The joy of herbs. The fragrant and soothing smell of an herb garden on a summer evening as you brush by its leaves and petals, releasing the aroma into the waiting air. Growing herbs is one of the things I look most forward to each spring. Herbs are versatile in their uses, and are often easier to grow then their veggie counterparts. Knowing where to start can be daunting, and there are always learning curves along the way, but with a few simple steps and tips, you will be well on your way to an herb garden of your own.
Step 1 : Know your Zone and Space
Your agricultural grow zone is going to help you determine what you can grow, how you can grow it, and when you can grow it. The map is based on the average annual minimum winter temperature, divided into 10-degree Fahrenheit zones. It is important to know your zone, so that you can determine what will thrive in your area, and how soon or late to get certain plants into the ground. The map goes from 1a -13b. The higher the number, the warmer the location during winter. You can find the USDA hardiness zone map here: Know my Zone
The other factors at play that are good to know before starting out on your journey are:
Yearly precipitation averages: This is important to know unless you are strictly gardening in a greenhouse or under some type of cover. Some plants are more drought tolerant than others, while some can handle excess rain better than most.
Soil type: (Your soil type will not matter as much If you are planning to do container, raised bed, or back to eden style gardening) If you are going to be tilling directly into the ground, then you are going to want to know what type of soil you have and which plants do best in that soil type. Some soil types (like heavy clay), will need help from compost and organic matter to become soil that is fertile enough for planting.
Light exposure: It is good to determine how many hours of direct sunlight your garden area will receive per day and which direction your land is facing. South facing gardens will get the most sunlight, and are typically best for growing your plants. However, do not fear If you have a partial sun garden, or land that is facing north. You can still grow a garden in these conditions, you will just need to know which herbs thrive best in a partial sun garden and avoid the ones that need full sun exposure. Knowing how much sun you get will help you to avoid many frustrations in the future. Also, be aware that though many herbs will grow in a part shade garden, they will typically grow at a slower pace then when they are exposed to more sun.
Full Sun - A garden that receives 6 or more hours of direct sunlight daily
Part Sun - A garden that receives 4-6 hours of direct sunlight daily, including some afternoon sun
Part Shade - A garden that receives 4-6 hours of direct sun daily, mostly before midday
Full Shade - A garden that receives less than 4 hours of direct sunlight daily
Step 2 : Establish a Good Foundation
You are going to want to determine what style of gardening is going to be best for you and your lifestyle. Once you decide on what type of garden you want to have (containers, raised beds etc), then you will want to start laying out a great foundation with your soil. The soil is the food that a plant eats, and the bed in which it sleeps. If the foundation is not given the proper attention, you can wind up creating a lot more work and aggravation for yourself down the line (been there done that). Take the time to do some proper research on how best to execute the style of gardening you are looking to achieve, and then work towards that in baby steps. Try not to get overwhelmed by all the options, and keep in mind that there are frugal ways to accomplish many things. Begin making small changes such as saving your fruit and veggie scraps in a compost bin to make your own plant food. You can make very inexpensive fertilizers from banana peel and other "throw away" items. Make sure you understand the type of soil that your herbs will like best, and do what you can to create a nurturing environment for them to hang out in.
Step 3 : Embrace Simplicity
One of the biggest tips for the takeaway today, is to start simple. Rather than jumping in with both feet and two hands, trying to grow every herb that has ever been, start out by choosing a few hardy herbs, and get to know them very well. This will boost gardening confidence, and help you establish new skills and knowledge. Learn how to plant those herbs, grow those herbs, harvest those herbs, and use those herbs. Become proficient in just a few things, instead of trying to skim the surface on a lot of things. In my video about gardening for beginners, I talked about "princess herbs" vs hardy herbs. The disclaimer is that based on the area you are in, some herbs that are hardy where I am may become "princess herbs" for you, and vice versa.
Do your best not to over love your plants. While you want your plants to have enough water and nutrition, too much of a good thing can kill your plants. With that being said, these are the herbs that I have found to be the most hardy and easy to grow:
Parsley (biennial - long grow season)
Mint (leave room for this to spread - perennial with long grow season - chocolate mint does well in part shade - mint does not like wet clay soil)
Lemon Balm (leave room for this to spread - perennial with long grow season - will grow in many types of environments - makes a lovely tea and is medicinal)
Oregano (perennial in most environments with a long growing season - will grow without full sun)
Perennial Chives (tolerates cool weather well and is delicious in eggs)
Sage and Rosemary (the soup duo- sage is a perennial in many environments and bug and drought resistant)
Grow the green things!
“And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat.” - Genesis 1:29
Some of my personal favorite herbs to grow and use:
Rosemary and Sage (for soups!)
There are SO many! I am hoping to try my hand this year at growing toothache herb, purple basil, bee balm, and hyssop. Thank you so much for popping in, and may the Lord bring the increase.