How to Grow a Beautiful Herb Garden That Saves You Money

Tired of spending money on fresh herbs that wilt before you can use them all? Me too. The good news is that nothing is easier for beginners than an herb garden.

Anyone…anyone can grow their own herbs. And it’s always worth the trouble. It’s one of the best kitchen gardening ideas for complete beginners.

A porch lined with terracotta pots of lush green herbs like dill and lavender,

Need to Know

  • Beginner Friendly: Easy, small-space friendly, and works in containers!
  • Something for everyone. Basil, parsley, mint, rosemary, thyme, chives, and oregano can be grown in containers.

Benefits of Herb Gardening for Beginners

When I first started herb gardening, I was amazed by how many advantages there were, especially for a newbie like me. Let me break down some of the top benefits that made me fall in love with growing herbs.

  • Easy to Grow: One of the best things about herbs is that they’re incredibly easy to grow. Unlike some fussy plants that require a lot of attention and care, most herbs are pretty low-maintenance. They don’t need a ton of fertilizer, and they’re not as prone to pests or diseases as other plants.
  • Small Space Friendly. Whether you’ve got a small balcony, a patio, or even just a sunny windowsill, you can grow herbs. This makes it perfect for urban gardeners or anyone who doesn’t have a big backyard.
  • High Success Rate. One of the most encouraging things about herb gardening is the high success rate. Unlike some other plants that can be finicky or difficult to keep alive, herbs are pretty forgiving. Even if you’re not the most experienced gardener, you’ve got a great chance of seeing your herbs thrive.

Creative Ways to Use Your Homegrown Herbs

Here are some fun and creative ways to make the most of whatever you plant

Cooking with Fresh Herbs (Obviously) : Use fresh herbs to elevate your dishes. Chop them up and sprinkle over salads, soups, or pizzas for a burst of flavor. Fresh basil can transform a simple tomato sauce, and rosemary can add depth to roasted meats.

Using Dried Herbs: Dry your herbs to preserve their flavor for months. Simply hang them upside down in a dry, warm place, then store in airtight containers. Dried herbs are perfect for seasoning dishes when cooking, especially in marinades and rubs. This will save you a lot of money since dried herbs are so expensive.

Making Herbal Tea: Fresh or dried, herbs like mint, chamomile, and lemon balm can be used to make soothing teas. Just steep in hot water for a few minutes. Enjoy these teas for their flavor and potential health benefits.

Sewing Crafts: Create lavender pouches or catnip toys. Fill small fabric pouches with dried lavender for a calming scent or with catnip for your feline friends. These make great gifts or natural air fresheners for drawers and closets.

Arranging with Cut Flowers: Add herbs like rosemary and lavender to flower bouquets for a lovely aroma and unique touch. Their greenery complements floral arrangements and brings a fresh scent into your home.

Picking the Right Herbs

One of the most exciting parts of building an herb garden is choosing your herbs. There are so many versatile and varied herbs to choose from—from small green bunches to sizable shrubs. But before you start dreaming about your herb garden, remember that space dictates your choices.

So, your first step is identifying the space you have. Are you working with a sunny windowsill or an outdoor plot? Whatever your space may be, there’s always a way to make it work. With some creativity and a little bit of planning, you can create the perfect herb garden for your unique space.

If you have limited room, compact herbs like chives, parsley, and basil are perfect. They flourish in smaller containers, making them perfect for indoor settings. But if you have more space to spare, consider planting herbs like rosemary and bay laurel, which expand generously and transform into aromatic backdrops for your garden.

Remember, selecting the right herb varieties not only optimizes your space but also ensures each plant receives the attention it requires. So, a little planning goes a long way in fostering a prosperous kitchen herb garden.

Growing Requirements

Most actually thrive on a little neglect, so don’t coddle them!

Common kitchen herbs like chives, peppermint, parsley, basil, and thyme all have different needs when it comes to light and soil.

Hands tenderly harvesting small purple flowers from a garden, showcasing a personal connection with nature

Here’s a brief guide to get you started:

  • Chives: Let them bask in full sun to partial shade and plant in moist, well-drained soil.
  • Peppermint: Prefers partial shade but can handle full sun. Rich, moist, and slightly acidic soil is ideal.
  • Parsley: Loves full sun to partial shade. Plant in well-drained, fertile soil for best growth.
  • Basil: Requires plenty of sunlight, at least six hours a day, and moist, well-drained soil.
  • Thyme: Thrives in full sun and prefers well-drained soil that is not too rich in nutrients.

Key Tip:

Group herbs with similar needs together. For instance, basil and parsley both enjoy moist soil and ample sunlight. This makes watering and maintenance more efficient. Think about accessibility as well. Place herbs you use frequently in spots that are easy to reach. This way, your cooking will benefit from fresh flavors without trouble.

One thing to consider is the mature size of each herb you plant. Remember to allow ample room for larger herbs like bay laurel and lemongrass, as they can grow into sizeable shrubs. These herbs require more space and may not be suitable for smaller gardens or indoor settings.

Compact herbs like chives and parsley are much more forgiving in tighter spaces. They adapt well to container gardening or outdoor beds and are perfect for indoor gardens.

When planting, give each herb a little room to stretch out and breathe. Proper spacing not only prevents competition for resources but also promotes air circulation, which curbs the spread of pests and diseases.

Remember, it’s not just about the present, but it’s also about planning for the future. As your seedlings grow, they’ll fill in the space, creating a lush and healthy garden. So be sure to give your herbs enough room to grow and thrive.

Remember, it’s simpler to start your herbs from small plants or transplant seedlings to make sure they have proper spacing from the start. This will save you time and effort in the long run and ensure your herbs have the space they need to grow into healthy and productive plants.

Remember, patience and observation are key to mastering your herb garden. Watch how your herbs respond to their environment, and make adjustments as needed for their prosperity.

For example, if you notice that your chives aren’t growing as well as you’d like, try moving them to a sunnier spot or adjusting the moisture levels in the soil. If your peppermint looks a little wilted, try giving it a bit more shade and watering it more frequently. The more you observe and experiment, the better you’ll become at growing your herbs.

Temperature Preferences

Another thing to keep in mind is the temperature preferences of your herbs. Most herbs like it warm and cozy, with daytime temperatures around 70°F (21°C) and nighttime temperatures no lower than 55°F (13°C). If you live in a colder climate, you may need to bring your herbs indoors during the winter months.

I remember one year, I forgot to bring my rosemary inside before the first frost. The next morning, I found a sad, wilted plant that looked like it had been zapped by an ice ray. Lesson learned: pay attention to the temperature, and protect your herbs. There are often many warm days after the first frost of fall, so it’s worth bringing them inside.

Save Money with Your Herb Garden

Gardening is a rewarding hobby that can also be easy on your wallet. Here are some tips to help you save money while enjoying the freshest herbs right from your garden:

  • Start from Seeds:
    • Seeds are much cheaper than buying fully-grown plants.
    • With just a little patience, you can grow a whole garden from a single packet of seeds!
  • Grow Perennial Herbs:
    • Perennials are plants that grow back year after year.
    • Herbs like rosemary, thyme, and oregano only need to be planted once and will provide you with fresh flavors for years.
  • Choose Cost-Effective Herbs:
    • Opt for herbs that you frequently use in your cooking and that are pricey to buy fresh in stores.
    • Basil, mint, and cilantro are great choices that can save you a lot on your grocery bill.
  • Preserve Extras:
    • Dry or freeze any herbs you can’t use right away.
    • This way, you can enjoy your homegrown herbs even in the off-season, without wasting any.

Growing Herbs in Containers

One of the things I love most about herb gardening is how easy it is to grow herbs in containers. Whether you’ve got a small balcony, a patio, or just a sunny windowsill, you can create a thriving herb garden with just a few pots and some basic supplies. Let me share some tips I’ve learned along the way.

Tip

Even if you live on 100 acres, it is nice to have your herbs in containers. They stay relatively weed-free, and you can keep them right next to the kitchen!

A collection of empty terracotta pots in various sizes stacked on wooden shelves against a weathered green-painted wall
  • Choosing the Right Containers. When it comes to choosing containers for your herbs, the most important thing is to make sure they have good drainage. Terracotta pots are a great choice because they’re breathable and help regulate moisture.Another thing to consider is the size of your containers. Most herbs don’t need a ton of space, but you want to make sure the pot is big enough for the plant to grow and thrive. I usually choose pots that are at least 6 inches deep and wide, depending on the size of the herb.
  • Potting Soil for Herbs. Using the right potting soil is key to growing healthy, happy herbs in containers. I like to use a high-quality, well-draining potting mix that’s specifically formulated for herbs. Look for a mix that contains perlite or vermiculite, which help improve drainage and aeration. When filling your pots with soil, be sure to leave about an inch of space at the top for watering. This will help prevent overflow and keep your herbs from getting too soggy.
  • Make your own mix! For an affordable and well-draining potting mix ideal for herbs, combine equal parts peat moss or coconut coir, perlite, and garden compost.
  • Watering. Most herbs like to be kept evenly moist, but not soggy. I like to stick my finger about an inch into the soil to check the moisture level. If it feels dry, it’s time to water. For many, it is better to underwater rather than overwater (but it depends on the plant!)

Preserving Herbs

If you find yourself with more herbs than you can use fresh, don’t worry – there are plenty of ways to preserve them for later. One of the easiest methods is to dry your herbs by hanging them in bundles or laying them out on a drying rack. Once they’re crisp and crumbly, you can store them in an airtight container for months.

Another option is to freeze your herbs in ice cube trays, either on their own or with a little water or oil. This is a great way to have fresh herb flavor on hand for soups, stews, and sauces all winter long.

Using Fresh Herbs in Cooking

Of course, the best way to enjoy your homegrown herbs is to use them fresh in your cooking. The possibilities are endless – sprinkle some chopped basil over a caprese salad, add a sprig of rosemary to your roasted potatoes, or mix some fresh mint into your mojito.

One of my favorite ways to use fresh herbs is to make a simple herb butter. Just soften some butter, mix in your chopped herbs, and then roll it up in plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm. Slice off a piece to top a grilled steak or spread on a crusty baguette – it’s heaven!

The key with fresh herbs is to use them generously and to add them towards the end of cooking, so their bright, fresh flavor really shines through. Trust me, once you start cooking with your own homegrown herbs, you’ll never go back to the dried stuff in the jars!

Troubleshooting

Let’s talk about some common issues and how to deal with them.

Pests

First up, let’s talk about pests. There’s nothing more frustrating than watching your beautiful herb plants get munched on by tiny invaders. Some common culprits include aphids, spider mites, and whiteflies. If you notice any of these critters on your plants, don’t panic! There are plenty of natural ways to get rid of them.

One of my favorite methods is to blast them off with a strong jet of water from the hose. You can also try using an insecticidal soap or neem oil, which are both safe and effective options. And if all else fails, you can always just pick the bugs off by hand (I know, it’s gross, but sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do).

Diseases

Next up, let’s talk about diseases. Just like people, plants can get sick too. Some common herb diseases include powdery mildew, rust, and root rot. If you notice any strange spots, discoloration, or wilting on your plants, it’s time to take action.

The first step is to remove any affected leaves or stems and dispose of them (don’t compost them, or you could spread the disease). Then, make sure your plants have plenty of air circulation and aren’t getting too much moisture. You can also try using a fungicide or baking soda spray to help control the spread of the disease.

An idyllic outdoor herb garden with raised wooden beds filled with a variety of herbs and potted plants, bathed in soft sunlight.

Nutrient Deficiencies

Finally, let’s talk about nutrient deficiencies. If your herbs are looking a little lackluster, it could be a sign that they’re not getting enough of certain key nutrients.

Some common deficiencies in herbs include nitrogen (which can cause yellowing leaves), iron (which can cause pale, sickly-looking growth), and calcium (which can cause blossom end rot in tomatoes and peppers). To prevent these issues, make sure you’re using a high-quality potting mix and fertilizing your plants regularly with a balanced, organic fertilizer.

And if you do notice any signs of a deficiency, don’t be afraid to do a little research and troubleshooting. There are plenty of online resources and gardening forums where you can get advice and support from other herb enthusiasts.

Harvesting Your Herbs

Harvesting your herbs is a delicate process that requires patience and care.

But remember to tackle harvesting with moderation in mind. Cutting too much can weaken the plant, while cutting too little may lead to overgrowth and reduced flavor. So, be sure to find the right balance that works for each herb.

To harvest your herbs, start by choosing healthy shoots and snipping no more than one-third of the herb. This method encourages new growth and maintains the plant’s health. Plus, it ensures that you have a steady supply of fresh and flavorful herbs for your cooking.

When snipping your herbs, be sure to use sharp scissors or pruning shears for a clean cut to prevent damage to the remaining stems and ensure that your plant remains healthy and productive.

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Here’s another secret for you: timing is everything. The best time to harvest herbs is early morning after the dew has evaporated. At this time, their aromatic oils are at their peak, providing the best flavor for your culinary dishes.

To get the most flavor and nutritional value from your herbs, harvest them before the plant flowers. At this stage, the leaves hold the most oils and nutrients, making them perfect for culinary use.

If you find that you have a surplus of herbs, don’t worry! You can always dry or freeze the excess to preserve your herbs for future use. Preserving your herbs is a great way to extend their shelf life and ensure that you always have fresh and flavorful herbs on hand.

Can I grow herbs indoors if I don’t have an outdoor space?

Yes, you can grow herbs indoors, making them perfect for those without garden space. Many herbs are well-suited for container gardening and can thrive on a sunny windowsill or under grow lights, ensuring fresh herbs year-round.

What herbs are best for beginners?

Herbs like basil, chives, parsley, and peppermint are great for beginners. These herbs are hardier, require minimal maintenance, and can grow in a variety of conditions, both indoors and outdoors. Starting with these can build your confidence as you learn herb gardening basics.

How do I know when and how much to harvest from my herb plants?

Herbs are best harvested just before they flower for peak flavor. Generally, you should only harvest up to one-third of the plant at a time to ensure the herb continues to grow and produce. Regular trimming also encourages the plant to become bushier.

More on Herbs and Gardening:

Check out these helpful resources for more information and tips on starting your kitchen herb garden:

Just Get Started

We’ve covered a lot about herb gardening, but none of it matters if you don’t actually start growing!

Don’t worry about having fancy pots or expensive soil. Just grab some seeds, dirt, and a sunny spot, and give it a go. If things don’t work out perfectly the first time, that’s okay! Every “failure” is an opportunity to learn, and every success, no matter how small, is a reason to celebrate.

So what are you waiting for? Go get your hands dirty and start growing some herbs! There’s nothing quite like the feeling of pride and accomplishment that comes from harvesting your very own homegrown basil or mint.

I hope you discover a new passion that brings you joy for years to come.

A rustic windowsill scene featuring an assortment of fresh herbs in a clear glass vase and potted plants,
How to Grow a Beautiful Herb Garden That Saves You Money

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