bloom and dry for tea and cooking. This is all you need to do to protect the plant. It prefers well-draining soil so keep away mulch and let the ground get warmed up and dry with occasional watering.
- Mint: There are tons of varieties and I love them all but peppermint is my top pick as it is really resilient and less likely to seed/flower as quickly as say spearmint. This needs containing though! I suggest no matter your growing location to grow it in a container outside of the ground. It will find EVERY way to expand no matter what you do haha. Clip it back and harvest it often.
- Thyme: A resilient and spreading herb that you can easily container in your garden with pruning but can also do very well in a low maintenance way growing in pots. It likes dryer and sandy locations and works extremely well in between stones and on walking paths. Creeping thyme flowers beautifully and is one of my favorites along with English.
- Hyssop: This one isn’t for every garden as it is very tall and does expand by seed, but it is perennial for most people and the bees LOVE IT! Literally, it is buzzing all summer long. If you enjoy the flavor of anise you can harvest it but if not you can cut the flowers simply for arrangements.
- Borage: Another that will reseed itself. If you get one borage the next year you will have 20 so just be aware. Borage offers beauty and texture to a herb garden that is absolutely beautiful. It gets quite large but the pollinators love the blue flowers that taste of cucumbers. It is really beautiful and makes for an impressive topping to dishes with flowers all summer.
- Oregano: This is a creeper, but in a way that is easy to contain without an issue. I love drying this herb to save for my spice cabinet and use it fresh in dishes as well. There are lots of varieties but the Greek variety is most common. Though I got a Puerto Rican Oregano and it is beautiful and smells of lime!! It is similar to a succulent and we successfully have overwintered it inside. I highly suggest for someone seeking unique flavors.
- Lemon Balm: This is an easy to grow perennial herb. It has gorgeous leaves and is so simple in it’s needs, but offers calming benefits and the scent of lemon. This is an awesome herb to dry for tea as well.
- Cilantro: Cilantro can be a tricky one to grow. Truly. Some years we have a lot of success and some years we struggle to keep it from bolting. We have done all sorts of styles, but I take what I can get. It needs regular harvesting and shade more than you would expect in my experience. Though many times I allow it to go to seed for drying so I can harvest the seeds as they are Coriander seeds, which are exceptional for cooking!
- Calendula: An odd thing to suggest here but Calendula is a beautiful flower that offers TONS of benefits to your health. I love the flowers in our garden. I harvest and dry them flat and then remove the petals to save for salves and to infuse the oil for healing and calming face oils.
- Chives: The easiest thing to grow in a garden has to be chives. They make gorgeous blossoms and make gorgeous toppings for dishes in the late spring. Not to mention you can clip it to use like chives you get in the store. Just remember to divide the plant every 3 years or so. This means one plant will eventually give you more and more.
- Dill: This plant is amazing and gets so tall, but I love Bouquet Dill as it creates beautiful flowers to use in cooking and arrangements. You will love growing this plant. Butterflies, particularly, Swallowtails love it.
How do I create an herb garden successfully?
If you know where your herb garden will be located here are the important things to know to have a lot of success:
- Offer quality sunlight: All the herbs mentioned love sunlight and plenty of it. They will thrive with enough natural light for 8-10 hours a day.
- Plant the herbs in great soil: All you need is some great topsoil and compost for these guys. Layer a few inches of compost on top of the soil…you don’t even have to mix it together. Then the nutrients will filter down as you water and it rains. Super simple!
- Water regularly: A nice watering every evening or morning is all your herb garden will really need. They need far less than a vegetable garden as well.
- Make sure drainage is present: Wherever you plan to grow them, make sure you have lots of drainage for them. They don’t really need a layer of mulch or anything. In fact, they prefer you skip that work. Just let their soil get dry before giving a water. You may find you need to water less even with proper drainage.
- Harvest often: With herbs, harvesting encourages more production. Every herb has different harvesting methods but they all like being harvested!
When do I harvest my herbs?
Harvesting herbs is not real science, since almost every herb is completely edible at any stage all you have to do is take a little here and there. At the end of the growing season do a heavy harvest before a light frost or cooler days and prepare to dry it all. More on that here. I suggest having nice clippers such as these ones to help you harvest the abundance you will have in September and October.
How do I store my herbs?
Incredibly simple! Here are my best tips for storing your herbs successfully:
- Make sure they are fully dry: Using this method you can dry your herbs by hanging. Make sure to use twine like hemp or cotton because it allows for proper airflow. You can also use a dehydrator as well. You want to make sure your herbs are fully dry with no moisture so when they are sealed they do not mold.
- Store in an airtight container: I love these Ball Jars as they stack well but also look nice and can be used in the freezer as well.
- Keep out of direct sunlight: The colors of the herbs preserve better and they stay fresher if they are not in direct sunlight.
- Date them and use them within 2 years of growing: I like to enjoy my herbs within a year before I find they taste the best in that first year.
If you want to see how herbs are integrated into a veggie garden plan you can see this post as well.