Gardening with Herbs 101: What to Grow

Herb Garden Sign

Written by Meg Dickey, Contributing Writer

This month at Keeper of the Home, we’re discussing Gardening 101, and we’re continuing this week with the second part of Gardening with Herbs 101.  Let’s jump right in to my favorite part of gardening: what to grow!

First, consider your needs:

What herbs do you love the smell of?  What tastes do you enjoy adding to your food?  What tea are you always splurging on?  What kinds of medicine does your family use during the year?  Do you want a garden your children can enjoy too? Are you in need of a quiet place to spend an early morning?

The answers to these questions will give you a great start to what herbs you might enjoy in your garden. Stephanie gave some great tips on how to plant a garden that works for where you live last week, so keep those guidelines in mind as we choose our herbs.

Theme Gardens

I adore theme gardening.  It’s not for everyone – I have several friends who find the idea of organizing such a thing daunting, and would rather have a beautiful hodge-podge of plants scattered throughout the yard. The idea behind theme gardening is to group plants together according to their uses.  There are many ways of choosing which ones fit your needs best.  Here are some ideas to get you started:

Kitchen Garden

This is the most basic of herb gardens, and can easily be purchased as a kit from a local store.  You do not need much space to provide a surprising amount of fresh herbs for your kitchen.

kitchen garden in a pot

A Kitchen Garden in a Pot

Our first kitchen garden was a windowsill garden.  It contained rosemary, lavender, sage, and thyme – perfect for a quick herbs de provence blend for soup, or to season a homemade dressing.  Other excellent herbs to add are tarragon, dill, marjoram, basil, oregano and chives.  I am also planning to add a bay tree at some point in time, since I use bay to flavor so many things!

I think one of the best ways to plan a kitchen garden is to make sure it’s close by. If you have to walk out back, around the corner of the garage, and 6 feet past the swingset to pick your herbs for dinner, it’s far more likely you’ll just reach for a bottle out of the cupboard, or worse, simply forget about the plants sitting back there and pick some up from the store.  You can have different pots of herbs on your back steps, on your front porch, or even hanging from the porch ceiling, but you should be able to get to them easily.

Medicinal Herb Garden

This has to be the biggest money saver for our family, hands down.  After spending so much money on herbal teas, medicinal tinctures, and various other remedies, we finally clued in and spent our money to build a medicinal herb garden.

HBC JJ09 fence in a garden

A whimsical medicinal herb garden

I sat down one evening and poured through my herb books, checking to see what herbs were used most often in our home, and what was practical to grow in our area.  I also chose those plants which were better utilized fresh, as well as noting what herbs were the most costly to purchase outright.  Because we mix and sell herbal blends and tinctures, we wanted to make certain we had quality plants to start with.  Growing our own was a great way to get that security, as well as cut down our overhead costs.

Our medicinal garden contains lavender, catnip, poppy, feverfew, chamomile, valerian, lemon balm, spearmint, peppermint, St. John’s wort, nettle, plantain and calendula.  I will also be attempting to add lemon myrtle tree and an elder tree (for berries and flowers) at some point in time.  Other excellent options would be tulsi (Holy Basil), arnica, or angelica.

Children’s Herb Garden

I don’t know about anyone else’s children, but mine LOVE dirt.  If I am out in the garden, they all want to be out there too, helping to dig holes, pour water, and watch things grow!  We started giving our boys garden chores last year, and they thrived with them.  This year, we’re taking a little different tack, and allowing them to choose their own plants, as well as maintaining them.

DSCI0001 300x226

Our boys working in the berry gardens

Our boys specifically requested “teepees” for their gardens this year, so we’ve planted climbing sunflowers to cover their hideaways [in addition to the pole beans].  Other great ones to let the little ones try out are pineapple sage, lemon balm, or any of the scented geraniums, which come in scents like lime, apricot, orange, and strawberry.

Children also get a kick out of smelling the plants in the mint family, especially peppermint, spearmint and chocolate mint.  Our boys also like to “heal themselves” with plants, so we try to make sure there is at least one aloe plant where they can find it. :-)

There are so many other options for theme gardening – potpourri herbs, medieval, butterfly, shakespearean, pizza or Peter Rabbit (two great children’s options).  Here are some great resources to consider:

Are you excited to start your herb gardens yet?  I know I am!  What herbs are you considering for your gardens this year?

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About Meg

Meg is a wife and mother to 3 small children. She spends her days enjoying her children; cooking nourishing food, and discovering new ways to love the life God has blessed her with. You can find her at Cracking an Egg with One Hand: Living the Nourishing Life with a Baby on My Hip.

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Comments

  1. i have had a small herb garden on my porch for the past several years and love basil and thyme which both grow easily. i am wanting to add to it this year. i am thinking of adding mint and rosemary. oh, and i have lots of lavendar in our flower garden because it is my favorite smell. i have never dried it to use, but maybe i will this year.

  2. I’ve already got my garden planted (we have to start early here in Las Vegas). And so far, I’m growing basil, thyme, dill (for all the pickles I plan to make later!), cilantro, parsley, and chives. I love it that herbs are not only delicious, but they’re beautiful too! I love all the pictures in this post :)

  3. Thank you for this! I’ve just planted my first garden of onions, broccoli, and romaine. Also have potatoes planted in a 55 gln drum! :-) Now, once I convince my hubby that my efforts are not in vain and the deer/rabbits won’t devour them, I’ll be able to move on into herbs and other veggies.

    It is time we take control of our health. So grateful for your website!

    Darlene

  4. I’m branching out to more herbs this year, so this was perfect timing! Last year I did a little basil and it was amazing! We couldn’t get enough of it. This year I’m going for basil, oregano, and cilantro, and I was given some parsley, garlic chives, and peppermint. I guess it would be considered a kitchen garden? :)

  5. I like the medicinal herb garden. This will be very helpful to our family. Having this in our backyard is a great thing to consider. By the way, your boys are so cute. Thanks for sharing.

  6. I love that comment about the aloe. I bought a couple a month or so ago and made the mistake of showing my twin toddlers that you could break it off and rub it on your skin. My poor plants are showing the wear as every time we’re outside there’s at least one that gets broken off to rub on their arms or bellies. LOL

  7. Do you usually buy plants or start them from seeds? Any tips on starting them from seeds? (I haven’t had much luck so far.)

    • @Linda, I do some from seeds (calendula, poppy, lavender, mint, dill and a few others), but most I purchase as starter plants. I usually start them inside in March, so I can keep an eye on them. My only tip is buy plenty of seeds – I tend to start just a few at a time, so I have enough to “re-start” if needed. :-)

  8. Inspiring read on this (for me) grey WI morning. Spring is coming, and with it: herbs! Thank you for the reminder. :)

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  1. [...] 7, 2011 by Laura I love herbs, specifically growing herbs, and I just saw this post about planting theme herb gardens.  I love this idea – I’m particularly fascinated by [...]