How to Start an Herb Garden


A lot of people ask me how to get started gardening. To be honest, one of the most rewarding and impactful ways to gain experience is to start an herb garden! There’s nothing quite like dashing outside real quick to snip some fresh herbs for dinner. Herbs can be harvested as you need them from the garden, as opposed to buying a bunch at the market and needing to store them properly. Read on for tips on how to choose herbs to grow and how to plant them.

Fun fact, I believe the very first herb I ever planted here was rosemary. It was in a medium-sized terra cotta pot, and I had purchased the plant at my local nursery. To this day, that same rosemary is now planted in our front yard and is a 3-4 foot tall bush! After rosemary, basil and mint and chives soon followed—and you know the rest!

If you’d like to learn all the basics of growing herbs and how to start your own herb garden, subscribe to my free newsletter! All subscribers have access to my Basic Guide to Growing Herbs PDF, and of course you’ll get friendly garden reminders from me throughout the seasons.

Why You Should Start an Herb Garden

Herbs are the perfect place to start if you are a beginning gardener, but I also want to add that herbs are actually just as vital to advanced gardeners, cooking enthusiasts, tea drinkers, natural living enthusiasts, and more! 

Growing herbs can:

Save you money. Have you ever paid $5 for a bundle of herbs at the grocery store only to find that you need a teaspoon for your recipe? Starting an herb garden lets you snip herbs as needed and minimizes waste.

Take up minimal space. Herbs do not require much space to grow. In fact, you cna start an herb garden in pots, on a balcony, and even indoors on a sunny windowsill.

Easily provide you with flavor for years. Many herbs are perennials or easy to propagate from cuttings—this means that you typically can buy seeds or a starter plant ONCE and then have herbs for years!

Take your food to the next level. Cooking with fresh herbs will change your life.

Where can I buy herb seeds or plants?

You might ask yourself ‘should I start an herb garden from seed or buy plants?’ First, you want to know what herbs are best grown in the warmer months (Summer/Fall) and what herbs are cool season herbs (Winter/Spring). For example, basil is a wonderful heat-loving herb that would not be suitable for growing in cold weather. In fact, most herbs will grow during your warmer months—basil, oregano, rosemary, sage, mint, thyme, tarragon—but it’s good to know which herbs are best in what season. Alternatively, there are some herbs that do well in our mild winters, and you can view a list of those cold hardy annual herbs HERE.

Secondly, there are some benefits to visiting a nursery before you start an herb garden. To continue what I was saying above, you’ll be able to see what herbs are currently in season in your area. Also, some herbs are best to buy at a nursery instead of starting from seed, so check out 5 Herbs to NOT Grow From Seed for my recommendations.

Lastly, if you decide to start an herb garden from seed, make sure you purchase your seeds from dependable businesses/sources. You can view a full list of my favorite seed sources on my Where I Buy Seeds page.

Annual Versus Perennial Herbs

You’ll learn more about this in my guide, but understanding the basic difference between these herbs will help you choose a location, decide if you’re buying seeds, and be better prepared overall. Annual herbs are herbs that live for one growing season. As the season progresses, these herbs will grow and eventually flower, develop seeds, and die. In general, you’ll have to re-plant annual herbs each year. On the other hand, perennial herbs will go through slightly the same growth cycle, but they can remain in the garden to re-grow the following year again!

More often than not,  annual herbs are more tender (like basil) while perennial herbs have woodier stems (like rosemary). When growing any plant, it can be helpful to know whether that plant is an annual or perennial so you can understand what kind of maintenance it might need over time. 

Choosing A Location to Grow Herbs

Most herbs will flourish in full sun. While some herbs (like mint) will tolerate partial sun, you’ll get the most growth and lush foliage if you plant your herbs in a sunny location. You can view a list of more shade-tolerant/partial sun herbs in my free guide. PS: don’t plant mint in the ground. It will become invasive and impossible to get rid of!

Herbs are the perfect candidates for containers, pots, and smaller spaces. Especially in areas with colder winters, you can actually overwinter a lot of perennial herbs by growing them in a moveable container that can come inside during the cold months.

In my personal opinion, growing in containers or in raised beds is more beginner-friendly because you’ll be able to control the soil health. For example, you can simply buy pre-made potting soil for containers or raised bed mix for raised beds.

Lastly, if you are growing perennial herbs, think about their location in a more permanent sense—remember, perennial herbs will return each year! Personally, I love the giant rosemary bush in my front yard, the tarragon I have planted under my apple trees, and the silvery foliage of the culinary sage in my rose garden. I’ve given all of those herbs more permanent space to grow in the garden and they have rewarded me with years of delicious harvests!

Planting & Growing Herbs

Once you’ve taken what I’ve written above into consideration, it’s time to plant your herbs and start an herb garden! If you’ve chosen to start your herbs from seed, check out my Seed Starting Basics for a step-by-step guide. As you know, starting from seed will take longer than simply planting plants from a nursery. 

If you’ve purchased your herbs from a nursery, you can transplant them in the garden and get ready to watch them grow! To transplant, simply dig a hole in your soil that’s large enough for the plant and place it in the middle. Gently cover the roots with soil and firm gently around the base with your hands. It’s optional, but you can sprinkled a little all-purpose organic vegetable fertilizer in the planting hole as you go. 

Always water your plants thoroughly after transplanting!

Harvesting Your Homegrown Herbs

As your herbs are growing, there are some helpful things to keep in mind. First, herbs will grow more if you harvest and cut them! Cutting herbs will encourage the plant to put off more growth. After you perform your first harvest, observe where the plant starts to push new growth. Soon, you’ll be familiar with the growth habit of each herb you are growing.

Second, some herbs are harvsted for their foliage (like basil) while others are harvested for their flowers (like lavender or chamomile). In most cases, for herbs that are grown for their foliage, you don’t want them to flower too soon. This is called “going to flower” and it can change the flavor of the foliage/leaves. If you don’t know much about the herb you are growing, it’s definitely worth an online search to learn more about it’s uses and ideal harvesting window.

Lastly, a lot of gardeners will say to never harvest or cut more than 1/3 of your plant. This is a good general guideline, because harvesting too much can shock the plant!

Water Requirements for Herbs

Honestly, watering will be variable depending on the herbs you are growing. For example, herbs like rosemary and lavender are more “drought-tolerant” or mediterranean herbs. They don’t want as much water as tender herbs like basil.

In general, after first planting your herbs, they will need evenly moist soil to overcome any transplant shock and adjust to their new space—don’t let them completely dry out. Afterwards, you can taper off watering based on the specific herbs you are growing. Furthermore, more established plants tend to have larger and deeper root zones, so they will need less frequent waterings. As you can see, watering can be variable depending on the growth stage of your herbs too.

For more growing tips, you can check out my the Basic Herb Growing Guide or leave a coment below!

Are you ready to start an herb garden?

All my subscribers get a FREE copy of my Basic Herb Growing Guide. I created this guide to help people get started growing their own herbs, but guess what? It also has information for gardeners of all levels! Some of the things covered in the guide are:

♦The basic soil, sun, and water requirements to grow herbs.

♦How to decide which herbs to purchase or grow from seed.

♦The difference between perennial herbs and annual herbs.

♦Recommendations for types of herbs to grow depending on your needs (how to grow what you love to eat!).

Other specific herb grow guides

Over the years, I’ve written about some specific herbs in my garden. See below for links to those posts:

5 Herbs to NOT Grow From Seed

Cool Season Annual Herbs for Southern California

Tips for Growing Better Cilantro

Growing Chamomile in the Garden

How to Grow, Harvest, and Use Lemongrass

Meet Randi

Urban gardening is my jam. I’m Randi, California girl who obsessively gardens to grow food and flowers around my urban home. Seasonal, simple living is what inspires me~ I hope it will inspire you too. Join me in crafting a life and home connected to the garden Read More>>>>

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