So you want to start an herb garden?


Photo credit: Gabrielle Rodriguez

illustrations by Gabrielle Rodriguez

Whether you have loads of outdoor garden space, or just a simple kitchen windowsill with plenty of sun, you are one trip to a gardening store from growing your own delicious fresh herbs. While growing fruits and vegetables can seem complicated and daunting, herbs let you dip your toes in the water of gardening without too much risk. Starting is the hardest part of any new task, so let me walk you through some simple tips and tricks to make your new little garden flourish.

Herb Options

Before we get into the nitty gritty, it’s always good to start out with a plan of the specific plants you want to grow so that you can cater to their needs. While there are many many more options than the three I’m going to share, below are my top picks for easy and tasty herbs.

Mint: Mint is so great, and I find it will literally grow anywhere. It is, like, scary how quickly mint will root and take over a flowerbed. As such, be careful where you plant mint in your garden, as it will spread everywhere if given the opportunity. Mint is also great because it tends to be a little less picky about light, and it can even grow big and strong in partial shade.

Basil: Basil is my personal favorite herb because I just love the way fresh basil spices up any meal. There are also a gazillion different varieties, with my personal favorite being Thai Basil. Just make sure to control any flowering you see on your basil plant to make sure it continues to produce more leaves and grow much bigger.

Rosemary: Did you know you can grow rosemary by propagating cuttings of an existing plant? Well you can! It is very cool. Make sure you give your rosemary plant plenty of space to grow, and, if you are planting outdoors, consider letting it grow into a big bush! Even if you aren’t into the whole rosemary garnish thing, the plant will make your whole backyard smell lovely every time a breeze comes through.

Light + Location

The first thing you want to figure out when planning an herb garden is where you are going to put it! Most herbs are all about light, so making sure you find an extra sunny place is key. If you are like me and struggle to figure out all the “east-facing” vs “west-facing” window nonsense, just think about a place in your home or in your outdoor garden that routinely gets a lot of light for a good part of the day. Also, be sure your herbs are out of reach of any pets you may have. I know my cats have a tendency to demolish anything green within their reach.

Supplies + Pots + Containers

Now that you’ve got a spot picked out, it’s time to get supplies! You will want a typical garden soil with good drainage, some gardening gloves, and a shovel. You may also want to pick up a watering can if you will be watering a large number of plants. As far as pots go, get creative! Though you can always house your plants in store-bought pots (or plunk them directly into the earth) it can be fun and environmentally beneficial to consider using materials you already have. There’s just something cool about herb gardens growing out of cans and old water bottles, or perhaps coffee mugs with some drainage holes drilled in.

Plant + Enjoy

All you need to do once your plants are firmly in the earth is watch them grow (and maybe fertilize occasionally). Now, any time you need a little mint for your water or some fresh basil for your pasta, everything you need will be within your own home.