Growing herbs is one of the preferred activities of both beginner and experienced gardeners. The reason behind it is quite simple: you can’t go wrong with herbs. These are perhaps the best gateway plants and everyone can try growing herbs both indoors and outdoors.
As a beginner you need to build up confidence to branch out to other edibles. Growing herbs is super easy and all you need is a large container and a variety of seeds. Before you go out and buy the seeds, you should know that the life cycle of the plants should be taken into account when growing herbs. Some are annuals, like basil and dill, which means they will complete their life cycle within a year. Other plants are biennial or perennial, which means they will provide you with two or three years of harvest.
This is an important aspect to keep in mind since will provide you with the opportunity to have a rotating crop. By planting them together, you can create a year round crop in a single container. I’ve been growing herbs ever since I can remember and I can’t imagine my cooking without these wonderful herbs. I usually keep them in pots and grow them on a wall to have a living spice rack at hand.
Growing herbs – The basics for each plant:
Basil is an annual herb that likes full sun. It is a popular sweet herb of the Mint Family esteemed for flavoring and formerly used for medicinal purposes. Basil should be planted when the ground temperature is at least 60°F. The plants should be spaced between 9 and 12 inches apart. Ideal soil pH for basil is between 5.5 and 6.5 pH. Water regularly and allow the soil to go completely dry between watering.
Harvesting: Pinch flowers and pick leaves often. This is a common harvesting technique when growing herbs to encourage more growth.
Chives are perennial plants that grow well in spots with full sun or partial shade. Growing herbs like chives is perhaps the easiest thing to do for beginners. The plants should be spaced between 6 and 9 inches apart. Chives are great plants for zones 3a to 9b. Ideal soil pH for chives is between 6.0 and 7.0 pH. Water regularly.
Harvesting: Chives can be harvested as soon as you can cut them. Clip from the outside of the clump at ½ inch above soil level. The best part about chives is that flowers are also edible.
Cilantro is an annual or biennial herb that is often used for flavoring liquors. This herb grows well in full sun or partial shade. The plants should be spaced between 9 and 12 inches apart. Ideal soil pH for cilantro is between 6.5 and 7.5 pH. Be careful not to overwater and allow soil to go dry between watering.
Harvesting: Leaves should be clipped when they are big enough to eat. The seeds can also be harvested when dry and are commonly known as coriander.
Dill is an annual herb recognized to be heat and cold tolerant. It grows well in areas with full sun or partial shade. In general, the plants should be spaced between 10 and 15 inches apart. Dill was used by the first pioneers for flavoring cakes and other pastries. Ideal soil pH for dill is between 5.5 and 6.5 pH.
Harvesting: Growing herbs like dill require a proper harvesting technique. The leaves should be cut close to the stems. The seeds which are often used for pickling should be harvested when lower ones turn brown. Dill can be dried in a cool, dark place without any major issues.
Related article: Drying herbs and spices
Grown as a perennial herb in cold climates, lemon verbena is actually a plant native of tropical climates. It grows best in places with full sun. It can be grown as an annual in zones 3-8 and as a perennial in zones 9-11. When planted in containers a single plant requires 13 inches of space in each direction. Ideal soil pH for lemon verbena is between 6.5 and 7.5 pH. Water weekly and allow for the soil to drain well between watering.
Harvesting: The sprigs can be gathered as desired. However, you should not pick more than one-third of the leaves at a time.
Oregano is a perennial herb native of the Mediterranean region. It is grown in full sun in zone 6 and cooler and partial shade in zone 7 or warmer. Oregano plants should be spaced between 12 and 15 inches apart. Ideal soil pH for oregano is between 6.0 and 8.0 pH.
Harvesting: When growing herbs like oregano, you need to cut the stems to the ground once the plants reach 5 inches in height. This will encourage future growth and provide you with a constant crop.
Parsely is a biennial herb that likes full sun and partial shade. Parsley leaves are often used to flavor meat dishes and soups. When planting parsley, the plants should be spaced between 10 and 12 inches apart. This herb needs a moist soil to thrive and will seed the second year. Ideal soil pH for parsley is between 5.0 and 7.0 pH.
Harvesting: The leaf stems can be clipped as needed only when they have three segments. Just like for the other growing herbs, harvesting promotes new growth.
Rosemary is a hardy evergreen, perennial shrub with both culinary and medicinal uses. The plants can grow up to 6 feet tall and can last for years if protected during the winter months. Plants should be spaced between 18 and 24 inches apart. As for hardiness zones, rosemary can be grown in zones from 7a to 10b. Ideal soil pH for rosemary is between 6.0 and 7.5 pH. It likes dry, well-drained soil and it’s known to be drought tolerant.
Harvesting: Rosemary can be harvested several times in a season and requires pruning after flowering.
Related reading: Growing Rosemary and how to use it for multiple purposes
Sage is grown as a perennial in zones 5-8 and an annual in zones 9-11. This herb likes well-drained soil exposed to full sun. Sage is grown for seasoning dressings used with rich meats. In Europe, sage is used for flavoring sausages and cheese. When planting sage, the spacing should be between 24 to 36 inches. Ideal soil pH for sage is between 6.0 and 6.5 pH. Growing herbs such as sage require a regular watering schedule since this plant has average watering needs.
Harvesting: When harvested as an annual you can do so as needed, but as a perennial you should do it lightly the first year.
This perennial herb likes to grow in spots with full sun or partial shade. It is a dynamic plant that will spread rapidly if not kept under control. Plants should be spaced between 18 and 24 inches apart. Spearmint thrives in zones 4a to 11. It requires regular watering, but you should be careful not to overwater. Ideal soil pH for spearmint is between 5.5 and 7.5 pH.
Harvesting: To keep it under control, make sure you harvest tips regularly. To avoid spreading, pulling the plant where you don’t want it to grow is the best method to keep it under control.
This perennial herb grows well in spots with full sun, but doesn’t like hot, wet summers. Tarragon leaves are used for seasoning vegetable dishes and soups, fish and egg dishes, but especially for vinegar. Plants should be spaced between 18 and 24 inches apart. Tarragon grows well in zones 4a to 8b. It has average water needs and the soil needs to go almost dry between watering. Ideal soil pH for tarragon is between 6.5 and 7.5 pH.
Harvesting: Best used fresh in the summer. Harvest it regularly and you can freeze the leaves or dry them for later use.
A perennial herb that loves full sun, thyme is often used as an ornament plant. Thyme grows easily from cuttings or seeds and it’s widely used in Europe for seasoning. It is a drought tolerant plant that needs soil with good drainage. Plants should be spaced between 18 and 24 inches apart. Ideal soil pH for thyme is between 6.5 and 7.0 pH. The stems should be cut back by one-thirds in spring. During the summer, pinch back tips of stems.
Harvesting: Woody stemmed herbs are best harvested just before blooming for peak flavor. Cut the stems for drying fresh thyme, early in the morning, just before a growth node. This will increase bushing and ensure a constant supply of the tasty leaves.
Growing herbs can be done in any kind of pot or container. You don’t need to be experienced gardener to successfully grow herbs. Every pantry should have ingredients that will help enhance the flavor of foods. Growing herbs and spices is an ideal solution and also a healthy alternative to salt. You can dry your herbs and use them to boost the taste of your dishes when food is scarce. I can’t see myself cooking without my herbs and I make sure we have enough herbs and spices in my pantry.
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