Easy Herbs for Beginning Gardeners

6 Herbs That Are Simple to Grow

Thymus vulgaris, common thyme, is an easy culinary herb to grow.
Thymus vulgaris, common thyme, is an easy culinary herb to grow. | Source
Thymus serpyllum, creeping thyme, is a decorative herb often used in rock gardens and as a weed-suppressing ground cover.
Thymus serpyllum, creeping thyme, is a decorative herb often used in rock gardens and as a weed-suppressing ground cover. | Source

THYME (Thymus)

Perennial Herb

Approximately 100 species belong to the genus Thymus, an herb notable for its small leaves, tiny blossoms and pleasing scent. Thyme plants come in many colors, from silvery green to almost chartreuse. Some are even variegated.

Common thyme, Thymus vulgaris, is one of the two most frequently grown groups of thyme. While T. vulgaris plants are culinary herbs, thyme plants in the other most common group, Thymus serpyllum (sometimes called mother of thyme or wild thyme) are creeping herbs often used in rock gardens and as ground covers. Although common thyme does not creep, it is also a relatively low-growing plant.

500 Seeds, Thyme Herb (Thymus vulgaris) Seeds By Seed Needs
500 Seeds, Thyme Herb (Thymus vulgaris) Seeds By Seed Needs

Thymus vulgaris is the common thyme used in cooking.

 

Common thyme and wild thyme are both easy to grow.

Plant thyme in full sun for best results. During the growing season, the herb prefers six or more hours of sunlight per day. Like all herbs, it grows best in well-drained soil.

Grower's Tip: When thyme is actively growing, feed it with a slow-acting fertilizer such as horse manure or diluted fish emulsion.


Like thyme, chives has many culinary uses, making it a handy herb for kitchen gardens.
Like thyme, chives has many culinary uses, making it a handy herb for kitchen gardens. | Source

CHIVES (Allium schoenoprasum)

Perennial Herb

Chives are probably one of the best choices for novice herb gardeners. Not only do they grow quickly, but they're extremely hardy, compact and easy to propagate--perfect for a windowsill garden or small herb plot.

Chives perform best when grown in full sun. They prefer moist soil and, like all herbs, require good drainage.

Whole chive blossoms add flavor and beauty to bottles of vinegar and oil.
Whole chive blossoms add flavor and beauty to bottles of vinegar and oil. | Source
If left unsnipped, chives will develop flower heads and go to seed.
If left unsnipped, chives will develop flower heads and go to seed. | Source

Chives grow in clumps from small white fleshy roots (bulbets). Although some varieties of chives grow up to a foot tall, most reach heights of only 6-9 inches in clumps approximately 6 inches in diameter.

The easiest way to propagate chives is to separate the bulbets of a large chive plant either in the spring or fall, and then replant the bulbets in clusters of three or four.

To use chives, harvest the leaves and flowers. Chopped chives leaves have a mild onion flavor and are delicious in many vegetable dishes. You can also sprinkle chopped chives on soups and salads, or use the leaves whole to tie up bouquet garnis and bundles of sliced vegetables. Chive flowers add flavor and beauty to vinegar. They also make pretty additions to tussie mussies and other floral arrangements.

After repeated harvesting, fertilize your chive plants. A solution of diluted fish emulsion works well.

Grower's Tip: Rows of chives make a neat border along walkways, vegetable gardens and herb gardens. Plant chives near roses and around apple trees to ward off black spot and scab.

Peppermint (Mentha peperita)

Peppermint's sweet, invigorating scent makes it a delight to cultivate.
Peppermint's sweet, invigorating scent makes it a delight to cultivate. | Source
Lemon Mint
Lemon Mint | Source
Chocolate Mint
Chocolate Mint | Source
Apple Mint
Apple Mint | Source

PEPPERMINT

Perennial Herb

If you're interested in growing mint, there are many from which to choose.

One the strongest flavored, most highly aromatic mints is peppermint (Mentha peperita). Fresh peppermint leaves may be harvested for homemade jellies and teas, or used as garnishes for drinks and desserts.

Members of the Mentha family are aggressive growers. For peppermint plants to really flourish, however, they require rich, well-watered soil and 5 to 8 hours of sunlight per day. You'll know when peppermint plants need to be fertilized. In inadequately rich soil, their deep green leaves will begin to yellow.

Because peppermint spreads by shallow, creeping roots (runners) it's easy to propagate through division. Simply pull up a runner and snip off a section, making sure that it includes at least one joint. When the root section is planted, shoots will develop from each joint.

Spearmint (Mentha spicata) is another aromatic, strongly flavored herb that shares peppermint's love of rich soil and full sun.

Comparable fun mints to grow include chocolate mint, lemon mint, grapefruit mint, orange mint, apple mint and pineapple mint.

To keep these mints from becoming invasive, grow them in pots. In flowerbeds and herb gardens, plant mint inside ceramic tiles or bottomless pots buried in the ground. Tiles and pots won't contain mint plants, but they will slow them down--at least a little bit.

Mint Plants - Live Herb Plants - Five Different: Candy Mint, Chocolate Mint, French Peppermint, Wintergreen Mint and Swiss Mint
Mint Plants - Live Herb Plants - Five Different: Candy Mint, Chocolate Mint, French Peppermint, Wintergreen Mint and Swiss Mint

Fill a strawberry pot with a collection of similar mints. It's a fun display for the kitchen or patio.

 

Grower's Tip: I enjoy growing mint in flowerbeds as a ground cover. It spreads quickly, keeps down weeds and, at least for me, is a pleasure to control.

Every once in a while, so that mint plants don't take over the beds, I trim them and pull up runners.

As with all herbs, harvesting and pruning mint plants makes them healthier. And oh, the wonderful aroma that fills the air as I yank mint runners out of the ground. Believe me, cutting back mint plants and ripping up aromatic roots is much more pleasant than pulling weeds!

Outsidepride Catmint Blue - 1000 Seeds
Outsidepride Catmint Blue - 1000 Seeds

Cats like to eat it & roll in it.

 

CATMINT or CATNIP (Nepeta cataria)

Perennial Herb

Catmint is another easy-to-grow member of the Mentha family. Cultivate it for its soft,gray-green leaves and purple-blue blossoms. Or, grow it for your feline friends. Nepeta cataria, also known as catnip, does just as well in a pot as it does in a bed.

Catmint or Catnip (Nepeta cataria)
Catmint or Catnip (Nepeta cataria) | Source
Walkers Low Catnip (Nepeta 'Walker's Low')
Walkers Low Catnip (Nepeta 'Walker's Low')

A particularly pretty, drought-resistant species of Nepeta that can be used as a ground cover.

 

Most varieties grow best in full sun and moist soil. One notable exception is 'Walkers Low,' a low-growing catmint that may be used as a ground cover in dry, poor soil areas.

Although my cat prefers munching Nepeta cataria (or even chives!) to eating Nepeta 'Walkers Low,' it does make an extremely hardy and drought-tolerant ground cover. In fact, members of the Perennial Plant Association voted 'Walkers Low' Perennial Plant of the Year in 2007.

Grower's Tip: Cut catmint back after it blooms in spring for a second blooming in the summer.

DILL (Anethum graveolens)

Annual Herb

Dill is as easy to grow as it is to use. If you grow dill, you'll find many daily uses for it. Add dill leaves to salads, sprinkle them over baked fish or stir them into rice. They add a refreshingly tart taste to many dishes. If you grow cucumbers, dill will really come in handy as pickling recipes ordinarily call for dill seeds.

So long as they have good drainage and full sun, dill plants grow well in both beds and pots. They also look quite striking in herbaceous borders.

ADEQUATE DRAINAGE

Herbs are susceptible to root rot & need soil that drains well.

To improve drainage in the garden, add compost to soil. To assure that potted herbs drain well, line the bottoms of herb pots with pebbles before planting or select pots with drainage holes.

Grower's Tip: Although dill is an annual herb, it may reseed itself. If not, either purchase or collect dill seeds and sow them directly outside in the fall or early spring.

Dill seeds can easily be sown indoors as well. No need to start them in peat pots or cells. In March or April, simply scatter them into the pots you plan to use for them. Be sure to thin dill seedlings well, ultimately choosing one to two plants per pot.



LEMON BALM (Melissa officinalis)

Perennial Herb

Lemon Balm is another herb that's extremely easy to grow. It reaches heights of two feet or more, and has wrinkly leaves that range in color from light to deep green. Its small, yellow flowers, which bloom in spring and summer, attract bees, while its lemony scent repels other flying pests.

Although it does well in either full sun or part shade, lemon balm prefers moist soil to dry. Its one major requirement? Lemon balm must have good drainage. Like all herbs, it's prone to root rot if grown in soggy soil.

Keeping these few requirements in mind, beginning gardeners should have no trouble getting lemon balm to grow.

Grower's tip: A member of the Mentha family, lemon balm is an aggressive grower that can overpower a flowerbed with its towering height and fast-growing runners. For this reason, it makes a good potted herb, either indoors or out.

Source

About the Author

The Dirt Farmer has been an active gardener for over 30 years.

She first began gardening as a child alongside her grandfather on her parents' farm.

Today, The Dirt Farmer gardens at home, volunteers at community gardens and continues to learn about gardening through the MD Master Gardener program.

More by this Author


Comments 16 comments

The Dirt Farmer profile image

The Dirt Farmer 2 years ago from United States Author

Hi KL. It's a little tricky here; in fact, we lost a big rosemary shrub this winter, but in Mediterranean climates it must be easy to grow. Thanks for commenting!


KL Klein profile image

KL Klein 2 years ago from California

Good list. :) Rosemary might be a good addition too -- not sure how it grows in other places, but where I am people make it into hedges, so it must be pretty hardy!


The Dirt Farmer profile image

The Dirt Farmer 4 years ago from United States Author

Hi Msmillar! Yes, the great smell of herbs is one of the best reasons for growing them. Thanks for commenting!


Msmillar profile image

Msmillar 4 years ago from Valley Springs

This is great! Thank you for sharing! We have thyme growing out front and I just love the fragrance.


The Dirt Farmer profile image

The Dirt Farmer 4 years ago from United States Author

@ carol7777 -- Doh! I should have included oregano! Maybe I'll add it later. As for lavender, it's native to the Mediterranean and can do well in poor, dry rocky soil. If you decide to grow it, beware: some lavenders are biennials. Thanks for commenting, Carol. I love to read cookbooks & am enjoying your recipe hubs. Although I don't always leave a message, I definitely read them & vote. Your recipe for mixed greens & chicken is great.

http://hubpages.com/food/Mixed-Greens-with-Chicken...

Mixed greens are hard to cook so that they're both good tasting AND healthy.

Take it easy!

Jill


carol7777 profile image

carol7777 4 years ago from Arizona

I have studied and written about herbs and I know there is so much therapeutic value to many of them. We grew Oregano which took off on its own with no help. Besides tasting great it is good for health. I have seen lemon balm but never have bought the herb. I love fresh basil. I would love to grow lavender...Does it do well in a dry climate?


The Dirt Farmer profile image

The Dirt Farmer 4 years ago from United States Author

dghbrh -- Hope you do. Herbs are very pleasant plants to work with. Thanks for stopping by! TDF


dghbrh profile image

dghbrh 4 years ago from ...... a place beyond now and beyond here !!!

very useful hub ...... i will sure like try out...voted up and shared.


The Dirt Farmer profile image

The Dirt Farmer 4 years ago from United States Author

Hi Farmer Rachel! Just checked out your hub on making raspberry wine. What fun. Am going to share it. Glad you liked the herb hub. I hope you do start growing a few. Take it easy, The Dirt Farmer


Farmer Rachel profile image

Farmer Rachel 4 years ago from Minnesota

Awesome hub, awesome herb choices! My gardening has been almost entirely vegetable-based. I've been meaning to get into herbs. :)


The Dirt Farmer profile image

The Dirt Farmer 4 years ago from United States Author

CyberShelley -- I picked the herbs that have been the easiest for me to grow, the ones that have required the least work. Glad you approve of the choices. Thanks for the comments & the votes! Appreciate it. Happy gardening, The Dirt Farmer


CyberShelley profile image

CyberShelley 4 years ago

Great hub, picked up the really great herbs for the beginner, each has so many uses. Voted up and useful.


The Dirt Farmer profile image

The Dirt Farmer 4 years ago from United States Author

Glimmer Twin Fan -- I love the taste of mint too. Our apple mint is blooming now and is really attracting the bees and butterflies. I guess they're also mint fans! Hope you do get a chance to try a few of the others on the list. Thanks for stopping by! -- The Dirt Farmer


The Dirt Farmer profile image

The Dirt Farmer 4 years ago from United States Author

Hi ksinll! Most of the herbs have multiple uses, some of which I indicated in the hub. Common thyme, chives, dill and peppermint are culinary herbs. (Try wrapping a peppermint leaf around a lump of sugar and eating it. It's really sweet and refreshing.) Creeping thyme is a good ground cover for erosion control. Catmint is really just for cats these days, but I understand it can make a rather unique tea for people, too. Lemon balm is a good insect repelling plant to grow in pots on your deck or patio, and some people use it medicinally for stomach problems and other complaints, although I believe it has some side effects when used in that manner. Hope that helps a bit. Thanks for commenting! The Dirt Farmer


Glimmer Twin Fan profile image

Glimmer Twin Fan 4 years ago

Another great hub dirtfarmer. We've had mint under a couple of trees that the previous owner had planted and it comes back year after year. Love it in my iced tea. I'm going to have to try some of these other ones.


ksinll 4 years ago

Great information here. I would be curious to know the various uses of each herb. I like to maintain an herb garden every now and again so these are good tips.

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