10 Easy Herbs to Grow in Your Garden
Why herb gardening is very popular
Herb gardening has become very popular in recent years, and when preparing food many people enjoy adding fresh herbs that they have cultivated themselves. Leaves that have been just picked from a plant are so much better than dried herbs and there’s a very good feeling that comes from having grown the plants yourself.
Many herbs can be started off from seed or cuttings and of course you can cheat by buying ones in pots that have already been grown. Garden centers and nurseries often sell popular types including sage, basil, chives, parsley, rosemary, mint, thyme, and lavender. You can get seeds easily enough too by searching on the Internet and another way to get plants is to ask friends for cuttings or small plants.
If you don’t have a garden it shouldn’t stop you growing herbs because many types can be grown in pots or window-boxes.
Let us look at 10 of the most commonly grown herbs. These are all plants that can be used in the kitchen but many have medicinal properties as well.
Sage (Salvia officinalis) is an herb that grows well from cuttings and forms quite large clumps or small bushes over time. It is a perennial and very hardy but likes a lot of sun to bring out the best in its very aromatic foliage.
Sage is used in stuffings, with cooked meat dishes and in Mediterranean cookery. It also has antiseptic and antibacterial properties and can be used to make a gargle or mouthwash.
There are many other varieties and species of sage that can be grown including purple sage and pineapple sage.
Given a damp and fertile soil, mint (Mentha spicata) can grow so well that it invades areas you want for other plants. It spreads underground so needs something to confine it unless you don’t mind it wandering out of the area you planted it in.
Because of its growing habit, mint is easily propagated from cuttings and division of established plants. Like with sage there are very many species and varieties of mint that can be grown. Some are more easily cultivated than others.
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Common thyme (Thymus vulgaris) is, as its name suggests, very commonly grown. It forms clumps of stems covered in tiny aromatic foliage. It never reaches much higher than 12 inches in height and is good for growing in pots and containers.
There are many species of thyme but all do best in a well-drained soil with plenty of sunlight. It is usually propagated by cuttings or layering but can be grown from seed.
Common thyme is very popular as a fresh or dried herb that can be added to soups, stews and casseroles.
Parsley (Petroselinum crispum) is a frost-hardy biennial but is often cultivated as an annual plant because it is the leaves that are wanted not the flowers. It is grown from seed and does best when planted in some form of container and likes a well-drained soil and plenty of light.
Parsley makes a wonderful garnish and is a great ingredient for use in stuffings, sauces, savory butter and a wide variety of dishes. It is very nutritious and contains plenty of Vitamin A and C.
Chives (Allium schoenoprasum) are a member of the onion tribe. They are grown for their leaves which are cut and added fresh to salads, soups and sauces, or make a great ingredient for cheese sandwiches.
Chives grow in clumps and are propagated by division. It is a relatively small plant and is another that is idea for growing in pots or window-boxes.
Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) can form bushes up to 2 meters in height and needs space to do so. It is a hardy and evergreen shrub with highly aromatic foliage. It is usually grown from cuttings which are easy to root and likes well-drained compost and a sunny location.
Rosemary is used as a flavoring for meat dishes and for soups and casseroles. The dried leaves can be added to pot-pourri because of their fragrance and infusions of the herb make an excellent hair rinse.
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Basil (Ocimum basilicum) is usually bought already growing in pots but it comes easily enough from seed too. It likes some warmth and is originally from India.
Basil is an annual plant that grows in summer and will not survive the cold of winter. It is ideal as a plant to grow in containers on a terrace or in a window-box. It doesn’t need a lot of space but does need warmth and sunlight to be at its best.
There are several varieties of basil that are on sale, including “Dark Opal” and “Purple Ruffles.“
Its aromatic leaves are best used fresh and are added to Mediterranean dishes and is very good with pasta sauces or in pizza toppings. Basil’s flavor goes very well with anything in which tomatoes are used.
Growing Cilantro leaves
Cilantro or Coriander
Coriander (Coriandrum sativum) is often called cilantro these days. It is a delicate annual plant that grows very easily from seed and is another herb that is perfect for cultivation in pots and containers.
Coriander’s feathery aromatic foliage and pungent but spicy seeds are used in curries, pickles, chutneys and a wide variety of dishes to which they impart their unique flavor.
Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) is an ideal plant for the herb garden. It is perennial and hardy and forms clumps that will grow back year after year. Lemon balm can be propagated from seed or by division.
It is grown for the delightful fragrance of the lightly crushed leaves and is added fresh to salads, soups and many other dishes where a hint of lemon would be desirable. Made into an infusion it is a wonderful herb tea that relaxes and is good for the digestive system.
Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) is a hardy perennial shrub that is one for the herb garden but too big for window-boxes, though could be grown in a large pot on a terrace. Lavender is mainly grown for its pretty purplish-blue flowers and its wonderful scent.
It is usually grown from cuttings and likes a well-drained soil and sunny position. It can be easily bought from garden centers and nurseries.
Dried lavender flowers are used in pot-pourri and put into sachets to scent clothes.
Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) is a tall perennial plant and much too big for anywhere but the back of a border in a herb garden. It forms large clumps and when in flower can reach 2 meters or more in height.
Fennel is grown easily from seed or by division of clumps. It is a hardy plant and will grow back every year after its dormant period in winter once you have it going well.
Fennel has delicate foliage that has a strong smell of aniseed and it bears umbels of small yellowish flowers that develop into brown seeds. The leaves and seeds are the parts most used in cooking.
Fennel is good in curries and sauces for oily fish, the raw leaves are good in salads and the seeds make an excellent herbal tea that is very good for digestive troubles.
This has been just a short look at herbs and herb gardening and of course there are very many more. There are many excellent books about herbs and these plants make a really fascinating subject to study.
They are also very useful plants to grow. Happy herb gardening!
© 2013 Steve Andrews
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