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How to Make an Herb Garden

Updated on October 31, 2015
Small Herb Garden
Small Herb Garden | Source

For Centuries herbs and spices have been used in many aspects of life, from flavorings and food preservatives to medicines for treating illness. Some herbs were not fit for consumption, yet still had special properties that kept them in the kitchen garden, such as fabric dye and keeping the house smelling fresh and pleasant.

In times gone by, nearly every home had a kitchen garden where grew herbs, spices and vegetables for the household. These gardens were very near to the kitchen door so they were readily available. Today, it is rare to find a kitchen garden, though many individuals who love to cook actually have small windowsill herb gardens in their kitchens.

A Beautiful Herb Garden With Bench
A Beautiful Herb Garden With Bench | Source
The Herb Garden at Sissinghurst Castle Garden
The Herb Garden at Sissinghurst Castle Garden | Source

Laying Out Garden Space

An outdoor kitchen garden will need a sunny local with enough room to comfortably accommodate the plants. An herb garden can be as small or as large as desired, however, a space of that is about 20’ x 5’ is a great place to start. Each herb should be given at least one square foot of space.

There are several ways to create the garden space, with an option that should be able to suite any area. A few ideas for carving out garden space:

1. Make a container garden. As the name suggests, different herbs are planted in containers such as window boxes, flower pots and even buckets. This style of garden is great for homes without a lot of green space. Containers can be placed along walkways, on decks and porches, virtually anywhere that has sunlight.

2. Plant herbs in borders. Many homes already have borders along the house and walks. These borders can be planted with herbs and still offer the visual interest they were intended for.

3. Make a traditional, in-ground garden. With this type of garden the soil needs to be prepared to allow for proper drainage as well as provide a nice fertile soil. Begin by removing the top 18 inches of soil and laying a bed of small gravel about 1 inch thick. Mix the soil with either sphagnum or compost and then replace it into the garden bed.

4. Add a few herbs to an established vegetable garden.

It is quite common to have a combination of border plantings and containers together. The garden is only limited by space and the gardener’s needs and wants.

When to Plant

It is important to check with a local nursery for planting times in each area. These times will in part depend on the climate. Indoor container gardens and heated green houses are not as affected by the seasons as are outdoor herb gardens. Another thing to consider is that some herbs are perennials and return each spring, while others are annuals that grow one full season and must be replanted each year. For ease in replanting it is a good idea to keep the annuals separate from perennials.

How to Cook With Fresh Herbs

What to Plant

Most cooks already know which types of herbs they already cook with, that is where to start. Beginning herb gardeners who are just learning to cook with herbs may have a harder time making this decision. Here are a few herbs that are pretty good choices for any garden

  • -Rosemary
  • -Thyme
  • -Sage
  • -Savory
  • -Basil
  • -Dill
  • -Marjoram
  • -Tarragon
  • -Parsley
  • -Chives

Once the garden is established, it can be expanded as needed to include wider variety. There may come a time when herbs for other uses, like aroma or pest control, need to be included in the garden. The main idea here is to allow for growth since any style of garden will need to change and grow over time.


Once the plants have become established and have adequate foliage, fresh leaves may be harvested. It is important to keep from picking too many leaves or cutting back too much of the herb at any one time. The best time for harvest is just after the dew before it is overly hot.

To preserve herbs for use in the winter use, it is best to harvest leaves before the flowers bloom, and the seeds just after the plant changes color from green to brown. Wash and dry the leaves and seeds then dry them for later use.

Overwintering Perennials

Many herbs have shallow roots and must be protected from heaving in the spring with the thaw. Apply mulch 4” deep just after the ground has frozen. The mulch should remain on the ground until the plant has green growth in the spring. If the mulch is removed the plant could suffer frost damage.


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    • Vicki99 profile image

      Vicki99 6 years ago from Meridian Idaho

      I love using fresh herbs, but they are pretty spendy and harder to find. It is so much easier to grow them, and cheaper too.

    • Danette Watt profile image

      Danette Watt 6 years ago from Illinois

      I enjoyed your hub. I love fresh herbs but don't use them often enough. I don't have a green thumb, the time nor the space for gardening. The only fresh herb we've grown was a rosemary plant my husband had a couple years ago and I loved smelling it when I went outside.

    • Vicki99 profile image

      Vicki99 6 years ago from Meridian Idaho

      Thank you for votes. I have been to Fairbanks many times. My parents had a home in Willow and we used to camp in Denal all the time. Great fishing out that way too.

    • Denise Handlon profile image

      Denise Handlon 6 years ago from North Carolina

      Vicki-don't know why you haven't received comments on this hub is wonderful! The info, the photos, everything!

      I rated it up and across (minus funny). I always wanted to have a herb garden and my daughters are great gardners...must have skipped me! LOL

      I notice you are living in Kodiak. I lived in Fairbanks for 3.5 yrs. No comparison to Kodiak-it's dry and dusty and in the middle of nowhere, LOL Best part was the drive to Denali Park.