Why start an herb garden?
I had this thought before I started growing herb seeds of my own — after all, you can buy all the fresh herbs you want at the store, right? Or, just purchase them dried and keep them forever? Plus, how often do I really use them? Once, twice a week?
But then I thought … Am I not using fresh herbs because I don’t want to? Or because I never seem to have them when the opportunity arises?
Whatever your desire, there’s a few things you should know before you get started. To avoid some of the mistakes I made, follow along.
Pro Tips For Planting An Herb Garden
When getting started, there’s a few things that I wish I would have known from the start. Here are some of my best tips for starting your own herb garden:
- Always label your herb seeds as you plant them. Otherwise, you’ll inevitably forget what you’ve planted until weeks down the line when they finally come up.
- If growing indoors, don’t just plant one or two seeds for each herb. If you really want to consume them regularly, you’ll need several plants for each herb so that you don’t have to wait several days/weeks for new leaves to grow back between harvesting.
- Prune your herbs regularly for better growth and a fuller shape.
- When you chop off herbs for eating, be careful. Read this quick guide. Also, always chop from the top, down, and as a general rule, use scissors; don’t tear at the stem with your fingers.
- If you want to shut down your herb garden, you can dry your herbs.
Why Start An Herb Garden?
Most people who don’t have their own supply of fresh herbs assume that herbs in general are a garnish or something you add to your food when you’re making something fancy. I, for instance, only ever used to buy fresh herbs when I was really going to town with an elaborate recipe. So … hardly ever.
But after I started my herb garden (and any herb garden owner will tell you this), I started using herbs all the time.
Why do I want tons of herbs in my food?
Herbs can be a garnish. But they also serve numerous purposes and offer countless benefits.
- They make your food taste better. Ever wonder why artisan pizza, fancy taco truck tacos, fresh Italian Caprese salad, or deli tabbouleh taste so darn good? It’s the herbs.
- They help you consume less sodium. I used to flavor my food with salt too much. Herbs now replace much of my salt consumption, and they offer more unique flavors.
- They’re good for you. Contrary to popular belief, herbs are not just tiny leafs of lettuce. They’re packed with good stuff — most importantly, protective polyphenols, which offer strong anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects. In practical terms, this means they can help your body fight serious diseases like diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and even Alzheimer’s.
- You boost the nutrition in your food when you shorten the time between harvest and table. And with your own herb garden, you can literally cut your herbs just seconds before you eat them.
- Fresher food also has more flavor. You’ll get more flavor-bang for your buck from your herb garden than from store-bought herbs.
- Local food is better for the environment. Trucks didn’t have to transport your home-grown herbs, which cuts down on transportation pollution.
- You don’t have to worry about pesticides. Tending your own herb garden does not require the use of pesticides as is often the case with mass-produced, store-bought herbs.
- You won’t waste herbs. They’re there when you want ‘em. And when you don’t, they just keep growin’.
Considerations For Your First Herb Garden
Do you already know what what herbs you want to grow?
If not, start slow, with just a few herbs. You’re probably really excited for your garden, and you want to plant all the herbs in the world!
But hold back, young one. Not yet.
Instead, I recommend starting with just a few of your favorites! I began with three: Basil, cilantro, and parsley. Start with however many you like, but keep it manageable. A good way to decide is to think about what you usually buy when you do purchase herbs.
Now the next question: Where will you grow your herbs?
I tend mine in my eighth-floor apartment windows because that’s my only option. But if you have a lawn or side garden, by all means, plant them there. Or, consider potting them on your porch or deck so they get more sun.
Step One: Herb Garden Materials
To grow your own herb garden, you’ll need the following:
- Herb seeds. Try your local garden store, or use Burpee or Gurney’s.
- Seed starting cell trays or pots.
- A plastic drainage tray.
- Plastic wrap.
- A large table or outdoor area.
- A spray bottle with water.
- Gardening gloves (optional).
Step Two: Planting Your Herb Garden
Planting herb seeds is quite simple, but it can be messy! Block off at least a few hours to do the planting.
You might also need to do some prep work. For example, some seeds need to be soaked before planting. Just always make sure to read the directions on each of your seed packets, because they’ll all be different. Even the depth that each seed type needs to be planted at will be different.
When your herb garden is just getting started, place your planters where the sun shines and gets the most warmth in your house.
Make sure your herb containers have drainage holes. If you overwater and your soil gets to wet your plants may not survive. Set your planting containers on something that can collect a little water if they drain, like a drainage plate or cookie sheet. Another tip, Instead of standard garden soil, use an organic potting soil. It will allow the plants to drain more freely.
Don’t let the soil dry up. Keep your plant’s soil moist by watering them regularly. Just be careful not to overwater.
You’ll need to baby your seeds in the first few weeks of their growth (watch and tend to them more closely) before putting them into the ground or your window containers.
Step Three: Maintaining Your Herb Garden
To keep your herbs healthy, you need to cut them often. One mistake first-timers make though, is cutting from the wrong end. Always cut leaves from the top of your plant, just above the highest set of growing leaves. Always leave a few good, sturdy leaves at the bottom to power the rest of the plant.
Also, if you want your plant to grow, cut off budding flowers. When you trim an herbs flowers, it will continue to grow up. Leave them on and it will stunt its growth
So, are you ready to start your own herb garden? As you can see, I’m not hiding my love of having my own herbs right in my kitchen — they’re just so useful and a joy to look at every day. I really think you’ll love it too. Try it and see for yourself!