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Everything to Know Before Growing Your Own Herbs

A woman plants an herb garden

Many people have chosen to start growing their own herbs at home, and it’s not surprising why. Fresh herbs for every meal without running to the store? Sign us up.

But it’s not quite as easy as that, and starting an herb garden can be intimidating if you’ve never done it before. We created a comprehensive guide to walk you through everything you need to know before growing your own herbs, from choosing seeds to harvesting the plants.

Why You Should Grow Your Own Herbs

A woman harvests from an herb garden
Olesia Bilkei/Shutterstock.com

Starting an herb garden is a great way to enhance your cooking, save money, reduce waste, and contribute positively to the environment. Fresh herbs from the supermarket can be pricey (thanks, inflation) and often come in a lot of packaging for a small amount of herbs. Store-bought herbs also tend to spoil quickly and can lead to unnecessary food waste.

By growing your own herbs, you’ll have a steady supply of fresh, flavorful ingredients right at your fingertips. Tending to an herb garden also offers the same mental health benefits that other types of gardening can offer, including stress relief and a sense of accomplishment. As you watch your plants grow and thrive, you may also develop a deeper connection to your food and the natural world around you.

Click & Grow Indoor Herb Garden Kit with Grow Light

Energy-efficient LED grow lights ensure your plants thrive no matter the weather.

Choosing the Best Herbs for Your Location

Several kinds of herbs

Before starting an herb garden, you’ll need to consider your location, climate, and available space. Many herbs are easy to grow and adaptable to various environments, but some may require specific conditions to flourish. Here are some popular herbs and their preferred growing conditions:

  • Basil: This warm-weather annual thrives in full sun and well-draining soil. Basil is perfect for container gardening and can be grown indoors on a sunny windowsill.
  • Parsley: This is a biennial herb that prefers partial to full sun and moist, well-draining soil. Parsley can also be grown in containers or garden beds.
  • Cilantro: Cilantro is an annual herb that prefers full sun and well-draining soil. This herb is suitable for both container and in-ground gardening.
  • Mint: This perennial herb prefers partial shade and moist soil. Mint is best grown in containers, as it can become invasive if planted in the ground.
  • Rosemary: This is a perennial herb that loves lots of sun and well-draining soil. Rosemary can be grown in containers or garden beds and is drought-tolerant once established.
  • Thyme: Thyme is a perennial herb that thrives in full sun and well-draining soil. It is suitable for container and in-ground gardening and is drought-tolerant.

There are thousands of different herbs out there, and you can grow pretty much any kind as long as you’re able to create the right environment. If there’s a specific herb you use a lot and are interested in growing it, you probably can.

Planters' Choice Window Herb Garden Starter Kit

Grow plenty of herbs in minimal space with this windowsill herb garden kit.

Necessary Supplies for Your Herb Garden

Someone grows an herb garden

To start your herb garden, you’ll need a few basic supplies:

  • Seeds or plants: You can begin your herb garden with either seeds or small plants. Seeds are more affordable and offer greater variety, but plants can provide a quicker harvest.
  • Containers: If you’re growing your herbs in containers, choose pots with drainage holes to prevent overwatering. You can use traditional pots or repurpose items like yogurt containers or tin cans. Remember to size your container appropriately for the full, mature size of the herb.
  • Soil: For container gardening, use a high-quality potting mix that provides good drainage and aeration. If planting in the ground, improve your soil with compost or other organic matter to improve its structure and fertility.
  • Watering can or spray bottle: Proper watering is very important for successful herb growth. A watering can or spray bottle allows you to control the amount of water your plants receive.
  • Trowel: A small hand trowel is often necessary for planting and transplanting your herbs.
  • Fertilizer: Fertilizers designed for herbs can provide the nutrients your herbs need to grow and thrive.

Watering Can

This watering can and spray bottle duo is perfect for any gardener.

Many herbs will grow outside, but growing herbs in containers indoors is generally the safest way to get fresh plants year-round.

Suream Window Box Herb Planters

Great for planting herbs in your kitchen.

Starting Your Herb Garden

Someone tends to an herb garden
Sonya Anro/Shutterstock.com

Once you have all the supplies you need, you can begin planting your herbs. If you are using containers, fill them with potting mix and leave some space at the top. For in-ground planting, prepare the soil by loosening it and adding organic matter to improve the soil.

Next, depending on your preference, you can either plant seeds or seedlings. If you opt for seeds, follow the instructions provided on the package for sowing. If you choose seedlings, gently remove them from their original containers and plant them in the prepared soil at the same depth they were previously growing. Remember to space your plants according to their mature size requirements.

After planting, make sure to water your herbs thoroughly, ensuring that the soil is evenly moist but not saturated. It’s crucial not to overwater them as it can lead to root rot and other problems.

Amazing Creation Stackable Planter

This vertical planter offers another way to grow herbs.

How to Care for Your Herbs

Someone tends to basil plants

When it comes to caring for your herb garden, it’s important to meet their specific requirements. Most herbs thrive with a minimum of six hours of sunlight daily. Make sure your plants receive sufficient light, either from natural sunlight or with the help of supplemental grow lights.

GooingTop LED Grow Light

Great for growing herbs indoors with minimal natural light.

Consistent watering is crucial to keep herbs healthy and vibrant. Keep the soil evenly moist, but avoid overwatering, which can result in root rot. On the other hand, underwatering can cause wilted and stressed plants. Find the right balance to maintain their health. Most herbs need to be watered two to three times per week.

You’ll also want to nourish your herbs with organic fertilizers like compost or well-rotted manure. These will supply the essential nutrients they need for healthy growth. Be sure to follow the specific feeding recommendations for each herb, as over-fertilization can lead to excessive growth and diminished flavor.

Miracle-Gro Water Soluble Plant Food Vegetables & Herbs 2 lb

Great fertilizer for herbs indoors and outdoors.

Finally, regular pruning is beneficial for your herbs as it encourages bushy growth and prevents them from becoming leggy or excessively tall. Pinch back the tips of the plants and remove any dead or yellowing leaves to keep them thriving.

Harvesting Your Herbs

Someone picks herbs

When it comes to harvesting your herbs, there are a few things that can help you make the most of your efforts in planting and growing them. If your herbs are growing outside, the best time to harvest is in the morning after any dew has evaporated. This will make sure that you get healthy leaves and stems before the hot sun dries them out.

When you harvest, use clean, sharp scissors or pruning shears to cut off the pieces that you want. Avoid tearing or crushing the plants, as this can cause damage. Crushing leaves can also affect the aromatic oils in the leaves that add flavor to your food.

You’ll want to harvest your herbs regularly to encourage new growth and prevent the plants from getting too big. Be sure not to strip every plant clean, as this can weaken the plant over time.

Many people want their own herb garden to enjoy the many benefits of fresh, homegrown herbs. With a little time, effort, and patience, you can harvest your own flavorful herbs and add delicious flavor to every meal.

Anne Taylor Anne Taylor
Anne Taylor is a writer with a BA in Journalism and a passion for storytelling. Her work has been published on a variety of websites including Mental Floss and Well + Good, and she recently published her first novel, What it Takes to Lose. When she's not writing, Anne loves to travel (19 countries and counting), spend time outside, and play with her dog, Pepper. Read Full Bio »
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