Neither a meal nor a garden is complete without fresh, fragrant herbs. While we're used to eating dried spices, they hardly compare with the zest of aromatic leaves plucked minutes before you taste them. A gift in your garden for their fragrance alone, herbs also attract butterflies, ladybugs, hoverflies, and other beneficial insects—and best of all, they're easy for anyone to grow!
How to Grow: Sow them directly into the soil in full sun according to the depth and width on the seed package, or sprinkle a few seeds around your garden. You can pick the leaves throughout the season as they grow, harvest the whole plant when they are mature at 12-36 inches, or resow every 2-3 weeks for fresh growth.
As some of the easiest herbs to cultivate, the challenge of growing chives is not to let them spread. Your taste buds will love both their green stems and pink flowers for the mild onion flavor they give to salads, sandwiches, and baked potatoes.
How to Grow: Sow them directly into the soil in full sun, ideally in small clumps. Harvest a few stems at a time as needed, as they don't dry well. If you need a lot at once, don't be afraid of over-harvesting, as chives will readily grow back from the root.
While peppermint was first bred in England, its wild relatives grow in the forests of Pennsylvania. Gardeners often grow this perennial in pots, as the rhizome roots spread vigorously. Whether from a pot or the ground, you can add their leaves and flowers to sauces, cocktails, and teas to help with digestion and ease upset stomachs.
How to Grow: Peppermint enjoys full sun or partial shade, but in either case likes its soil to be watered regularly for moisture. Plant it from seed after the last frost date, and once it's established, harvest the leaves, stems, and flowers as needed.
Another common herb on our continent, these silvery-green leaves make a potent accent to stews, dried meats, stuffing, stir-fries, and teas. Pollinators, including hummingbirds, will love feeding from the mauve-blue flowers that open in June. They also repel cabbage moth and carrot fly rust.
How to Grow: Start this perennial indoors in February, purchase seedlings to transplant into your garden, or start it from seed outdoors in the early spring. Choose a spot in the full sun. Cut back established plants once they finish flowering for a second regrowth of tender leaves in late summer.
This essential herb for any Greek or Italian cooking is perfect for drying, as it easily retains its potent flavor. Originating in the Mediterranean, its name means "joy of the mountain" in ancient Greek.
How to Grow: Start this perennial indoors or from seed outside in full sun. Once established, keep soil on the dry side. Cut back and hang dry away from the sun after flowering, or ideally use fresh whenever your taste buds inspire you.
The rich leaves of garden-grown parsley will beat any grocery store variety in zest and flavor. Excellent for cooking or adding to fresh salads, this annual is another easy-growing herb for beginners and experts alike.
How to Grow: As a member of the carrot family, parsley grows a long taproot. So, if planting in a container, choose a deep one. Otherwise, sow in the spring in full sun or in a place that gets some shade during the heat of summer. Harvest the tender leaves for eating before they flower, but let some bloom to attract several species of beneficial insects.
A member of the mint family, the fragrant scent of basil is associated mainly with Italian and Mediterranean cooking. Its uses are multi-faceted—you can whip up a batch of mouth-watering pesto with basil, add it to soups, sauces, in pasta, on top of pizza, or even ice cream!
How to Grow: Basil is a bit cold-sensitive, making it a prime candidate for starting indoors or from seedlings started in a greenhouse. It thrives in full to partial sun (about six to eight hours a day) and enjoys moist yet well-draining soil. Pinch your basil leaves off right at the stem as they will form new branches, and in turn, more delicious basil leaves!
Cilantro looks an awful lot like parsley, but don’t let it fool you! While it is a member of the parsley family, it has some very distinct qualities and a much more distinct taste. Cilantro leaves are generally used fresh and are commonly found in Asian, Mexican, Middle Eastern, and Indian dishes. It is quite aromatic and packs a punch of fresh flavor that makes a beautiful complement to grilled meats and curries!
How to Grow: Cool but sunny days are ideal for cilantro. It doesn’t like hot water, and will often bolt and go to seed if it is growing in soil that reaches 75 degrees. If you overcrowd your cilantro crop a little, the leaves will keep the roots shaded and keep it from bolting quickly. Another tip to extend the life of your cilantro is to prune it often.
If you like cooking, or eating food at all, fresh herbs are a must-have in your garden. Many have several healing properties, and their taste simply can't compare to store-bought spices. If you have a favorite herb you wish to grow, or you'd like to try your hand with these ones, feel free to contact the experts at our garden center for more advice!