Growing herbs is one of the most enjoyable aspects of gardening
They smell delightful, are expensive to buy and make any dish shine in the kitchen. Herbs are excellent for garden companion planting too. You can plant a kitchen herb garden, a medicinal herb garden or grow a herbal tea garden. What herbs you wish to plant will also depend on what you like to buy and use in your home.
Should you buy herb seeds or buy plants?
Certain herbs take a very long time to germinate, others grow fast. This post will cover the pros and cons of each and guide you through the easy and hard herbs to grow. I’ll also talk about annuals versus perennials and best herbs for containers.
Choosing what herbs to grow
Before deciding if you should buy herb seeds or buy plants, it helps to know what herbs you’d like to grow. Why does this matter? Because certain herbs are annuals that are better directly sown into your garden beds. Others take a very long time to germinate and need to be 8-12 weeks old before you transplant them into your garden. Many medicinal plants need to be 3 years old before you can harvest them!
Make a list of herbs you enjoy and what you plant on using them for
Some things to think about to decide what herbs to grow:
- Would you like to grow annuals or perennial herbs? Perennial herbs come back year after year, some can even ‘take over’ certain areas. Be sure to plan your garden so that you have space for perennials.
- Are you using herbs for culinary meals? Tea? Medicine?
- What is your garden size? Do you have garden beds or need to grow in containers?
Here’s some of the annual herbs and perennials that you can grow
- Winter + Summer Savory
- Lemon Balm
- most medicinal herbs (see full list here)
Planning your herb garden
Where should you put your garden? Find out how much sunlight your backyard has, then you can look at your list and see where you could plant them. On a good note, many herbs can actually handle partial shade. Sketch your garden on a piece of paper (or use my botanical garden planner & journal).
- Herb garden design. Herb gardens can be very unique. We planted many of our perennial herbs in a symmetrical mandala kitchen garden. We’ve also created a unique herb spiral and planted a mint rock garden bed.
- Indoor herb gardening. Here’s some inspiration for indoor container herb gardens.
- Garden beds or containers? Because many herbs are perennials, some people prefer to grow them in containers. This works great for culinary herbs and having them close to your kitchen for quick harvests.
Great herbs for containers are:
- mint (so it doesn’t spread)
- lemon balm
Seeds or plants?
After you’ve decided what you’d like to grow and made a sketch, then it’s time to buy seeds or plants. Annual herbs can be directly sown into the garden like cilantro or dill, or grown indoors like basil then transplanted outside. Most perennial herbs take a long time to germinate.
Pros of buying herb seeds
- You can choose specific varieties that local stores might not sell. For example, maybe you’re looking for chocolate mint and can’t find plants to buy. Browse through some herb seed catalogs and see what they offer and make lists of what you’d like.
- Many medicinal herbs aren’t sold in local stores or garden centers. Ones like oregano, thyme and sage that are also culinary tend to be common, but if you’re looking for feverfew, marshmallow or licorice for example, they might be harder to find.
- You can baby your seeds and watch them grow into the plants you’ll be harvesting from!
- For annuals like dill or cilantro, herb seeds are cheaper than buying a plant. Basil and mint are cheaper and easy to grow from seed indoors.
Cons of buying herb seeds
- They take a long time to germinate. Certain herbs can take 1-3 weeks just to germinate.
- Many perennials take a long time to grow. Herbs like oregano can take 10-12 weeks before you can transplant them into the ground.
- You have to have seed starting supplies and know how to grow your own seedlings.
In general, herb plants are easiest for beginners, but if you’re a seasoned gardener or herbalist wishing for varieties and you can’t find what you’re looking for, seeds can be a great option.
My name is Isis Loran, creator of the Family Food Garden. I’ve been gardening for over 10 years now and push the limits of our zone 5 climates. I love growing heirlooms & experimenting with hundreds of varieties, season extending, crunchy homesteading and permaculture.