Cultivating Flavor: DIY Herb Gardening for Beginners

Cultivating Flavor: DIY Herb Gardening for Beginners

Publish Date March 13, 2024 3 Minute Read

Get ready to dig into the exciting world of herb gardening and create a flavor wonderland at home. While it’s not quite as simple as sticking some plants in the dirt, it’s not far off. And your work will receive a tasty reward. Like the satisfaction you get from watching your little herb buddies grow and that sense of a job well done when you go from garden to table (pat, pat, pat).

So get those hands ready to be dirty because we’re going to explore the essential steps to get your garden thriving; from choosing the right plants to harvesting, preserving, and using those aromatic treasures.

Choosing the Right Herbs for Your Garden

There are literally thousands of herbs used around the world. So when it comes to picking the right ones for your little (or big) garden, a lot comes down to your geographic location and food preferences. Our favorites, based on ease of growing and versatility, are the following:

  • Basil: A staple in most houses, basil adds that sweet and spicy touch to salads, sauces, and pasta dishes.
  • Rosemary: This hardy herb is the perfect piney addition to roasted vegetables, meat seasoning, or that balancing point between sweet and savory in desserts or drinks. Plus, it's drought-tolerant and thrives in sunny conditions.
  • Mint: One of the easier herbs to grow, mint adds a cooling pop to cocktails and desserts.
  • Thyme: With its earthy flavor, thyme complements a variety of dishes, especially poultry and roasted vegetables.
  • Parsley: A versatile herb that adds a burst of clean freshness to almost any dish.
  • Cilantro: This must-have herb adds that citrus zest to salsa and dips, wraps, salads, and soups.
  • Dill: In addition to looking cool with its feathery fronds, this citrus-like herb pairs great with seafood, salads, and of course, anything pickled.
  • Oregano: This earthy herb is the unsung hero for any Italian or Mediterranean dish. Move over basil!

DIY Herb Hacks

When Should You Start Your Garden?

With a good handle on who you might want to include in your garden, the next step is deciding when. This answer depends on a couple of factors, but the biggest is whether you’re growing inside or out. If growing outside, wait until Spring and plant in a nice sunny location with well-draining soil.

If you just can’t wait that long, some of your seeds (like cilantro, dill, and parsley) can be started indoors and then moved out once the weather warms. If you’re growing inside, Spring is still the preferred time because your best growing is going to be when the days are long. The exception to this is if you have LED grow lights, in which case you can pick anytime you like!

How to Get Started

If you’ve decided on outdoor growing, next up is picking a location. Monitor the area you’ve got in mind for a couple of days to ensure it gets a full 6-8 hours (or more) of direct sun. Your little herbs are going to give you the best haul when they get enough light. Also, make sure if you’re planting directly into the ground, you’ve got soil that drains well (not clay) because these babies prefer dry to wet conditions.

When you’ve got the perfect location, and the season is cooperating, either sow your seeds directly into the soil or transplant your seedlings by digging a hole slightly bigger than your root ball, backfilling around it, and packing it down. Water everyone well, sit back, and watch the magic happen.

Maximize the Potential: Best Harvest Tips

The best thing about herbs is you can harvest all the way through the growing season. Plan to wait for that first harvest until your leafy herbs are around 6-8 inches tall. Then simply use a clean, sharp pair of scissors to snip here and there to keep your plant beautiful as you go. Just don’t cut off more than a third of the plant at a time to encourage continuous growth.

If you cannot use it as you go, ie your harvest is bigger than tonight's meal, try either drying or freezing it for a special treat later on. To dry, tie small bunches of herbs together and hang them upside down in a cool, dry place or use a dehydrator or an oven on low heat. Alternatively, freezing your herbs either whole or in ice cube trays with water or oil is another convenient method.

What to Do with Your Bountiful Herbs

The uses for herbs extend beyond what most of us realize. While sprinkling these little green beauties on our food adds a pop, you can also get creative. Try your hand at infused vinegar and oil, delicious herb butter, tantalizing herbal teas, soothing sachets and salves, or even craft your own spice blends.

In the end, a DIY herb garden is a delightful journey that connects you with nature and unleashes your adventurous side. Whether you’re a novice gardener or know what you’re doing in the dirt, growing herbs is a rewarding and approachable endeavor. With just a little work and attention, you’ll soon be enjoying all your herbs have to offer. Happy planting!

Ready to get your hands dirty? Check out some of these recipes to get you excited for the future.

Recipes for Your Herbs