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Welcome to our beginner’s guide to herbal gardening on The World of Herbs and Spices! We’ll explore the basics of starting an herb garden and how it can transform your living space and culinary skills.
Many people feel intimidated by gardening, assuming they have a “black thumb” or lack sufficient space. Fear not, as I’m here to assure you that starting with herbs is a perfect way to develop your gardening skills.
Herbs have been used for centuries in countless ways, from cooking to medicinal purposes. They are incredibly versatile and adapt well to various environments.
Understanding the plant zones in your area will help you choose which herbs will thrive best in your specific climate.
Herb gardening emphasizes versatility and offers the flexibility to grow them in pots, windowsills, indoors, or outdoors.
In this guide, I will share my recommendations for the best hardy herbs to start with, as well as the basics of setting up your herb garden.
Herb Garden For Beginners: The Basics
Herb gardening is a fantastic starting point for those new to cultivating plants, as herbs are versatile and generally simple to grow.
By beginning with just a few herbs and focusing on the essentials, you can create a thriving herb garden in various spaces such as pots, windowsills, or even outside areas.
When planning your herb garden, take note of your location’s climate zone and consider whether the herbs you select will be grown indoors or outdoors.
Bear in mind that some herbs will require direct sunlight, while others may need part sun or even tolerate shade.
Starting with hardy perennial herbs is an excellent idea for beginners since these plants are more tolerant and less demanding.
Some of these hardy herbs include thyme, oregano, rosemary, mint, and lemon balm. Perennial herbs will return year after year if provided with a nurturing environment, making them immensely rewarding for novice gardeners.
As you progress in your herb gardening journey, you can explore middle-range herbs like sage, parsley, chives, and aloe.
While these plants may be slightly less tolerant than hardy perennials, they offer delightful and practical applications.
Finally, if you’re feeling more confident in your herb gardening skills, consider trying some less tolerant annual herbs such as cilantro.
These herbs may require more attention and care but are well worth the effort due to their fantastic culinary and aesthetic applications.
Remember, your herb gardening adventure can occur in several different spaces and formats, from windowsills to outdoor pots and even hydroponically!
No matter where you start, the world of herbs is bound to delight both your senses and your gardening prowess.
Enjoy the journey, and don’t be afraid to learn and grow along the way.
Understanding Plant Zones For Your Herbs
As I mentioned before, the success of your herb garden will depend on your climate and plant zone. When we gardeners talk about zones, we’re referring to the climate in which you live. In each zone, certain plants will thrive, and others may struggle.
It’s important to know which zone you are in to better understand which herbs can be grown successfully in your area.
To figure out your plant zone, you can reference a zone map or use an online tool like Herb Planting Chart. Or take a look at the chart I created below!
Sure, here’s a simple guide to help novice gardeners. Please note that this chart is just a general guideline, and actual growth can depend on various factors like the specific microclimate of your garden, soil quality, etc.
|Herb||Flavor Profile||Growing Habits||Sunlight Requirement||USDA Plant Hardiness Zone|
|Basil||Sweet, slightly peppery||Annual||Full Sun||2-11|
|Chives||Mild, onion-like||Perennial||Full Sun to Partial Shade||3-9|
|Cilantro||Fresh, citrusy||Annual||Full Sun to Partial Shade||2-11|
|Dill||Aromatic, slightly bitter||Annual||Full Sun||2-11|
|Mint||Fresh, sweet||Perennial||Full Sun to Partial Shade||3-11|
|Oregano||Warm, slightly bitter||Perennial||Full Sun||5-10|
|Parsley||Fresh, slightly bitter||Biennial||Full Sun to Partial Shade||4-9|
|Rosemary||Piney, slightly sweet||Perennial||Full Sun||8-10|
|Sage||Warm, slightly peppery||Perennial||Full Sun||4-8|
|Thyme||Earthy, slightly lemony||Perennial||Full Sun||4-9|
These maps are based on average minimum winter temperatures and can be an excellent guide for selecting plants that will thrive in your specific climate.
It’s important to remember that your zone’s climate will affect your outdoor gardening more than indoor gardening.
However, understanding your plant zone can still be helpful when deciding on which herbs are best suited for your space.
Some herbs prefer full sun, while others do better in partial sun or even shade. Your plant zone will help you choose the right herbs for your space and ensure that they grow optimally.
For example, if you live in a colder climate, selecting hardy perennial herbs, like thyme or oregano, will increase your chances of success.
Another factor to consider is the type of soil in your growing area. The proper soil can greatly impact the health and growth of your herbs. In general, most herbs prefer well-draining, fertile soil with a pH between 6.0 and 7.0.
It’s essential to research the ideal soil conditions for each herb and adjust your soil accordingly to promote a healthier herb garden.
To recap, understanding your plant zone is crucial for determining which herbs will thrive in your specific climate and give you the best results in your garden.
Combine this knowledge with suitable soil conditions and proper care, and you’ll be well on your way to creating a flourishing herb garden.
Herbs are one of the most versatile and valuable aspects of gardening, offering a plethora of uses, from culinary delights to medicinal remedies.
One of the primary reasons I love herbs is their hardiness, which makes them the perfect starting point for beginners.
Whether you have limited space or feel you possess a “black thumb,” I believe that with a little hope and effort, you can create your own flourishing herb garden.
Some herbs thrive in direct sunlight, while others flourish in partial sun or even in shaded areas.
The versatility of herbs extends to their ability to adapt to various climates, referred to as zones in the gardening world.
Another aspect of herb versatility is the way they can be grown. Herbs can thrive in pots, windowsills, indoors, or outdoors. Some herbs, such as lemon balm and mint, tend to spread and claim their territory, while others remain contained to smaller areas.
To make your herb-growing journey less overwhelming, I suggest starting with four or five hardy herbs that can withstand a variety of situations.
Herbs can be classified as perennials, which return year after year, or annuals, which need replanting each year.
Some annual varieties will self-seed, taking the guesswork out of the replanting process. In my experience, perennial herbs, such as thyme, oregano, mint, lemon balm, and rosemary, tend to be hardier and more tolerant than annual herbs.
I find that some herbs, like sage, parsley, and chives, fall in the middle when it comes to hardiness, while basil and cilantro can be a bit more finicky, preferring specific amounts of water and particular soil types.
However, the delicious flavors and numerous uses for these slightly more temperamental herbs make them worth the extra care.
In summary, if you’re just starting out, I recommend investing in thyme, a type of mint or lemon balm, oregano, and rosemary.
These plants can be grown in a variety of settings, including windowsills, pots, or outdoor spaces, making them the perfect foundation for your herb garden adventure.
As you become more confident in your gardening abilities, you can expand your herb selection and method of growing, which will in turn further your appreciation for the amazing world of herbal gardening.
Choosing Hardy Herbs
When starting out with a small space herb garden, I highly recommend beginning with some hardy herbs that are difficult to kill. In my experience, some of the best options include thyme, mints or balms, oregano, and rosemary.
These versatile herbs can be grown in many ways. Even if your living space is limited, with just one sunny window, you can easily grow a thriving herb garden. It’s pretty awesome.
- Thyme is a hearty, tolerant herb that can be used medicinally, as a tea, or as a culinary herb.
- Oregano is another perennial herb that will come back year after year, making it an excellent starting point for gardening beginners.
- Rosemary is a fragrant and useful herb, both in cooking and for its medicinal properties.
- Mint and lemon balm are prolific growers, offering wonderful flavor and aroma to teas, drinks, and food. They also have medicinal benefits, such as antimicrobial and antiviral properties.
There are some herbs that fall into the middle of the hardiness spectrum, such as sage, parsley, chives, and aloe.
These can still be relatively easy to grow, but may require a little extra care compared to the hardiest of herbs. Aloe, for example, is excellent for treating skin conditions and burns but may need a different growth environment.
In my opinion, basil and cilantro are a bit more finicky, often requiring very specific amounts of water and soil conditions. However, basil can grow vigorously once you learn what it likes.
Nonetheless, I encourage giving them a go, as they can add wonderful flavor and depth to your dishes.
To recap, starting off with hardy herbs like thyme, mint or lemon balm, oregano, and rosemary is a great way to get your feet wet in the world of gardening.
Don’t be afraid to experiment with different growing environments, like windowsills, pots, and outdoor gardens. With a little hope, time, and effort, you’ll be on your way to enjoying a lovely and fragrant herb garden of your own.
Perennials vs Annuals
As someone who loves gardening, I’m often asked where to start, especially by those who feel they can’t grow anything or are working with limited space.
My answer is always the same: start with herbs! The are simple, most are easy to grow, and tons of giving back with delicious flavors!
In this section, we’ll discuss the differences between perennial and annual herbs to help you choose the right ones for your garden.
Perennial herbs are the ones that come back on their own every year, as long as the environment is nurturing to them.
These herbs can be quite forgiving and are a great choice for beginners looking to build their confidence.
Some of my favorite essential hardy perennial herbs include thyme, oregano, rosemary, chives, tarragon, and mint.
On the other hand, annual herbs need to be replanted every year. Some annual plants will self-seed, which is a nice bonus.
However, I find perennial herbs to bring a little extra joy as they return each year, often proving to be more tolerant and hardy than their annual counterparts.
Sage, and parsley are some of the herbs that fall somewhere in between being hardy and less hardy in terms of tolerance.
In contrast, basil, lavender, chervil, and cilantro can be a bit trickier to grow as they tend to be sensitive to their environment, temp and require specific care.
These herbs might need a little extra attention, but they offer amazing flavors and are well worth trying in your garden. You can usually find basil plants in your local grocery stores.
Remember that your growing zone and the type of soil you have might affect the success of certain herbs, but do not be discouraged.
With a bit of hope, time, and effort, you too can cultivate a thriving herb garden to enjoy year after year.
Top Hardy Herbs to Start With
Being a beginner in herbal gardening, I highly recommend starting with a few hardy perennial herbs that are easy to grow and don’t require much effort to maintain.
These herbs will help you build your confidence in gardening and allow you to explore the fascinating world of herbs.
My favorite essential hardy herbs include:
- Thyme: This is a beautiful and fragrant herb that is quite enduring. Thyme can be used medicinally, as a tea, or in cooking as a culinary herb. It can withstand various climates and will make a wonderful addition to any beginner’s garden.
- Parsley: Parsley is another hardy herb that’s easy to grow from seed. It has a mild flavor that works well in a wide range of dishes. Parsley prefers full sun or partial shade and needs well-drained soil.
- Oregano: Oregano is another perennial herb that will come back year after year. It is quite versatile and can be used in various culinary dishes or for medicinal purposes.
- Rosemary: Known for its distinct flavor and aroma, rosemary is a perennial herb that can survive through different climates and seasons. It is also a fantastic addition to many culinary dishes and has medicinal properties too.
- Sage: Sage is another must-have for your herbal garden. This herb is not only easy to grow but also has a warm, slightly peppery flavor that can elevate any dish.
Sage is a bit more forgiving when it comes to sunlight and can tolerate partial shade, which makes it an excellent choice if your garden doesn’t get full sun throughout the day.
- Mint and Lemon Balm: Both mint and lemon balm are prolific and hardy herbs that are easy to grow. They are perfect for tasty iced teas, drinks, culinary applications, and medicinal teas or tinctures. They also help deter pests and bugs from your garden.
Some may prefer full direct sunlight, while others will do well in partial sun or even a decent amount of shade.
Intermediate Hardy Herbs
In addition to the essential hardy herbs mentioned earlier, there are some herbs that I would consider somewhere in between being hearty and a little less hearty.
- One of these is Parsley. It comes in both curly and flat varieties. I find that the curly parsley tends to be a bit more hearty than the flat parsley.
- Chives are another herb that falls into this intermediate category. Chives can be used in so many dishes, such as dried in cream cheese, added to soups, or mixed in with eggs. I love having chives growing around in various places of my garden.
- Tarragon: Known for its anise-like flavor, tarragon is a perennial herb that’s commonly used in French cuisine. It prefers full sun to light shade and well-drained soil.
Be sure to water it regularly but avoid overwatering to prevent root rot. Tarragon can be a bit tricky to grow from seed, so you might want to start with a young plant.
- Chervil: Chervil, often described as having a flavor that’s a mix between parsley and anise, is a delicate annual herb. It prefers cool temperatures and partially shaded locations. Chervil likes well-drained soil and requires regular watering, especially during dry periods.
So, with these intermediate hardy herbs – sage, parsley, chives, and aloe – you have a nice variety of plants that can add wonderful flavors and benefits to your cooking and daily life.
Making the most of these intermediate hardy herbs is simple! Grow them alongside your essential hardy herbs in pots, window sills, or in the ground. These herbs will be excellent additions to your beginner’s herb garden, and you might just find that they become long-time favorites in your home.
Less Tolerant Herbs
In my experience, there are certain herbs that I love to use, but they tend to be a little less tolerant than the hardy ones I mentioned earlier in our journey through herbal gardening.
This would depend on your climate, the zone you’re in, and the type of soil you have. But don’t let this stop you from trying to grow them!
Basil, for example, though I love it and there are so many different types of it, can be quite finicky. I kind of call it a “princess herb” because it needs to be catered to a bit more than other herbs. But once it takes off it takes off!
It requires a very specific amount of water and a particular type of soil. I find that the basil with the purple leaves is a little bit heartier.
I highly recommend giving it a go because it’s amazing to include in so many dishes, but just be aware that it can be a little tricky to grow.
The other herb that people seem to have strong reactions to either loving or disliking is cilantro. I personally adore cilantro, but some people, like my brother, can’t stand it.
Cilantro, like basil, is an annual herb and I believe it will self-seed. It’s also a bit of a “princess herb” in terms of needing special care, but I still think it’s worth giving it a try.
If you’re starting out and want to experiment with these less tolerant herbs, I suggest starting off by growing them in a windowsill, in pots, or in an area where you can give them the particular attention they might need.
Make sure to keep the soil moist but not too wet for the seeds, as that can cause them to rot.
As your plants grow, continue to monitor and adjust their care as needed, and soon enough, you’ll be able to enjoy the rich flavors of your own homegrown basil and cilantro.