10 Easy-to-Grow Herbs for a Simple Kitchen Herb Garden

These 10 delicious herbs make for an easy-to-grow garden bursting with flavor.


| July/August 2011



woman cutting herbs

A kitchen herb garden is one of the easiest and most useful gardens you can grow. Herbs require little in the way of maintenance, and you can grow a generous supply in a surprisingly small space. Select a small patch of your yard or find a spot for a grouping of containers as close as possible to your kitchen door—choose any spot within 20 paces of the door that gets at least a half day of full sun. Herbs are less needy of nutrition than vegetables, so most soil types work well. As you plan, consider the times you will dash out to grab a handful of chives or basil when it’s raining or something on the stove needs your attention; having your herbs within easy reach of a walkway or well-placed stepping stones can make a big difference.

Your first kitchen herb garden will be successful if you start simply. Fill your garden with some of the tried-and-true favorites on our list. Start small, and you’re sure to be delighted by the fantastic flavors of your homegrown herbs.

Basil
Grow It: Plant seeds or seedlings of basil, a warm-season annual, after the last frost during a warm spell. When flowering tops appear, cut them off (toss them in salads!) to encourage new leaf production. You can sow a second planting of seeds directly in the garden in early summer. Indoors, a pot of basil repels flies.
Eat It: Basil is best fresh. Always toss it in at the end of cooking—heat damages its flavor. Preserve fresh basil by making an infused oil or freezable pesto.
Recommended Varieties: Genovese is best for cooking; ask your nursery about specific varieties for spicy flavor, compact growth habits or frilled foliage.

Chives
Grow It: A mild onion-flavored perennial, chives produce edible flowers in spring and early summer. You can grow chives from seed, but it’s faster to start with plants. Plant as soon as the last frost has passed. Trim regularly to prolong production. Every few years, divide and replant clumps to encourage new growth.
Eat It: Toss chives into almost any savory dish—add at the end of cooking or they become bitter. You can freeze excess chives; use them as you would fresh.
Recommended Varieties: Compact Grolau is great for containers; Grande features big, broad leaves; try garlic chives for bold flavor.

Cilantro
Grow It: A fast-growing annual, cilantro can be planted in spring and again in late summer. Cilantro is among the easiest herbs to start from seeds sown directly in the garden, but it suffers badly when transplanted. The ripe seeds are the orange-scented spice known as coriander. To harvest coriander, allow plants to flower and then collect seeds after they turn brown. Store seeds in a cool, dark spot.
Eat It: The entire cilantro plant is edible. Enjoy the leaves, the brown seeds (coriander) and the roots (in soups and stir-fries). Toss the flower heads in salads.
Recommended Varieties: Santo lasts longer than most varieties; Delfino has lacy leaves.

Mint
Grow It: Plant mint, a hardy perennial in most areas, in spring. You can start mint from seed, but plants you buy often have better flavor. Mint is a notoriously aggressive spreader, so it’s best to grow it in
containers. Clip growing tips monthly to encourage new growth.
Eat It: Mint is versatile and easy to dry. Crush it with sugar and vinegar for a wonderful mint sauce.
Recommended Varieties: Peppermints and spearmints are best for cooking; pineapple mint has beautiful variegated leaves.





elderberry, echinacea, bee hive

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