ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

First Time Gardener? - Top 5 Easy to Grow Flavoursome Herbs

Updated on April 4, 2016
Sage flowering in summer
Sage flowering in summer | Source

Fresh herbs make all the difference

There is a world of difference between fresh and dried herbs so I always try to have at least some herbs growing in my garden or on a balcony, or even on a windowsill no matter where I live. Using fresh herbs is a must for me.

Because I spend periods of time away from home in our holiday home, I grow herbs in both places but of course they must be able to look after themselves. Over time, I've learnt which ones cope best with a small amount of neglect. They are easy to grow and are the ones I use most.

My easy-to-grow herbs - There are more, of course, but these are my top five

I've chosen these partly on the basis of their easy upkeep but also because they are ones I use very frequently, they are easy to grow, and they are common garden herbs. They are in alphabetical order so that I show no favouritism. :)

  • Bay
  • Mint
  • Parsley
  • Sage
  • Thyme

Bay leaf growing in my garden
Bay leaf growing in my garden | Source

Bay leaf

Lauris nobilis

I was surprised to read that bay leaves are one of the most commonly used herbs in Europe and North America. I do use it quite a lot but the main reason I grow it is because my father told me I would never be able to kill it.

That seems to be true. When we first found our holiday home there was the most enormous bay tree growing in the sadly neglected garden. All attempts to remove the bay have been totally unsuccessful and small offspring from the roots still appear in various parts of the garden. Does anyone want a small bay leaf plant?

The leaves can be used to flavour stews, casseroles, pate`s, and soups, among other things. They can also be dried very successfully, giving an even stronger flavour to the leaves.

The plants grow easily in a container. I have mine on my balcony in England in the same container as thyme and rosemary because they like similar dryish conditions. My latest venture is to grow a bay tree from a small two-stemmed plant, twisting the stems to form a spiral. It was coming along quite well until the severe frosts we had in February, and now it's back to square one. A familiar story in gardening. :)

Red onions, one cut in half vertically
Red onions, one cut in half vertically | Source

Red onions braised with bay leaves

This is just one of the ways you can use bay leaves. It's a quick and easy recipe.

3 large red onions

3 bay leaves each torn into 3 pieces

3 tbs olive oil

1 tbs white wine

1 tbs red wine vinegar

1 tsp salt, or to taste.

Heat oven to 180 C or 375 F

Peel and slice the onions, and spread over a baking tray.

Sprinkle with oil, vinegar, wine, salt and torn bay leaves.

Cover the baking tray with aluminium foil.

Place in the oven until the onions are tender, about 45 minutes or so.

Uncover and put back in the oven until the juices evaporate and caramelise into a dark, glossy, sauce - about another 30 minutes, but watch carefully.

Before serving, remove the pieces of bay leaf. The onions can be served with grilled meats, or as a topping to goats' cheese crostini.

Mint growing in a pot in the ground
Mint growing in a pot in the ground | Source

Mint

Mentha longifolia, Mentha piperita and others

Mint is another plant that my father assured me I couldn't kill.

It can be invasive so it is best grown in a pot. I prefer to sink the pot in the earth rather than have it standing above ground. This keeps the roots cool and allows the pot to draw moisture from the earth below. Do make sure there are plenty of drainage holes or the soil will become waterlogged and this really will kill the mint. I know, I tried. :)

Even with the roots contained in a pot, you may find they can escape. It is best to keep a close eye on the plants because once they get a hold, they can be something of a problem. They do require some cool shade and plenty of moisture.

There are so many different types of mint, it would be impossible to list them all. Some are best suited for use in the kitchen (spearmint, peppermint), others are better used for their fragrance (e.g. Eau de Cologne mint). Two varieties I've particularly liked are ginger mint, and chocolate mint. They are delicious when used in the right recipes.

I don't think dried mint is very successful at all.

Curly leaf parsley
Curly leaf parsley | Source

Parsley

Petroselinum crispum

Parsley is a biennial, that is to say, you can sow the seed one year, it will grow and you can harvest it. It dies back during the winter and reappears the next spring. It will flower in the summer and then die, but in the meantime you can harvest the leaves and raising new seedlings. I have never, ever, tasted a dried parsley that gets anywhere close to the flavour of fresh parsley.

You need to decide where you want to grow it early on because it doesn't take too kindly to being moved. It likes sunshine and plenty of moisture.

The great debate is whether to grow flat leaf or curly leaf parsley. The answer is to grow both! The flat leaf plant is undoubtedly more flavoursome but the curly leaf is more decorative. You rarely see the curly leaf varieties in Mediterranean regions so my daughter in law loves using the curly varieties when she visits me.

There is a third type of parsley, parsley root. It is grown mainly in Europe and used in soups and stews. I haven't tried it but I believe it tastes something like a cross between carrots and celery.

Sage in flower
Sage in flower | Source

Sage

Salvia officinalis

Like bay and thyme, sage is evergreen in that it doesn't lose its leaves in the winter, though in the case if sage the leaves are very much a greyish green!

Sage can be grown from seed but it also roots readily so I frequently take cuttings. I do this because I sometimes find it suddenly dies back so a cutting already established can take its place and there will be a steady supply of leaves. There are various forms: golden, variegated, purple as well as the standard.

Sage likes a sunny and dry spot in your garden. On my balcony I have it in the same container as thyme and the indestructible (so far) bay tree because the same conditions apply to all.

It is used most frequently as an ingredients of stuffing for poultry or pork. As I was researching for this article I discovered that there is some evidence that it may be of use in the treatment of patients with Alzheimer's Disease. That would be an exciting development if it proves to be the case.

Thyme in flower
Thyme in flower | Source

Thyme

Thymus vulgaris

Thyme is a plant you can find growing wild in Mediterranean areas, spreading a wonderful fragrance in the air. It grows very easily in a hot and sunny corner. In fact it is one herb which retains its flavour well when dried. Nevertheless, having the plant growing is still better than having a jar on your shelf. It can be used as leaves or as whole sprigs which are removed at the end of cooking.

Thyme also has medicinal uses as its essential oil has antiseptic properties.

Again, there are several different varieties, not all of which are useful in the kitchen.

Containers for growing herbs

Some of these are so lovely that even if you have an outdoor herb garden, they would look great on a balcony or windowsill.

Sagaform 5015859 Stoneware Herb Pot Duo, White
Sagaform 5015859 Stoneware Herb Pot Duo, White

This may be a little small but it's so attractive! It wouldn't be for long term use, you would need to keep replacing the plants, but I tend to do that anyway so it would be no hardship.

 

A book to help you with your herb gardening

Because once started, you are unlikely to stop at only five herbs. I love all types of herbs even those I don't use so very often so I urge you to think big. And when you have finished tending them, you will smell good enough to eat!!

If you had to choose your top five, what would they be? I had a long debate with myself, partly because "parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme ..." kept going through my mind at the time.

What does your (herb) garden grow?

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      Wish I had a nice little garden to grow these... Thanks for sharing these tips!

    • mbgphoto profile image

      Mary Beth Granger 4 years ago from O'Fallon, Missouri, USA

      I just started growing herbs this year and I started with these five: oregano, parsley, thyme,basil,dill and mint. I'm enjoying them. Great lens blessed!

    • kristalulabelle profile image

      Kristen 4 years ago from Wisconsin

      Excellent lens! I can't wait to plant a garden of my own!

    • chas65 profile image

      chas65 4 years ago

      All we needed was Rosemerry and we would have a song. Seriously, mint is the only one we have tried.

    • IMKZRNU2 profile image

      IMKZRNU2 4 years ago from Pacific Northwest

      I love and use all the herbs you have mentioned...nice lens!

    • dave-sutton profile image

      dave-sutton 4 years ago

      I have just retired and have never done much gardening but that is changing. I already have bay and mint but if the others are easy to grow I will give it a try. Thanks for the advice. Nice "5 best" lens

    • profile image

      Thamisgith 4 years ago

      Thanks for the tips. I admit, I am not the best gardener - knowing that there are a few herbs that I won't be able to kill is very helpful for me.

    • menskincaretips profile image

      menskincaretips 4 years ago

      I'm currently growing mint! It's refreshing to simply grab a few leaves and throw them in hot water for a quick mint drink.

    • hntrssthmpsn profile image

      hntrssthmpsn 4 years ago

      "parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme"... hahah, that song likes to set up camp in my head as I'm thinking about my herb garden, too :) We grow a lot of parsley, basil, oregano, and stevia, but usually have a few little pots of every herb we can get our hands on. I love your pictures of all your cheerful, thriving plants!

    • microfarmproject profile image

      microfarmproject 4 years ago

      I grow all of these, except bay. I live in the SW and grow rosemary, so I am thinking that I should give it a shot. Thanks!

    • bordercollieluvr profile image

      bordercollieluvr 4 years ago

      I have not started a herb garden yet - but wish to. I like chives, sage, rosemary - is garlic a herb ??? :) Great lens and thank you for your visit to my lens.

    • WriterJanis2 profile image

      WriterJanis2 4 years ago

      We have some herbs growing wild here. I really should be using them. Thanks for making me think about this.

    • Gypzeerose profile image

      Rose Jones 4 years ago

      Lovely lens. Rosemary is my favorite herb to grow.

    • SailingPassion LM profile image

      SailingPassion LM 4 years ago

      Very helpful - thank you

    • darciefrench lm profile image

      darciefrench lm 4 years ago

      I have to get on it and plant some herbs this summer :)

    • vegetablegardenh profile image

      vegetablegardenh 4 years ago

      Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme are on my top-five list as well. And I love basil too, that would be my number five. :)

    • spids1 profile image

      spids1 4 years ago

      I'm not too familiar with growing herbs but I'm building a vegetable garden out back so I might add a parsley and thyme

    • OrlandoTipster profile image

      OrlandoTipster 4 years ago

      Seems that when I try to garden the only thing that sprouts are the weeds

    • viscri8 profile image

      viscri8 4 years ago

      Very good idea to grow herbs and have them always fresh. Don't know which five would be my favorites -- depends probably which ones would feel good in my yard. Tried parsley but did not fare too well. Will try chives. The rosemary is very happy to overgrow everything but I don't like it in the food. Blessing the lens!

    • JessicaBarst profile image

      Jessica Barst 4 years ago from Dallas, TX

      My dream herb garden would be rosemary, basil, thyme, sage, and mint. They are all delicious and would get a lot of use...plus they are all pretty easy to grow in Texas ;)

    • LouisaDembul profile image

      LouisaDembul 4 years ago

      I love all herbs, but basil is a real top one.

    • LaurisB LM profile image

      LaurisB LM 4 years ago

      Nice lens since I am thinking about what herbs to try to grow in pots on my balcony once I move into my new apartment. I have found that I am capable of killing just about any of them! But I usually manage to have some basil, chives, oregano, rosemary and a few other things in various stages of dead or alive!

    • FallenAngel 483 profile image

      FallenAngel 483 4 years ago

      Great advice. I grow parsley and Mint. Gardening in England is a bit hit and miss and this year hasn't been great but herbs are pretty reliable.

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      In my perennial herb garden I have rosemary, oregano, sage, thyme, mint and chives. I have a bay plant in a pot, which I bring inside in the winter. I couldn't keep the list to only 5 :)

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      In my herb garden there are: mint (of course:)), tarragon, lavender, melissa, sage and rhubarb ... well the last one isn't really a herb, but what can I do, it grows in my herb garden:). Fantastic lens, I love reading about herbs, thank you for sharing.

    • GardenIdeasHub LM profile image

      GardenIdeasHub LM 4 years ago

      Thanks for your advice about easy to grow herbs I think it will really help me.

    • profile image

      Aunt-Mollie 4 years ago

      Mint is so easy to grow that it's difficult to stop it from growing! But I really love it.

    • profile image

      AdriatiX 4 years ago

      My grandfather is doing this for decades now.

    Click to Rate This Article