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How to grow a mini herb garden (and save money)

Brian Bennett/CNET

Adding pops of flavor to your food is all about using fresh herbs. And what better way to add fresh flavor to dishes (and save money) than with your own herb garden?

It’s not as hard as it sounds. All you need are the right pots, materials and a plan. So whether you’re a home cook or a serious foodie — if you’re doubting your green thumbs, take heart. Growing flavorful herbs at home is within your reach.

Step 1: Pick some pots

One huge appeal of a home-grown herb garden is it’s always ready for action. Need to spice up that pasta or chicken roast? Just grab a few leaves of basil, sage or sprig of thyme. Trekking through a garden bed for those items can be a drag, though. That’s why you should grow your herbs in pots or planters. This way, they can be placed in convenient locations, like on your porch, deck or kitchen counter.

The material of your container can vary. Clay, wood, fabric and metal are all options. What’s most important is that it provides enough drainage. Any pot or planter you use must let excess water escape, which is why most planting container bottoms have holes in them.

So, while mason jars are pretty to look at, they don’t make the best herb gardens. Without proper drainage, your herbs will eventually experience root rot.

Pick a container that matches the size of the herbs you’ll grow. Choose something too large and your plants will spend excess energy growing their roots. A cramped planter will cause your herbs to become root-bound (in other words, pot-bound). That’ll hamper their nutrition, stress them or even kill them.

Flat leaf parsley is easy to grow and has lots of flavor.

Brian Bennett/CNET

Step 2: Choose your herbs

if this is the first time you’ve tried growing herbs, start simple. Parsley, mint and even basil are good options for pot-growing. They all tend to grow prolifically and don’t mind frequent harvesting. Here are some examples of staple herb varieties and their characteristics

Relatively easy to grow, basil prefers sunny locations. It also does best in rich soil that’s well watered.

Mint

With an aggressive growth rate, mint is best in its own container and above ground. It can handle shade but it’s better suited to strong sunlight.

Oregano (Greek)

This herb, not to be confused with marjoram, has small and flavorful leaves. It requires full sunshine and lots of drainage. Greek Oregano is also a tender perennial that you’ll have to bring inside during winter months

Parsley (flat-leaved)

Chefs prefer flat-leaved parsley over curly since it has more flavor. Parsley does best in moist, well-drained soil and can grow in partially shaded areas.

This herb has heavily scented leaves and prefers less water. You do need to give thyme exposure to full sunlight and well-drained soil.

The resinous leaves of rosemary are highly aromatic. The herb requires cool climates with plenty of sun and moist (not wet) soil. It’s also best to bring rosemary indoors for the winter.

Step 3: Forget seeds, use starter plants

Unless you’re an experienced gardener, use starter plants for your herbs. This will save you two to three weeks of grow time and increase your chances of a successful harvest.

Step 4: Get the right soil

When it’s time to plant, use potting soil — not garden soil. Potting soil drains water well, whereas garden soil does not. The former is lighter and porous, while the latter is dense and traps (or blocks) moisture inside containers.

Don’t forget to water your herbs regularly.

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Step 5: Care and harvesting

It takes constant, regular care for herbs to flourish. That means you must water them on a consistent schedule. You’ll need to harvest them often, too, since this primes them for new growth. Just be sure to match any treatment of your herbs to their specific variety.

Want to make watering your lawn easier? Here’s CNET’s guide to making your own automated lawn watering system.

Few things will step up your cooking quite like having fresh herbs to hand. Access to the essentials when they’re at their seasonal best will see you experimenting with flavours and creating increasingly amazing dishes in no time.

The good news about herbs is that they don’t need to be grown in a garden; almost any kitchen can accommodate pots or window boxes, and with the right care and attention, your herbs will flourish. Here are all the tips and tricks you need to take your kitchen garden to the next level.

START SIMPLE

Growing anything from seed is a bit of an art. It can only really be perfected through trial and error, which can be frustrating. For this reason, it’s best to go easy on yourself and start by planting pre-potted herbs. You can get them in garden centres and most supermarkets, and they’ll save you loads of time and energy.

If, however, you have a burning desire to grow them yourself, it’s best to sow softer herbs in April or early May when there’s no frost.

PICK THE RIGHT POTS

There are a few options when it comes to what to keep your herbs in: pots, window boxes and grow bags. Whichever you pick, the most important thing is drainage: if your herbs can’t drain properly, they will drown.

Lots of plastic window boxes have a reservoir at the bottom for drainage. Grow bags are quite useful as well, if less pretty. Pots have the added benefit of being portable so they can be easily moved around the house through the seasons. In the winter, woodier herbs can be left outside but they should be protected from frost with garden fleece.

Terracotta pots are great because they’re heavy and porous, which means they will be stable, won’t suffocate the soil, and they also look great. They do, however, conduct heat and therefore dry up very quickly, so always keep an eye on them.

PLANTING

Water your herbs every day. In summer months, it’s better to do this in the evening rather than during the full heat of the day. If using a pot, sit it on a plate or saucer – you can pour water into it and the soil will soak it up.

Very coarse compost specifically made for aiding drainage in small pots and windowboxes is available (or you can make your own by mixing ordinary compost with some gravel).

Keep your herbs well trimmed to stop them from bolting (producing flowers in an attempt to reproduce, thereby affecting the quality of the leaves). Given that herbs often need a great deal of light to remain healthy, a windowsill is a good spot for your pots.

Last but not least, give them the space to breathe and grow out – if you overcrowd your herbs, they will quickly die.

GETTING STARTED

Soft herbs – basil, chives, marjoram, coriander, and so on – are the ones that will have the biggest effect on your cooking when they’re home-grown and used fresh.

Soft herbs are delicate, which affects how they’re grown and used. They need care and attention when growing, and are usually only added to dishes at the end of the cooking process, or simply folded through salads, so as not to ruin their structure and subtle flavours.

Woody herbs – thyme, rosemary, sage – tend to benefit from a hot, dry location. They will generally survive winter well, though flourishing less than they would in the spring and summer. Even though these herbs are resilient, they need water too – the lower, woodier branches can get hard and dry out often.

Remember the golden rules for success: keep them watered, make sure they are able to drain, give each plant enough space to breathe, and prune them regularly. That’s it!

Eat Good Food

From left to right: Bronze fennel, anise hyssop, flowering chervil, and French tarragon.

Anise-scented herbs are generally easy to grow, and fresh-from-the-garden herbs add flavor and fragrance to foods.

Anise is a common component in a variety of different herbs. The intensity of flavor varies so much from plant to plant, however, that even those who don’t care for the stronger licorice taste of fennel might enjoy sweeter anise or mild chervils.

Although all members of this grouping are used for culinary purposes, the part of the plant that is utilized is not always the same. For example, it is common to use the seeds of anise and fennel, the leaves of all varieties, the stalks of fennel, the flowers of anise hyssop, and the roots of fennel.

Most of these herbs are also valued for their ornamental additions to gardens. Read on for tips on how to cultivate these versatile and aromatic herbs in the garden, and ideas on how to use anise-scented herbs in the kitchen.

ANISE (Pimpinella anisum) is the common anise, a delicate annual that grows from 1 1/2 to 2 feet high.

Two types of leaves grow on the same plant — bright green oval ones with toothed edges at the base and a smaller, more feathery, elongated type on the stems.

Because anise has a taproot, it does not transplant well once established, so be certain to plant it where it is to remain. Tiny white flowers grow in umbrella-like clusters at the top of the stems. The plants like light, fertile, well-drained soil and full sun. Anise may be started from either seeds or small plants. Water regularly. The leaves may be cut as soon as the plants are large enough.

Gather the seeds when they ripen and change color from green to brown, then dry and store in tight containers. The home gardener can expect a harvest of 1 to 2 tablespoons of seed from each plant.

ANISE HYSSOP (Agastache foeniculum) is also known as licorice mint. A perennial, it may be grown from seeds, small plants, or divisions of the creeping root.

Anise hyssop grows up to 3 feet in height and likes moist, slightly acidic soil rich in organic soil and full sun. The gray-green leaves have toothed edges and whitish undersides.

The leaves of anise hyssop are a nice ingredient in fruit salads or tisanes, a wonderful way to infuse creme anglaise and ice cream, and a flavorful addition to simple syrups for sweetening beverages such as lemonade or tea. Overall, the fragrance is similar to French tarragon, but slightly sweeter, with a hint of basil.

Harvest leaves early in the day during a sunny, rain-free spell close to when the plants will be flowering, then dry the leaves and store them in glass jars.

For a refreshing tisane (herbal tea), fill a tea strainer with several sprigs of fresh anise hyssop and mint, washed and removed from stems. Pour boiling water into mug and let steep for at least ten minutes, adding honey if desired.

CHERVIL (Anthriscus cerefolium) is an annual that grows from 1 to 2 feet high and, because of its tap root, is not easily transplanted. Grow it from seed or small plants, starting in cool, moist soil during winter or part shade in late spring and fall.

Chervil plants prefer semi-shade and may be trained as an edging or grown in containers. In areas where summers are hot, chervil does best in part or full shade, although the combination of heat and shade seems to render the plants weak and susceptible to spider mite infestation. Water regularly.

Pinching off most of the flowers will prolong growth of the leaves, but leave a few and the plant will reseed itself.

Sometimes referred to as the gourmet’s parsley, chervil is a key ingredient in Béarnaise sauce and in fines herbes blends with parsley, chives, and tarragon.

Similar to parsley, chervil’s leaves may be used in soups, salads, sauces and herb butters. The small white flowers have a similar but milder flavor than the leaves and can be used as a garnish in lighter dishes, salads, and even with fruit.

Chervil also makes a good addition to vinaigrettes or marinades, and is a classic ingredient in a mesclun salad mix.

FENNEL (Foeniculum vulgare) is similar in appearance to dill and may grow up to 6 feet tall. The light-green leaves are finely divided into threadlike segments on tall, round, hollow stems. At the top are flat clusters of yellow flowers. Fennel provides food for the vividly striped caterpillar of the swallowtail butterfly.

Fennel may be grown from seed or small plants. It thrives in light, well-drained soil and full sun. Once established, fennel is fairly drought resistant and reseeds itself readily.

The flavor of fennel is similar to anise, though more full and earthy, sweet and herbaceous. Use the feathery leaves in soups, stews, salads, and marinades.

When using the stems, they should be cut while still tender and just before flowers form. Braise and serve as a vegetable or prepare and use in the same way as celery.

The bright yellow flowers can be used as a garnish on salads, such braised meats as lamb, and other dishes.

FENNEL SEEDS are a popular flavoring for breads, spiced beets, and sauerkraut. To collect the seeds, dry the crop under shade for four or five days to preserve the green color, then beat it to release the fruits.

Store dried seed in labeled jars out of direct sunlight until the next growing season. The essential oil of fennel seeds is also used for flavoring foods, confections, and liqueurs such as anisette and absinthe.

TARRAGON Although there are several varieties, FRENCH TARRAGON (Artemisia dracunculus) is the preferred culinary species of this herb. French tarragon doesn’t produce fertile seeds, so must be started from small plants or root divisions.

It does best in fast-draining soil and partial sun, but also grows well in containers and hanging baskets. Do not overwater or the plants may develop root rot. Frequent cutting, especially in summer, and a mulch of sand and gravel will lessen disease problems.

Tarragon goes dormant in the winter. Even if plants turn brown over the winter, they will more than likely regenerate themselves in the spring.

When harvesting French tarragon, snip the tips, but be sure to leave about 3 inches growth to keep plants vigorous.

Like chervil, tarragon is a key ingredient in fines herbes blends. Its smooth, slender, dark-green leaves are pointed at the ends and have a mild anise scent and flavor.

Fresh tarragon has far greater flavor than dried. The best way to preserve tarragon is in vinegar, which captures and holds its essence. Leaves may be used to flavor salad dressings, sauces, butters, and soups.

RUSSIAN TARRAGON (Artemisia dracunculoids) looks almost identical to the French, but has a much milder, grassy flavor. Growing to 3 or 4 feet tall, it has gray-green foliage and blue-purple flower spikes.

MEXICAN TARRAGON (Tagetes lucida) is also called Anise Scented Marigold or Yerbanais. It grows about 1 ½ feet tall and has toothed leaves and single orange-gold flowers. This variety may be grown from seed and does well in high temperatures. Keep the moisture constant to prevent wilting from water stress.

Gardening : Anise Flavor Common Link of Variety of Herb : In addition to culinary uses, plants are valued for their ornamental additions to gardens.

An anise scent and flavor is the common thread that connects a variety of different herbs. The intensity of the flavor varies so much from plant to plant, however, that even those who don’t care for the stronger licorice taste of fennel might enjoy sweeter anise or very mild chervil.

Although all members of this grouping are used for culinary purposes, the part of the plant that’s utilized is not always the same. For instance, we use the seeds of anise and fennel, the leaves of all varieties, the stalks of fennel, the flowers of anise hyssop and the roots of fennel and licorice.

Most of these herbs are also valued for their ornamental additions to gardens, and the harvested flowers of anise hyssop are often used in dried flower arrangements.

ANISE (Pimpinella anisum) is the common anise, a delicate annual that grows from 1 1/2 to 2 feet high. Two types of leaves grow on the same plant–bright green, oval ones with toothed edges at the base and a smaller, more feathery, elongated type on the stems.

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Because anise has a tap root, it does not transplant well once established, so be certain to plant it where it is to remain. Tiny white flowers grow in umbrella-like clusters at the top of the stems.

The plants like light, fertile, well-drained soil and full sun. Anise may be started from either seeds or small plants. Water regularly. The leaves may be cut as soon as the plants are large enough. Gather the seeds when they ripen and change color from green to brown, then dry and store in tight containers.

The sweet flavor of anise seeds is especially good for flavoring cookies, other pastries and confections. Use the feathery leaves in salads and to flavor fish and poultry.

ANISE HYSSOP (Agastache foeniculum) is also known as licorice mint. A perennial, it may be grown from seeds, small plants or divisions of the creeping root. Anise Hyssop grows up to 3 feet in height and likes rich, moist soil and full sun.

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The gray-green leaves have toothed edges and whitish undersides. They make a nice addition to fruit salads, may be used in tea and other drinks or added to potpourri. The plant’s spiky, violet flowers are pretty as garnishes and add flavor to baked goods, sweet-sour marinades or Chinese-style dishes. They are also attractive in dried arrangements.

CHERVIL (Anthriscus cerefolium) looks similar to parsley, in fact, it’s sometimes referred to as the gourmet’s parsley. Like anise, chervil is an annual that grows from 1 to 2 feet high and because of its tap root, is not easily transplanted. Grow it from seed or small plants. By planting several crops two weeks apart you can ensure an ongoing supply.

Chervil plants prefer semi-shade and may be trained as an edging or grown in containers. Water regularly. The lacy leaves are lighter green than parsley; delicate white flowers grow in flat heads. By pinching off most of the flowers you’ll prolong growth of the leaves, but leave a few and the plant will reseed itself.

The leaves may be cut as soon as the plants are large enough (six to eight weeks) and used, much the same as parsley, in soups, salads, sauces and herb butters. Chervil is a key ingredient in bearnaise sauce and in fines herbes blends with parsley, chives and tarragon. It also makes a good addition to vinaigrettes or marinades.

FENNEL (Foeniculum vulgare), common or sweet fennel, is similar in appearance to dill and may grow up to 6 feet tall. The light-green leaves are finely divided into threadlike segments on tall, round, hollow stems. At the top are flat clusters of yellow flowers.

Like the anise herbs, fennel may be grown from seed or small plants. It thrives in light, well drained soil and full sun. You may need to stake the plants after they’re about 1 1/2 feet tall. Once established, fennel is fairly drought resistant and reseeds itself readily.

Use the leaves in soups, stews, salads and marinades. Cut only the top couple inches from the plants to ensure new growth. They’ll stay fresh up to a week in the refrigerator if the stems are in water and tops covered with a plastic bag.

When using the stems, they should be cut just before flowers form (while they’re still tender). Braise and serve as a vegetable, or prepare and use in the same way as celery. Fennel seeds, which should be harvested when they turn brown, are a popular flavoring for breads, spiced beets and sauerkraut.

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There are two other varieties of fennel generally available. Bronze fennel (F.v. rubrum), so named for the color of its foliage, may be used as a culinary herb as well as an ornamental plant.

Florence fennel (F.v. azoricum), also called finocchio, is a lower-growing species that develops a bulbous base (which is used as a vegetable) when grown in cooler weather. Start the plant in the fall, and when the base is about the size of an egg, pile soil up around it so no light enters. It should be ready to harvest in about two to three weeks. This variety has a flavor slightly sweeter and less strong than common fennel.

LICORICE (Glycyrrhiza glabra) is grown for its roots, mainly used to flavor commercial products and in medicines. Seeds and small plants are available to consumers, however, and leaves and seeds may be used as well as the roots.

Grow this perennial in a rich, moist soil and a sheltered sunny place. It will reach 3 feet or more in height and have long, narrow, dark-green divided leaves, pale blue-white pea-flowers and long pods of hard seeds. The tap root has several long branches, which are wrinkled and brown, with yellow flesh. Harvest the roots in the autumn of the third or fourth year.

SWEET CICELY (Myrrhis odorata) may also be referred to as sweet or giant chervil. It’s a hardy perennial that grows 2 to 3 feet high with finely divided leaves and cream-colored flowers. Sweet Cicely plants are said to resemble parsley.

Grow from seeds planted in the fall, root divisions or small plants in rich, moist, well-drained soil. Seeds take up to eight months to germinate. Sweet Cicely grows best in shade or semi-shade. The tap root makes it difficult to transplant.

Every part of this plant is edible. The sweet leaves enhance salads or fruit tarts, use the spicy green seeds in salad and the ripe ones in soups, apple pie or other baked desserts. The roots may be eaten raw, boiled or steamed as a vegetable. They also make a good addition to stir-fried dishes.

TARRAGON: Although there are two varieties, French tarragon (Artemisia dracunculus) is the preferred culinary species of this herb. Its smooth, slender, dark-green leaves are pointed at the ends and have a mild anise scent and flavor.

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French tarragon doesn’t produce fertile seeds, so must be started from small plants or root divisions. The woody perennial grows rather prostrate and slowly by underground rhizomes. It does best in fast-draining soil and partial sun, but also grows well in containers and hanging baskets. Do not over water or the plants may develop root rot.

Tarragon goes dormant in the winter. Don’t despair even if the plants turn brown over the winter, they will more than likely regenerate themselves in the spring.

When harvesting French tarragon, snip the tips, but be sure to leave about 3 inches growth to keep plants vigorous. Fresh tarragon has far greater flavor than dried. Longer sprigs are ideal for flavoring vinegar. Leaves may be used to flavor salad dressings, sauces, butters and soups. Like chervil, tarragon is a key ingredient in fines herbes blends.

Russian tarragon (A. dracunculoids) looks almost identical to the French, but has a much milder, grassy flavor. Mexican tarragon (Tagetes lucida) is also called Anise Scented Marigold and Yerbanais. It grows about 1 1/2 feet tall and has toothed leaves and single orange-gold flowers. This variety may be grown from seeds in a sheltered sunny place. The leaves can be used in soups or tea.

Increase intake of fresh herbs for everyday health

When most of us plan to cook with herbs, we often refer to a recipe and the small amounts of dried herbs it calls for (think chili or spaghetti). That is because herbs are typically separated from other plant-based foods (e.g., vegetables) as “food seasonings” rather than just another type of edible plant. Since so many herbs have concentrated flavor in their dried state, categorizing them as seasonings makes sense. However, many herbs are quite mild in their fresh forms and can be eaten in large amounts similar to leafy green vegetables. Since herbs are plants just like vegetables, they are physically, biochemically and nutritionally quite similar to leafy greens such as lettuce, spinach and kale. Yet we typically do not eat fresh herbs in the same ways and quantities as vegetables. Most “soft-stemmed” herbs (parsley, basil, dill), however, can be used in large amounts in salads and on sandwiches. Other fresh herbs (mint, lavender, rosemary) can easily be added in smaller amounts, but more frequently, to drinks and as toppings on snacks and desserts. And, herbs can pack in just as much nutrition as vegetables!

Just like green leafy vegetables, fresh herbs contain large amounts of vitamins A, C and K. Many herb plants also contain polyphenols. Polyphenols are plant compounds that have both antioxidant and anti-inflammatory capabilities. Polyphenols are only found in plants and plant-based products, which is why diets rich in plant-based foods can offer “protection against the development of cancers, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, osteoporosis and neurodegenerative diseases,” according to a 2009 study conducted by Pandey and Rizvi. The polyphenols in herbs and other plant-based foods can also reduce chronic inflammation and its associated risk for chronic disease. In addition, science-based research on herbal application in medicine is growing, and future findings may substantiate some of the more specific benefits herbs have on particular ailments. Regardless of those medicinal unknowns, however, increased consumption of food-based herbs can still have over-reaching health benefits similar to other plant-based foods. So add more fresh herbs to your diet!

Unlike American cuisine, many other cultures have utilized large quantities of fresh herbs in their traditional foods, and some of these foods are becoming more popular in the USA. Tabbouleh is a parsley salad that is historically popular in Middle Eastern culture but is now quite common in the USA. Italians and Asians have been eating significant amounts of fresh basil on caprese salads, in pesto, and as a regular condiment to accompany many Asian main dishes. Many US citizens have adopted similar eating patterns. Other fresh herb habits are less familiar to us, such as the Scandinavian tendency to dump handfuls of fresh dill ontop of fish stews such as Finnish Lohikeitto (LOW-hee-gay-doe).

Ideas for eating more herbs on a regular basis:
  • Make salads with herbs as the main ingredient (e.g., Tabbouleh).
  • Substitute 1/2 of the greens in lettuce salads with herbs such as parsley, dill, and basil.
  • Mix handfuls of fresh herbs into cold potato and pasta salads.
  • Top soups with handfuls of fresh herbs.
  • Garnish an entire dinner plate with fresh herbs.
  • Make a sandwich with herbs rather than lettuce (e.g., grilled cheese with basil).
  • Add fresh herbs to drinks (mint lemonades and rosemary ice teas, fresh chamomile in hot tea).
  • Use fresh herb sauces in pasta or on top of cooked meats (pesto in pasta; fresh mint sauce on cooked lamb).
  • Sprinkle lavender, rosemary, and mint leaves on cakes, ice creams, and fruit cocktails.
Additional Michigan State University Extension articles on growing and cooking fresh herbs:

Fresh herb gardening in winter

Growing and using herbs

Start summer off with a sampling of fresh herbs, basil, lavedar and rosemary

So what would I recommend growing in your garden if you can? Here are my top 10 vegetables and herbs to plant in your garden.

1. Lettuces and greens like Romaine, butter lettuce, red or green leaf lettuce, arugula, spinach, Swiss chard, kale, collard greens etc.

Greens can cost $1.50 – $3.50 a bunch, depending on where you buy them from and if they are organic. Plus, they take up a lot of room in the fridge. If you go through a lot of greens, it’s a good idea to plant some in the summer to at least supplement your needs and reduce your food budget and prevent spoilage by picking just what you need from the garden.

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2. Thyme and Basil.

Often these herbs cost $2.99 at the store (for organic) and can go to waste in the fridge as you only use a little bit for a recipe here and there. I much prefer having fresh herbs over dried ones as the flavor is much better in homemade things like soups and sauces. I plant a LOT of thyme and basil because these are my two most used herbs. Another favorite is dill (which is great in raw blended salads, salad dressings, or potato salad). These herbs can be planted in a container or separate herb gardens.

3. Cilantro (Coriander) and Parsley.

These herbs might or might not be cheap at your local grocery store, but I find that they don’t last very long in the fridge and tend to get slimy and are a pain to clean as there’s always some old and bad leaves in there. It’s nice to have a steady supply of cilantro and parsley which I love to use as garnishes (they make food photos even prettier) and on top of soups, salsas, and ethnic cuisines like Thai, Vietnamese, and Indian food.

4. Tomatoes.

Tomatoes are not something I enjoy eating raw on their own, but they are invaluable to raw and vegan cuisine. They are essential for delicious marinara sauces, stews, blended raw salads, raw salad dressings, salad toppings, and sandwiches. Home grown tomatoes are much tastier, sweeter, and fresher than store bought. Especially if you let them ripen on the vine.

5. Peas or Green Beans.

Peas and beans are great to grow as often the store bought ones are not very fresh and can be a little bit bitter or too hard. Fresh garden peas and beans are hard to match. They’re even delicious eating raw straight from the garden. I don’t usually cook mine as I eat through them quite quickly as healthy snacks and salad toppings, but they’re something the whole family can enjoy! Kids especially love to munch on fresh picked garden goodies and it develops a good sense of healthy eating for them.

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6. Beets and Turnips.

Beets and turnips are great to grow in your garden because both the roots and the leaves are edible! Most people don’t eat the tops, but more and more veggie lovers are realizing the nutritional value of eating beet and turnip greens. There’s even more nutrition in them than the root, so don’t throw them away! They’re best eaten lightly steamed or sautéed as they can be a little strong tasting and tough to eat. The thick stems taste much better when lightly cooked as well. I love beets and turnips as they are both a starch and a green and make good use of garden space!

7. Onions, Green Onions, and Leeks.

Onions are something I go through like crazy, they are a staple to any homemade dish really whether it is raw or cooked as it adds a delicious flavor and aroma to the dish. If you plant onions and pick them early, they will be green onions (also called scallions or spring onions) and these are great to use in raw salads, raw dressings, raw blended salads, salsas, and garnishes. If you let them go to seed, they will grow again next year so you’ll always have a steady supply of onions.

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8. Cucumbers.

Cucumbers are often fairly expensive at the store and a highly used item in raw and vegan salads and sandwiches. You can grow many varieties to be eaten fresh or to make pickles with. I even like to slice them on a mandolin and make little cucumber roll ups/sushi rolls with them. They are so beautiful and appealing as appetizers this way. Cucumbers grow on a vine and need a trellis or something to climb up onto so their fruits will not be laying on the grown and exposed to ground insects.

9. Zucchini.

Zucchini is very easy to grow, provided you give it enough space. It’s a long and sprawling plant and one or two plants is all you need to get a ton of zucchini. Start picking them when they reach about a foot in size, and don’t let them grow too long or they become hard and woody inside. Young zucchinis are easy to use in salads, stir fries, Ratatouille, and even make raw vegan spaghetti or fettuccine strands with.

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10. Red potatoes or “new potatoes”

If you’re getting a late start, you can always get potato seedlings at your garden centre, or plant some “seed” potatoes in early February or March for a spring harvest. These types of potatoes are called new potatoes because they are picked and sold immediately in the spring. They have paper thin skins and are best in salads or lightly steamed with seasonings. Fall potatoes have been grown longer and “cured” so their skins toughen up and they are able to be stored in a cool dark place through the winter. Potatoes can be grown fairly easily if you have a sunny place. They best way to grow is actually in a potato bag, as you will get many more potatoes as they can grow down as you roll up the bag and keep filling it with dirt and cover some of the leaves as they grow up. It gets a much higher yield this way than just planting in the garden. Check out potato bags here.

Other vegetables I’m growing this year are acorn squash, celery, kohlrabi, red bell pepper, eggplant, Brussels sprouts, and carrots, along with many other herbs like oregano, sage, tarragon, rosemary, sweet leaf, and Thai basil.

What do you grow in your garden? What’s your favorite home grown vegetable?

Vegan Comfort Foods From Around The World by Veronica Grace can be found here.

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Growing herbs in your garden doesn’t just have to be about cooking, spices or medicinal uses. Many of these practical plants can also be quite beautiful and showy. Many flowering herbs sport gorgeous blooms that can add variation and color to your herb garden. Blooming herbs come in many shapes, sizes, and shades and brighten any yard.

Take a look at some of these blooming herb choices, and add a few to your yard or garden. Even if you don’t cook with them, you’ll love the way they look.

Don’t miss our complete list of herbs from A to Z.

Gorgeous Purple Blooming Herbs

Lavender

Probably the most well-known of all herbs with beautiful blooms is lavender. The most popular version of this shrub-like herb boasts spikes of deep purple flowers; however, colors of other varieties can range from white to pink to deep blue hues.

Lavender is hardy and drought-resistant once established. It does well in a garden or container and makes a great pop of color in a flowerbed. Its shrub-like shape also lends well to small borders or hedges. Lavender plants prefer well-draining soil and full sun.

Known for its fragrance, lavender produces blooms that can be dried and used in flower arrangements, perfumes, soaps, lotions, candles, potpourri, beverages, and sauces. The perennial blossoms throughout the summer, and faded flowers can be trimmed to encourage further blooming.

Rosemary

Rosemary is a shrub-like evergreen that consists of dark green needle-like leaves that resemble fir or spruce trees. In the summer, the rosemary plant blooms with small white or purple flowers that add bright pops of color to the green of the bush.

Though it is a perennial, rosemary does not do well outdoors in the winter. Plants should be brought inside before the first winter frost. For this reason, rosemary thrives best in containers so it is not being constantly uprooted when the time comes to move indoors.

Once inside, the rosemary will do best in a sunny, cool spot. Rosemary has a tendency to dry out, so keep it away from vents and heaters that could further dry out the plant.

Rosemary is widely used in cooking. The leaves can be stripped from the branches to add to marinades, sauces, and seasoning blends. The leaves can also be dried and stored, frozen in water, or infused into oil for later use.

Chives

Chives grow similar to other members of the allium family, such as onions and garlic. Sprouting in bunches from bulbs, this herb can grow to be a foot tall. In summer chives sprout round, pinkish-purple blooms. The flowers of chive plants look whimsically like small puffballs of purple fuzz.

The perennial will do well indoors or out as long as plants get full sun. Be aware that chives can spread and take over a garden if the flowers are not removed from the plants before they fade and fall off allowing them to seed. That should be no problem, however, because chives are delicious and grow and taste best when cut for use throughout the season. They can be used in salads, dips , cheeses, and to flavor many other dishes. The flowers can even be used as an edible decoration.

Catmint

Catmint is another herb variety with bluish-purple blooms. The flowers grow throughout summer and can be cut back to encourage further blossoming.

Though catmint does not have culinary or medicinal uses, the blooms can be trimmed and added to flower arrangements for their pretty purple color. This herb makes a great addition to any garden. It does well as a border plant in well-draining areas, and much as its name suggests, it may attract a few new feline friends to your garden.

Spearmint

Spearmint boasts spikes of light purple, nearly lilac-colored, flowers in the summer. These spikes of flowers can grow to four inches long and are beautiful in combination with the bright green leaves of the mint plant.

Spearmint does well in partially draining to well-draining soil. Once established, spearmint is invasive and very quick to spread and take over a garden. Because of this tendency, many gardeners suggest growing it in hanging baskets or containers. It is possible to keep control of spearmint out in the garden, but it requires constant vigilance to keep the persistent plant from taking over. Spearmint leaves can be dried and used in teas and other recipes.

Striking Red and Yellow Flowering Herbs

Herbs with bright blooms not only add color to your landscape but can help attract pollinators, such as butterflies, bees, and hummingbirds. The presence of these creatures to help pollinate your plants can be extremely beneficial—not to mention, they’re a lot of fun to watch as they flit between flowers.

Pineapple sage

Pineapple sage can add shocking red bursts of color to your garden. Named for the pineapple-like scent the plant gives off, this variety of sage also produces tall shoots or bright red flowers in late summer through the fall. So when most of your flowering herbs are at the end of their blooms, pineapple sage will rise up, bringing color and vitality to your herb garden throughout the fall.

The leaves can be used as a garnish, dried, or included in teas. The red flowers are even edible and can be used in flower arrangements, salads, teas, and as a garnish.

The bright red blooms will also attract the attention of hummingbirds and butterflies to your garden to help with pollination. Pineapple sage prefers full sun and well-draining soil. The soil should be kept moist but never soggy.

Yarrow

Yarrow is an easy, no-fuss perennial herb that blooms into packed clusters of yellow, pink, or red flowers. Yarrow is drought-resistant. It is also resistant to most pests. Its brightly colored flowers are good for attracting butterflies and honey bees to your garden.

Yarrow prefers hot and dry areas, so full sun is ideal. Yarrow will not do well in wet soil, so be careful not to overwater. Yarrow is believed to have calming qualities and can be brewed in a tea. It can also be used to treat skin conditions, such as sunburns.

Dill

Dill is an herb that can be used in many ways in the kitchen. Often used as in a seasoning or used to add flavors to things like salads and cheese, but most notably in the pickling of cucumbers to create delicious dill pickles.

Dill is an annual herb that produces tall clusters of bright yellow flowers. Dill does well in the garden or containers and prefers full sun. It needs to be planted in well-draining soil, and you will want to let the soil dry between watering to ensure you are not overwatering.

Echinacea

Echinacea, also known as coneflower, has large domed daisy-like blooms that can come in a range of white, pink, and even yellow. The plants grow one to two feet tall and bloom through the summer. Once the flowering herb petals fade and are shed, the center domes remain through the fall to add russet and copper colors to your garden. The bright blooms of this perennial are great for attracting pollinators, such as butterflies and bees, to your garden.

Echinacea plants do well in light shade or full sun. They are resilient and drought-resistant but prefer adequate soil moisture. Echinacea is a medicinal herb that can be used to treat skin conditions and rashes by adding it to potions or creams. It can also be used internally to boost the immune system by brewing it in a tea.

Daisy-Like Flowers

To add beautiful and simple daisy-like blooms among your herbs and plants, add chamomile and feverfew into the mix.

Chamomile

Chamomile boasts small white flowers with yellow centers that look just like miniature daisies. Chamomile comes in two varieties, Roman chamomile or German chamomile. The blooms on both plants are similar. The difference between the two varieties is how they grow.

Roman chamomile grows low like a groundcover and is a perennial, whereas German chamomile grows taller, is more bush-like, and is an annual. The two flowering herb varieties, though different in appearance, grow well under the same conditions. The herb thrives best in cooler conditions, so part shade is ideal, but chamomile also thrives in sun, as it likes dry soil. Like many other herbs, it is drought resistant and doesn’t require much upkeep. Chamomile is believed to have calming properties, and the flowers can be used in a tea to help you sleep.

Feverfew

Feverfew, like chamomile, has small white blooms with yellow centers. It looks so much like chamomile that the two flowering herbs are often be mistaken for one another. It has many medicinal qualities and can be used to treat fevers, cramps, common colds, and even migraine headaches. All parts of the plant can be harvested to be used to help with these ailments.

Feverfew does well in the garden or in containers. It is happiest in partial to full sun and requires regular watering. The soil for feverfew should never be completely dry.

These beautiful herbs can add an array of blooms and colors to any herb garden, container garden, or flower garden. In the sea of green leaves that is usually associated with growing herbs, these plants offer a brighter variation. Their beauty combined with their usefulness makes them the perfect one-two punch for any gardener looking to create a visually stunning and practically beneficial garden to work in.

Shellie Elliott is a freelance writer and new mom based in Dallas, TX. She grew up gardening with her grandmother and has worked as a florist. She is currently obsessed with cacti and container gardening in small spaces.

Learn more about herbs:

How to grow rosemary

Essential herbs you should grow at home

How to grow feverfew

Growing yarrow

How to grow chamomile

How to grow chives

10 Ornamental Herbs

L – N O – R S – Z

Asparagus
Asparagus Officinalis
Hardy, summer perrenial. The new shoots are picked as they appear above ground. Plant in deeply trenched, composted, raised beds. Used in salads, stir-fry, raw or lightly steamed. Perennial. H:60cm W:50cm. 12cm, 17cm.

Basil – Columnar
Ocimum basilicum spp.
A very attractive and rewarding perennial basil. Highly aromatic leaves that can be used fresh in salads. Upright growth habit makes it neat and easy to grow. Frost sensitive. Shrub. H:60cm W:50cm. 12cm. 17cm.

Basil – ‘Pink’ Perennial
Ocimum basilicum spp.
Small mottled green very aromatic leaves with spikes of lilac flowers all summer. The leaves can be used in stews and soups. Bees love this basil. Semi-frost tender Shrub. H:60cm W:50cm. 12cm, 17cm.

Basil– ‘White’ Perennial.
Ocimum basilicum
Large, highly aromatic leaves with spikes of white flowers from early spring to late autumn. Leaves can be used in cooking wherever a basil taste is required. Its cold hardy nature will ensure the availability of basil right through winter. Shrub. H:80m W:80cm. 12cm, 17cm.

Basil– ‘Red Rubin’
Ocimum basilicum spp.
A very attractive plant with spicy scented deep purple oval leaves with clusters of pink flowers in summer. Use the leaves in salads, sauces and with pasta and rice dishes. Frost sensitive. Annual. H:50cm W:50cm. 12cm,17cm.

Basil– Sweet
Ocimum basilicum
Extremely aromatic soft mid green leaves make this the most popular Basil of all. The summer salad must. Pinch out the flowers to maintain bushy leafy growth. Very frost tender. Basils are gross feeders and need plenty of organic fertilizer. Annual. H:50cm W:45cm. 12cm, 17cm.

Bay leaf
Laures nobilis
An aromatic tree bearing shiny dark green leaves. inconspicuous yellowish flower in spring are followed by deep purple berries. The leaves dried or fresh, are used to flavour soups and stews. Also used to cook game and in pickling brines. Shrub. H:2m W:1m. 12cm, 17cm.

Bergamot
Monarda didyma
A shrub with dark ovate leaves with toothed margins. Bears beautiful pink-red flowers in summer. Attracts bees and is therefore a great companion to other insect pollinated herbs. Grow in compost rich soil and water well. Prune in late autumn. Semi-dormant in winter. Shrub. H:80cm W:80cm 12cm, 17cm.

Bulbinella
Bulbine frutescence (yellow and orange)
Succulent, clump forming plant ideal for rockeries, dry spots and dry shade under trees. Bears decorative yellow spikes all year. The juice from the leaves can be used to treat minor wounds and insect bites. Succulent. H:20cm W:10cm. 12cm,17cm.

Calendula officinalis
Beautiful, bright orange or yellow double daisy-like flowers in winter with slightly hairy, elongated oval, mid green leaves. The medicinal properties of calendula make it a must in any herb garden. The flower petals can be added to salads for great color. Annual. H:45cm W:30cm. 12cm, 17cm.

Cape Gooseberry
Physalis peruviana
Shrub with grey-green velvet leaves bearing orange, many seeded berries, encased in a paper bladder at the end of summer. The slightly tart fruit is used in cooking, preserves, jams, salads and fruit salads. Perennial. H:1m W:1m. 12cm, 17cm.

Cat Grass
Dactylus glomerata
A grass loved by cats, dogs, rabbits, and guinea pigs alike as a really good dietary supplement. Needs plenty of water and good drainage. Annual. H:20cmW:20cm. 12cm, 17cm.

Catmint
Nepeta mussinii’
Spreading plant with ovate heart shaped grey-green leaves, bearing small blue tubular flowers in whorls in summer Leaves can be used in teas and salads and the flowers for garnish. Perennial. H:30cm W:spread. 12cm, 17cm.

Catmint
Nepeta x faassenii ‘Alba’
Spreading plant with ovate, heart shaped grey-green leaves bearing small white tubular flowers in whorls in summer. Perennial H:30cm W:spread. 12cm, 17cm.

Catnip
Nepeta cataria
The number one herb for cats. They love to eat the leaves, making them playful and afterwards acting as a nourishing nerve tonic. Spreading plant with ovate, heart shaped grey-green leaves. Perennial. H:30cm W:spread. 12cm, 17cm.

Celery
Apium graveolens
This popular vegetable has erect, succulent, semicircular stems and bright green, aromatic leaves. If not cropped the plant will produce flowers and then seed. The stems and leaves are used in salads, stews and soups. The seed is used to make tea to relieve gout and airthritis. Annual. H:30cm W:20cm. 12cm, 17cm.

Chamomile German
Matricaria recutita
A low growing plant with fine green leaves and lovely white daisy flowers with deep yellow centers. It prefers well drained soil. The dried flowers are used to make a soothing, calming tea. A cool infusion can be used to soothe minor burns and eczema. Perennial.H:60cm W:40cm. 12cm, 17cm.

Chamomile Lawn
Anthemis nobilis
Apple scented low growing with fine foliage and flowers similar to that of German chamomile. Can be used to ‘lawn’ low traffic areas. The flowers are used as a tea tonic.cc. Ground cover. H10cm W:60cm. 12cm, 17cm.

Chervil
Anthriscus cerefolium
A small hardy herb that has a long cropping period. The parsley-like leaves have a delicate flavor of anise and parsley. When used in cooking it must be added at the end of the process in order to retain flovor. Annual. H:30cm W:20cm. 12cm, 17cm.

Chives
Allium schoenoprasum
Clump-forming from very small bulbs that send up hollow, tubular green leaves and globular heads of pale pink to purple blossoms. Fantastic companion plant with roses, grapes, carrots, tomatoes and fruit trees. Wonderful delicate onion flavor for salads and garnishes. Perennial. H:20cm W:20cm. 12cm, 17cm.

Chives– Garlic
Allium tuberosum
Clump forming from very small bulbs that send up hollow, flat green leaves and globular heads of pale pink to purple blossoms. Fantastic companion plant with roses, grapes, carrots tomatoes and fruit trees. Wonderful delicate onion/garlic flavor for salads and garnishes. Perennial. H:35cm W:30cm. 12cm, 17cm.

Chillies
Capsicum annuum var.
Chillies are easy and fun to grow. Heat intensity is the greatest when they reach their mature color, however they can be used when still green. Chillies are packed with antioxidants such as Vitamin A, C and E and other nutrients that protect cells from free-radical damage. Annual. H:various W:various. 12cm, 17cm.

Chillie:
Bird’s Eye – Malaga
Scoville scale – 8
Small yellow to red, slightly tapered fruit.

Chillie:
Cherry Bomb
Scoville scale – 8
Green to red, pendant, globular fruit.

Chillie:
Habanero
Scoville scale -10
Light green to orange, wrinkled fruit, tapering to a point.

Chillie:
Jalapeno
Scoville scale – 6
Uniform green to red fruit.

Chillie:
Thai dragon
Scoville scale -9
Light green dark red elongated fruit.

Chillie:
Cayenne Long Red
Scoville scale – 8
Long green to red slim fruit.

Chillie:
Serrano
Scoville scale – 8
Slim green red blocked-shaped fruit.

Comfrey
Symphytum officinale
A hardy, excellent foliage plant for the garden with lance shaped mid green leaves that are covered with slightly prickly hairs. Bears pink flowers in the summer. The leaves have medicinal properties. The leaves are a beneficial addition to the compost heap or infused as a liquid plant food. Perennial. H:60cm W:60cm. 12cm, 17cm.

Coriander
Coriandrum sativum
Quick growing, bright green plant with feathery leaves and clusters of pinkish flowers in summer. The leaves have a sage flavor with citrus overtones. The roots have a nutty flavor. Can be eaten fresh or used in cooking and the roots can be grated into sauces. Annual. H:50cm W:30cm. 12cm, 17cm.

Cotton Lavender
Santolina chamaecyparissus.
Grey, rounded and cushiony ground covering shrubs. The leaves give off a strong aroma when crushed. Button shaped yellow flowers appear in summer and make a striking contrast to the grey foliage. Dried leves can be used in pot pourii. Ideal hedging plant. Shrub. H:30cm W:40cm. 12cm, 17cm.

Curry Plant
Helichrysum italicum
Silver-grey leaves with distinct curry smell, with mustard yellow flowers in summer. Compact growth makes this plant ideal for edging. Can be used to add curry flavor to meat and fish dishes. Shrub. H:60cm W:40cm. 12cm, 17cm.

Dill
Anethum graveolens
Dill has a single tap root and long hollow stalks that produce feathery blue green leaves that branch at the top to bear 15cm wide clusters of yellow flowers in summer. The leaves have a pronounced tang and along with the seeds are used in a variety of dishes. Annual. H:1m W:0.5m. 12cm, 17cm.

Dog gone
Plectranthus neochilis.
Has thick round, succulent leaves with small hairs on the upper surface. Large spikes of mauve-blue flowers appear in summer. Dogs generally do not like the aroma released by the leaves when crushed. Plan where needed or pick the leaves and place where repellant is required. Annual H:40cm W:20cm. 12cm, 17cm.

Dog grass
Spartina pectinata.
Evergreen perennial, herbaceous, sterile rass that can be planted in containers or flower beds. Supplements the dogs minerals. Grass. H:40cm W:20cm. 12cm, 17cm.

Egg plant
Brinjal.
‘Black Beauty’- the trusted brinjal for taste and performance. Egg plants are easy to grow and very popular as a baked vegetable, in stir fries and various other dishes. Plant in compost rich soil and apply extra fertilizer during the flowering and fruiting period. Harvesting from early summer to late autumn. Annual. H:60cm W:60cm. 12cm, 17cm.

Fennel Bronze
Foeniculum vulgare ‘Rubrum’ purpureum
Very striking, bronze, fine feathery leaves. Umbells of small yellow flowers in summer followed by aromatic edible seeds. Used in pork and fish dishes and a great addition to salads. Medicinal uses. Perennial. H:1m W:0.6m. 12cm, 17cm.

Fennel Florence
Foeniculum vulgare dulce
A multi-branched herb with feather-like leaves and small yellow flowers borne on a large flat umbels in summer, followed by aromatic edible seeds. Used in pork and in fish dishes and a great addition to salads. Medicinal uses. Perennial. H:80cm W:80cm. 12cm, 17cm.

Feverfew
Tanacetum parthenium ‘Migraine Herb’
A dense, perennial flowering plant, that has aromatic, finely cut leaves and clusters of small daisy-like flowers in summer. A tea made from the leaves may relieve migraines and indigestion. Companion plant near fruit trees. Attract bees. Perennial. H:60cm W:30cm. 12cm, 17cm.

Fruit Salad Bush
Solanum muricatum
Will constantly bear egg-shaped fruits. The plant has a slightly drooping habit so needs to be supported. The fruit is apricot colored with purple marking when ripe. Can be used in salads, fruit salads and chutneys when completely ripe the green fruit is poisonous. Shrub. H:80cm W:50cm. 12cm, 17cm.

Globe Artichoke
Cynara scolymus
Besides being delicious to eat, this plant makes a handsome addition to the herbaceous border, with its silver grey thistle like leaves. The flower heads are the edible vegetable. Once it has finished flowering. Perennial. H1.5m W:1m. 12cm, 17cm.

Horse Radish
Armoracia rusticana
Clump forming plant with tall strong interesting leaves and white flowers in spring. The root is grated and made into a hot piquant sauce for meat.Medicinal uses. Perennial. H:10cm H:10cm. 12cm, 17cm.

The best flowering herbs
Herb flowers are generally small and delicate and that is their charm. Yet they still make a show when plants are massed in the garden or blooms are cut and bunched with other flowers for natural looking flower arrangements.

Herbal fragrances tend to be aromatic and this makes them useful for freshening rooms and cupboards too. By not being too sweet, their effect is not cloying or overpowering.

Gardeners, generally, don’t grow herbs for their beauty and fragrance, but if one considers these additional criteria, it adds inestimably to one’s pleasure in cultivating herbs. Herb flowers are particularly sought after by pollinators and that adds to the health of the garden and its fruitfulness.

A flip through any herb catalogue produces a surprisingly long list of herbs with lovely flowers and some, like the many lavenders and catmint, long ago escaped into the flower garden.

Best herbs for flowering borders
• Liquorice mint (Agastache) grows 1m high and is a woody-based perennial with soft blue flowers throughout summer into autumn. The leaves have a minty-anise fragrance and may be used in potpourri. It grows in full sun, in fertile well drained soil. In cold areas the plant dies down in winter.

• Feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium) is a medium high plant (60cm) and one of the most attractive flowering herbs because of its masses of white daisy like flowers and aromatic leaves. Feverfew can be grown as an annual or a perennial. It needs full sun and can grow in poor soil, as long as it drains well. It is drought tolerant. The leaves and flowers have are used to lower fever, and as a safe remedy for migraine and severe headaches as well as rheumatism.

Other medium high herbs (50 to 60cm) are pink and white perennial basil, Margaret Roberts lavender (mauve blue), and rosemary (blue or white).
• Catmint (Nepeta mussinii) is a low growing perennial with a height and spread of 30 to 60cm. Its soft grey-green foliage and profusion of spikes of mauve flowers makes it an excellent border plant. It can be trimmed throughout the season to keep it neat or if the centre falls open. It will re-grow and flower again. It multiplies quickly and clumps can be divided in spring and planted out. The leaves act as a tonic for cats and bees love the flowers which makes this an excellent plant for bee friendly gardens. The leaves can be used in teas and salads and the flowers for garnish.

Tips for using herbs as garden flowers
• Plant three of a variety together for impact, rather than sprinkle single plants throughout the bed.
• Perennial flowering herbs combine very well with other perennials that have similar requirements, such as daylilies, irises, and roses.
• For greater impact, opt for different hues of a single colour.
• Plant tall herbs at the back of a bed and shorter plants to the front.

Made for each other: Lavender and roses
This is a classic combination, even though roses need more water than lavender. Lavender won’t mind receiving as much water as the roses as long as the soil drains well, and only the base of the plant is watered, so that the foliage doesn’t get wet. This reduces fungus disease. Spacing the lavender for good air circulation also helps keep the foliage healthy.
Use lavender and rose petals to make pot pourri, and in fresh flower arrangements. Lavender flowers can also be dried, by hanging up bunches in a cool, dry room.
Tip: Dried lavender flowers that lose their scent can be revived by putting them in a steamy bathroom for a white or gently spraying them with water.

Best flowering herbs for the vase
• Bronze fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) is a tall herb (up to 1m) for planting at the back of a bed. Its bronze foliage and plate-sized yellow flowers provide contrast and texture. The flowers last well in the vase.
Bronze fennel needs full sun, well drained soil, and may die down in winter in colder areas. For organic gardeners the flowers act as a trap for beetles, which can simply be picked off by hand.

• Echinacea purpurea grows 1.2m high and produces large daisy-like pink or white flowers with a prominent central orange-brown cone on single strong stems in summer. It grows in full sun. In cold areas it will die down in winter.

• Lavandula dentata, stoechas or intermedia varieties (like Margaret Roberts’ lavender) vary in height, flower shape and colour and length of stem. The dentata varieties have the sturdiest flowers while the stoechas are the showiest. Margaret Roberts’ lavender is particularly good for drying.

Tip for long lasting flowers:
Lavender flowers last longer in a vase that is only a third full of water. Change water daily and keep flowers out of direct sunlight.

Best herbs for fragrance
Fragrance adds another dimension to the herb garden and multiplies the pleasure of growing herbs. Aromatic plants, like lavender, rosemary, lemon verbena and scented geraniums, need to be touched to release their fragrance so they can be used as borders, along paths, in containers, or next to benches where you can easily brush against them or rub the leaves with your fingers.

Rose Scented Geranium is an attractive, mediums sized bushy shrub that has small mauve flowers in summer. It is evergreen and frost tolerant. The leaves have a strong rose fragrance that can be added to bath water, infused as a mild astringent and included in potpourri and pillows for a relaxing and soothing lemon-rose fragrance.
It grows best in full sun but tolerates light shade. It grows easily in any soil that drains well and compost should be added before planting. It also performs well in a container.

Colour tips
• Use white Feverfew to highlight a pathway or use them as between one strong colour to another
• Yellow foliage such as golden oregano can be as effective as flowers in adding colour to a border.
• Use herbs with grey foliage (Artemisia, Dutch lavender, sage, Santolina) to soften stronger colours and give the garden a luminous quality on dull days.

How to Grow Your Own Herbs for Cooking

The next time a recipe calls for fresh basil, skip the poor substitute of dried basil, forgo the last-minute dash to the supermarket for some overpriced wilted basil, and just pluck a few tender leaves off of the basil plant you have growing in your very own herb garden. What? You don’t have fresh basil growing in your garden? Well, consider this your invitation to start.
Growing your own herbs is a simple and inexpensive undertaking that pays off big for your taste buds and your budget. If you can keep a houseplant alive, you can sustain an herb garden. Here’s how.

Decide what you want to grow.

Some popular choices from home cooks are listed here, along with their care instructions. Start with just a few that you know you’ll use regularly, and then branch out from there.

Herb Special Care How to Harvest How to Use
Basil Pinch off any flowers that appear. This preserves the plant’s flavor, and will also help increase the leaf density of each stem. Harvest the upper leaves first, taking just a few leaves from each stem at a time. Add raw to salads, sandwiches and wraps, cook into soups and sauces, chop and sprinkle on pizza, make pesto.
Parsley Parsley has a longer than average germination period of three to four weeks, so extra patience is required. Cut the outermost stalks just above ground level, which will encourage further growth. Both the leaves and stalks can be eaten in salads, soups and Mediterranean dishes like Tabouli.
Chives If you don’t intend to eat the flowers, pinch them off as soon as they begin to appear. Cut the leaves with scissors, starting with the outside leaves first, allowing about two inches of the leaves to remain. This entire plant can be eaten from top to bottom— the bulbs taste like mild onions, the leaves can be used in salads and other dishes, and even the flower heads can be tossed into salads.
Cilantro Cilantro does not like hot weather. If the soil temperature reaches 75 degrees, the plant will bolt and go to seed, making this a short-lived herb. Aggressive pruning will extend its life, so be ready to use or store it. Save the seeds to use in cooking (the seeds are called coriander) or to plant. There are two methods of harvesting cilantro. When the plant reaches about 6″ in height, you can remove the outer leaves with scissors, leaving the growing point intact for new growth. Or you can wait until the plant is almost completely grown and pull it from the soil by its roots to use the whole bunch at once. Salads, wraps, dips and many Mexican recipes.
Rosemary This plant can be difficult to start from seed, so you may wish to buy a mature plant. And be careful not to overwater—rosemary likes its soil on the dry side. Simply cut off pieces of the stem as you need it. Many culinary and even medicinal uses.
Thyme This plant can take a while to start from seed, so you may wish to buy a mature plant. Drought-tolerant thyme is extremely easy to care for, and prefers drier soils. Simply cut off pieces of the stem as needed. Often used to flavor meats, soups and stews.
Dill Drought-tolerant dill is extremely easy to care for, and prefers drier soils. Don’t start harvesting dill until it’s at least 12 inches tall, and never take more than one-third of the leaves at any one time. Great flavoring for fish, lamb, potatoes and peas.
Mint Mint is an invasive plant, so stick to container gardening. Pinch off sprigs as you need them. Mint is extremely versatile, and can be used in salads, desserts, drinks and many other recipes. You can even chew it by itself for a pleasant, refreshing flavor.

Decide where to plant your herbs.

Many herbs grow well indoors and outdoors in the ground or in containers. If you have a little space with at least five hours of direct sunlight a day, you may prefer to grow them indoors, as the herbs will be much more accessible for cooking and watering, and not subject to threats of pests, weeds or variations in temperature.

Decide whether you’ll start from seeds or seedlings.

Seedlings are very young plants that you can transplant into your own garden. They are typically only available in the spring and summer from gardening centers and farmers’ markets. Seeds cost less, but take more time and resources to grow from scratch.

Gather your materials.

You’ll need a few gardening tools, like a small shovel or spade, some gardening gloves and pots or containers (optional, since herbs can also be planted directly into the soil). You’ll also need some fertilized soil. If you have a compost pile, you can use some fully decomposed compost to fertilize the soil. Otherwise, you can use a general purpose compost solution, available in any gardening store. If you’re container gardening, use a packaged potting soil mix, which will be free of pests.

Start planting.

If you’re starting from seeds, sow into moist soil and cover with 1/2 inch of soil on top. The seeds should germinate in about one week. If you’re using a pot or container for seedlings, follow these steps.

  1. Ensure proper drainage by filling the pot with a shallow layer of course gravel.
  2. Fill the pot about halfway full and place the plant, still in its original container, into the new pot. Add dirt around the plant, gently packing it into place so the top of the new soil is at the same level as the top of the plant’s original soil.
  3. Remove the plastic pot, tap it so you can easily slide the plant and all of its soil out, and place the plant and all of its soil into the hole in the soil of the new pot.

Care for your plants.

Water at the base of the plant when the soil begins to feel dry, at least once per week. Pull weeds that appear near the plant, because they will steal the nutrients from the soil. If growing outdoors, bring them in before the first frost.

Harvest the herbs.

Most plants will grow new leaves if you don’t pick the stems bare. You can pick the leaves with your fingers or snip them with kitchen shears.

Use or store the herbs.

Many recipes call for fresh herbs, so simply pick your herbs, wash them and pat them dry before using in your favorite recipes. To store, you can preserve your herbs for future use by freezing them or drying them. In either case, you must first prep them. First, remove any soil or bugs by rinsing in cold water. Then, remove flowering stems and flowers and gently remove excess water by patting with a paper towel. Once your herbs are prepped, you can choose your method of storage:

  • Air drying: Cut the stems at soil level and hang upside down in bunches (so that the flavorful oil travels into the leaves) to dry for one to two weeks. Once dry, remove the leaves from the stems and store in a dry, airtight container for up to a year.
  • Freezing: The benefit of freezing, as opposed to drying, is that the herbs retain more of their just-picked flavor. Place clean herbs directly into freezer bags, or try the cube method: Place a few teaspoons of chopped, fresh herbs into each cell of an ice cube tray. Fill the trays with water, and freeze. When cooking, just pop out a cube and add it to the pot like you would fresh herbs!

Add that just-picked taste to your meals — even when snow is drifting up against the kitchen window — by growing herbs indoors all year long. You won’t even need special any special equipment as long as you give them plenty of water and sunshine.

How to Grow Herbs

As a general rule of (green) thumb, place your herbs in a spot that gets at least six hours of sun daily. To test the strength of sun, Bonnie Plants suggests that you turn off all lights on a sunny or partly sunny day, and periodically check to see how natural sunlight there is.

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In addition to sunlight, all herbs need to be planted in pots with good drainage. If you’re concerned that the drainage holes will ruin your tabletop or windowsill, use a saucer or liner to catch any excess water. For specifics on watering and sun exposure, follow this guide.

Basil

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Start basil from seeds and place the pots in a south-facing window; it likes lots of sun and warmth.

Bay

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It’s a perennial that does best using the container gardening method. Place the pot in an east- or west-facing window, but be sure it does not get crowded. Bay needs air circulation to remain healthy.

Chervil

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Start chervil seeds in late summer. This herb, also called French parsley, grows well in low light but needs temperatures between 65 degrees and 70 degrees to thrive.

Chives

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At the end of growing season, dig up a clump of chives from your garden and replant it in a pot. Leave the pot outside until the leaves die back. In early winter, move the pot to your coolest indoor spot (like your basement) for a few days. Then place it in your brightest window.

Oregano

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Your best bet is to start with a tip that has been cut from an outdoor oregano plant. Once you’ve then planted that tip in a pot, place it in a south-facing window.

Parsley

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You can start parsley from seeds or dig up a clump from your garden at the end of the season. Parsley likes full sun, but will grow slowly in an east- or west-facing window.

Rosemary

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Start with a cutting of rosemary and keep it in a moist soilless mix until it roots. It grows best in a south-facing window. Expect your kitchen to smell fresh throughout the cooler seasons thanks to the pungent scent of this herb — it acts like a natural air freshener!

Sage

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Take a tip that was cut from an outdoor plant to start an indoor sage plant. It tolerates dry, indoor air well, but it needs the strong sun from a south-facing window.

Tarragon

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A dormant period in late fall or early winter is essential for tarragon to grow indoors. Pot a mature plant from your outdoor garden and leave it outside until the leaves die back. Bring it to your coolest indoor spot for a few days, then place it in a south-facing window for as much sun as possible. Feed well with a liquid fertilizer.

Thyme

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You can start thyme indoors by either rooting a soft tip that was cut from an outdoor plant or digging up and repotting the entire thing. Thyme likes full sun but will grow in an east- or west-facing window.

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How To Start An Herb Garden

Herbs are very easy to grow with a little sunshine, soil that drains well, some watering, and a little fertilizer or compost. Herbs can be grown in pots; however, the plants always prefer to be in the ground where they can spread out. Some plants grow quite large (4-6 feet), and when placed in pots they can become stunted and can get stressed, which causes them to be very unhappy.

Main Thing Necessary To Grow Herbs is to Put Them in The Right Place

The main requirement for growing Herbs is growing them in the proper location. Most prefer full sun as long as regular summer temperatures don’t rise above 90 degrees. If you have very warm summers, then consider planting in and area that gets morning sun and afternoon shade in the summertime, or a place that receives filtered light (such as under a tree that allows some light to pass through). Check the area several times during the day to make sure that there are at least four hours of sun. (e.g., 8 to 12, 12 to 4, or from 9 to 11 and 2 to 4)

Planting Herbs

For planting Herbs, you need approximately 1 to 4 feet in diameter for each plant, depending on the plant. Here are some general guidelines for plant sizes:

  • 3-4 feet – Rosemary, Sage, Mints, Oregano, Marjoram
  • 2 feet – Basils, Thyme, Tarragon, Savory
  • 1 foot – Cilantro, Chives, Dill, Parsley

Prepare The Soil

Next, you need to prepare the soil. Digging with a large garden fork loosens soil that has become compacted over the years. This allows water to drain and creates space for plant roots to reach down into the soil. This is the most important step–shortcuts here are disastrous for your plants. Adding compost to your soil, about an inch or so on top and then mixing it into the soil, helps prevent drainage problems and adds fertilizer to the garden.

The Final Step is to Plant Healthy, Strong Plants and Water Them As They Get Dry

The final step is to plant healthy, strong plants and water them when they become dry. Most Herbs like to be watered as soon as the soil located a couple of inches below the surface is dry to the touch. Since temperatures and humidity cause drying times to vary every week, you must check the soil often. Do not over-water. More water is not better and can lead to diseases or just poor growing conditions for your Herbs, which will result in reduced growth.

Harvesting

For harvesting, you simply cut off about 1/3 of the branches when the plant reaches at least 6-8″ tall. By cutting close to a leaf intersection, your plants will regrow very quickly. Some plants, such as parsley, grow new leaves from their center. In this case the oldest branches need to be completely removed, leaving the new tiny branches growing from the center. This becomes clearer as you watch your plants grow and mature.

Herb Gardening in Containers

Herbs are much easier to grow than many houseplants. All you need is a sunny, warm place and containers large enough for your plants to grow. Sunny decks, patios, and other such areas are great for container gardening. By growing Herbs in containers, you save yourself the difficulty of digging that starting a garden plot requires.

However, if you are lucky enough to have a great location for a garden, and you like to work outdoors, remember that your plants always prefer to be in the ground. Some plants grow quite large and do much better in the ground for that reason alone. Container gardening requires diligent watering and regular feeding, but it can be easy and fun.

The Main Things You Will Need Are:

  • Large Pots (clay or plastic) 8″ to 18″ in diameter (It is a good idea to combine several herbs that have the same watering requirements into a single container)
  • Good Potting Soil (enough to fill your pots)
  • Plant fertilizer (Organic herb or vegetable fertilizer is recommended)
  • Watering Can or Hose

For planting Herbs, you need to allow for at least 8″ in diameter for each plant. Later you may want to transplant to larger pots because the Herbs will outgrow their pots over time. (Basils can grow to over 2 1/2 feet high.)

First, prepare your container by filling it with good potting soil and add fertilizer according to the directions on the package for herbs or for most vegetables. Moisten the potting soil by mixing in water until the soil feels damp all the way through. Place the pot on a saucer, if you need to protect your deck or table, and you are ready to plant.

Next, dig holes large enough for each plant. Release the plants from their starter containers by turning them upside down, tapping the bottom, and gently pulling on the base of the stems until the plant comes out of the container. Place the plant in the hole and gently press soil around the edges to fill. Water the plant immediately after planting; afterward, water them only when the soil gets dry to the touch. Over-watering can be just as bad for Herbs as under-watering.

Plants should get at least four hours of sunshine per day (certain plants appreciate a bit of shade in the hot summer months during the afternoon hours). They can grow with less sunshine, but they will not grow as well. For harvesting, you simply cut off about 1/3 of the branches when the plant reaches at least 6-8″ tall. By cutting close to a leaf intersection your plants will regrow very quickly.

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