Creating Your First Herb Garden: Picking the Right Herbs

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by on March 27, 2013

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Having fresh herbs on hand is a delicious way I like to spice up my cooking at home. I make sure I always have a variety of herbs on hand without breaking the bank by keeping my own container garden. Even if you are a beginning gardener, there are plenty of herbs that are easy to grow and have a lot of uses in the kitchen.

These ten herbs are all hardy enough that you don’t need to have a green thumb to grow them, and they can be used in tons of exciting dishes.

Basil

The dark green, aromatic basil plant originally hales from Italy. Once one of these plants has taken root in your garden, it can tolerate quite a bit of accidental mistreatment, making it a perfect herb for beginners. It can tough out periods of draught and overwatering, and it’s a good herb to grow in a container with other varieties since it won’t choke them out.

Rosemary

Rosemary is a love it or hate it kind of herb. When it ripens it has a strong smell which puts some growers off. Others, however, can’t get enough of it. Rosemary likes a hot, dry climate and it can endure quite a bit of under watering.

Thyme

Thyme and basil can share a container or garden plot easily. They are both annual herbs, both thrive in sun and shade, and both need the same moderate amount of watering. They also taste great when combined to season a spaghetti sauce or other Italian dish.

Mint

Mint is a fast growing herb that may overtake a garden unless confined to its own container. Even if you plan to grow your herb garden outside, set aside a separate pot if you plan on growing mint. This herb is not quite as versatile as some others, but it’s the perfect seasoning for shellfish and lamb.

Garlic

Garlic doesn’t get mentioned as often when discussing herb gardens, but it has a lot to recommend it to first time growers. First and foremost, garlic tastes great with practically everything. If you bring in a good harvest of fresh garlic, you may find yourself using it for every meal. Secondly, garlic is easy to store, and cloves with the skin still on them can be safely kept for six to nine months. Lastly, garlic is an annual herb, but it’s easy to reseed every year simply by setting a few of the cloves you harvested aside for growing.

Cilantro

Cilantro is one of my personal favorite herbs. When ripe it smells great, and the delicate fringed leaves are pretty to look at. It’s a staple of many South American and Asian cooking styles, so you’re sure to find plenty of recipes that call for it. Keep in mind that cilantro has a deep root system, so plant it in a container that’s at least 12 inches deep.

Tarragon

This French herb has a good pedigree. Classical cookbooks recommend it for seasoning fish and chicken especially, though canny cooks will find plenty of uses for its bold flavor. Depending on the climate where you live, it may be difficult to grow from a seed. If you are having trouble with your tarragon plants, try transplanting seedlings instead. This herb is a perennial, which means that it goes dormant in winter but returns the following spring.

Lavender

This mild herb is so pretty you may almost not want to eat it. Perhaps for this reason it is only relatively recently that lavender has begun to make its way into the kitchen. Most recipes call for the tiny petals of the flower to be used. They add a slightly sweet flavor to fish and red meat stews. Lavender is also becoming a common baking ingredient. It can be used to add a unique touch to cakes and other confections.

Oregano

Oregano is another versatile herb that shows up frequently in Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cooking. This herb likes it hot and dry, so make sure to plant it where it will get plenty of direct sunlight. Like garlic, oregano keeps for a long time after it’s been harvested, and its flavor only increases over time.

Lemon verbena

Like the name implies, this herb adds a touch of lemon flavor to any recipe in which it is included. While overcooking tends to damage lemon verbena’s delicate flavor, it makes for a great addition to salad dressings, marinades, or herbal teas. Skip the fertilizer when planting lemon verbena. This plant actually prefers fewer nutrients in the soil.

Lauren Hill is an avid gardener and writer for The Growers Exchange, an online gardening company offering a full line of potted plants and gardening accessories.  Image courtesy of franky242 / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

You may also enjoy:

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