Gardening Herbs

How to Plan, Plant and Grow a Kitchen Herb Garden

Sure you can grow your own herb garden. It really isn’t that difficult! Photo: alexraths, depositphotos

By Diane H. Wong

Having a kitchen herb garden is a great hobby that brings practical benefits. Herbs make our dishes tastier and healthier. Often, though, the herbs we buy in a grocery store are seriously disappointing. Even when they look beautiful, store-bought herbs may not give you the full taste you seek.

The way out? You can be sure of the quality of kitchen herbs when you plant and grow them yourself. Besides having fresh herbs when you need them, growing them is exciting. And it’s not even that complicated. Of course, as notes, you’ll need both knowledge and experience, or the readiness to learn, but understanding some basic rules will help you a great deal.

Indoors or Outdoors?

Herbs on a windowsill.
Growing herbs indoors can be difficult, especially if you want to grow them to full size. You’ll need really intense light. Photo: nevarpp, depositphotos

Plants mostly grow best outdoors, and herbs are no exception. It is easier to give them the sunlight exposure level and soil humidity they need in an outdoor setting. If you own a house with even a small yard, you can have a kitchen herb garden there … or even a container herb garden on a balcony. It doesn’t require a lot of space.

Of course, it’s also possible to plant and grow kitchen herbs indoors. If your home is an apartment without a yard or balcony, or you want fresh herbs for cooking even in winter, you can start them in pots. The main challenges will be assuring the right light and moisture for the plants, as they are more complicated indoors.

Herbes grown as microgreens.
The easiest way to grow herbs indoors is as microgreens or sprouts. That way, you’ll harvest them young, before they suffer too badly from poor indoor conditions, especially weak light. Photo; ronstik, depositphotos

It won’t always be possible to grow herbs to their full maturity indoors, as they tend to go downhill if grown too long under unfavorable conditions, but at least you can sow them as sprouts and microgreens for quick harvesting.

If you decide to have a small herb garden in your apartment, first check the following:

  • Which plants will you grow? Not all herbs are suitable for containers, as their root systems can large and need more room. You have to ensure good drainage for them.
  • Can you ensure the necessary amount of sunlight for them? Most herbs require at least six hours of direct sunlight per day. However, some herbs are fine with indirect sunlight for short periods (mint, thyme, rosemary, etc.).
  • Can you ensure the proper moisture level? The air indoors is dry in winter; much drier than herbs prefer. You will need to water your plants accordingly and a humidifier may be necessary to moisturize the air.

The primary criteria for success are choosing the right herbs for indoor growing plus ensuring the basic requirements for sunlight and moisture. If you do this, you will always have fresh herbs for your dishes, no matter the season.

Which Herbs to Choose

Pots of herbs on a wooden table.
Start by growing the herbs you most like to use in cooking. Photo: oksixx, depositphotos

Your kitchen herbs garden starts with selecting the plants. The first recommendation here is to choose those herbs you eat. It may be tempting to plant and grow something new and original. If you enjoy gardening experiments, go ahead. If your purpose is practical, and you want to grow some herbs to make your food more delicious, though, the best choice is to focus on those herbs you consume and have recipes for.

Another point to consider is whether you can grow herbs together. Some of them do just fine with sharing their growing space, allowing you to save you a lot of effort. You can apply the same cultivation methods to several sorts of herbs, as follows:

  • Mediterranean herbs include oregano, rosemary, lavender, marjoram, sage, and thyme. They need a lot of sunlight and drier soil.
  • Moisture-loving herbs include basil and parsley. You should plant them in an area where they can get lots of sunlight, yet are readily accessible to facilitate the regular watering they need to keep their soil moist.
  • Mints and mint relatives include peppermint, catmint, orange mint, spearmint and lemon balm. They grow well in full sun, but also feel comfortable in the shade. They all need moist soil. Treat them with caution, as mints tend to spread and overrun other plants. Besides, their intense scent can camouflage the attractive aromas of other plants.

Mediterranean herbs grow well together. Moisture-loving herbs are also okay when planted together. The different kinds of mints need room to spread out. The planting experts from recommend that you not mix Mediterranean and moisture-loving plants, as they require specific cultivation measures. And grow invasive mints and mint relatives on their own, away from other plants.

Basic Recommendations on How to Plant and Grow Kitchen Herbs 

Several images of herbs in a collage.
You can harvest a whole host of herbs, even on a balcony. Photo: viperagp, depositphotos

• Begin With Plants

If you are a beginner, growing herbs from seeds is maybe not a good idea for a first try. Growing them from seed can be a lengthy and complicated process that requires experience and a lot of patience. Fortunately, you can purchase young plants—professionally-grown seedlings and rooted cuttings, essentially—in garden stores and online. This will solve many complications right from the start.

• Pick the Right Location

The closer it is to your kitchen, the better. However, if you grow kitchen herbs in the backyard, you can choose any area as long as it receives enough sunlight. You can plant and grow most herbs in containers using specially prepared and fertilized soil. Such containers can be placed anywhere under the sun.

• Prepare the Soil for Planting

Loosen the soil and make sure it drains well, which may require adding sand and compost. Fertilize the soil with an organic all-purpose fertilizer. Then dig the holes deep enough to plant your seedlings. The best time for planting is in the morning or in the late afternoon, thus avoiding the intense midday sun.

• Organize the Kitchen Herb Garden

Young herbs need room to grow, so provide enough space for future growth. Some require up to 20 inches (50 cm) of space if you want to see them really thrive. Besides, such a herb garden is not only functional. It’s also a thing of beauty and you’ll be able to enjoy the bright foliage, flowers and scents. Consider where you will plant this or that plant, depending on its size, height and color. In addition, add labels to the planting areas to identify them so you can quickly harvest the ones you need.

• Ensure Regular Watering

Get familiar with the requirements for herbs you plant. Then make sure to stick to the watering schedule and provide your plants with the necessary amount of water regularly.

• Harvest Herbs Correctly

Hand pruning rosemary with scissors.
Leaves from the top of the plant, as on this rosemary, usually have the most concentrated flavor. Photo: simply, depositphotos

The best time for picking the herbs is before noon. Cut the plants instead of pulling them out. For that, you’ll need a sharp knife or scissors. A reminder from be careful with the leaves and stems you harvest—they must be healthy. If you notice any damaged areas on the plant, cut them off and dispose of them.

Don’t cut the entire plant. Just trim it, taking about one third of it to use to meet your cooking needs. In most cases, the plant will grow again and provide you with fresh produce very soon. Harvest the plant starting from the top—it brings you the freshest and healthiest leaves.

Making a kitchen herb garden is an exciting hobby that lets you discover new opportunities in both gardening and cooking. It’s also an excellent means of stress relief. You can grow herbs on your own alone or together with people you’re close to, allowing you to spend quality time with them. You can even grow kitchen herbs garden directly in the kitchen. So why not try it this year?

About the Author

Diane H. Wong is a content team manager. Moreover, she is a paper writer, so she prefers to spend her spare time writing interesting and educational articles and blog posts. In this case, she has an opportunity to share her experience with others and keep up with advancing technologies.

Garden writer and blogger, author of 65 gardening books, lecturer and communicator, the Laidback Gardener, Larry Hodgson, passed away in October 2022. Known for his great generosity, his thoroughness and his sense of humor, he reached several generations of amateur and professional gardeners over his 40-year career. Thanks to his son, Mathieu Hodgson, and a team of contributors, will continue its mission of demystifying gardening and making it more accessible to all.

3 comments on “How to Plan, Plant and Grow a Kitchen Herb Garden

  1. Pingback: Gardening Book of the Month - Laidback Gardener

  2. Russ Clark

    Every winter from Oct to early May I organize a small herb garden in a south facing kitchen window with an LED light. It usually does well for several months but by about Jan the plants slowly become infested with what looks like very small flies or some kind of insect which slowly do in the plants. Rinsing them under a spray of water in the sink seems to help but only delays their slow deterioration.
    Any suggestions?
    Thanks, Russ.

    • I’m no longer able to answer individual questions. However, you can use the search tool on the blog page to see if a past post has answered your question.
      Good gardening!
      Larry Hodgson

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