8 Must Have Herbs to Grow in Your Garden

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There are eight must-have herbs to grow in your garden from savory to sweet, these herbs are useful in various culinary dishes.

Herbs are easy to grow in a garden or a container and they can help to give your food flavor all year long.

Growing herbs in containers is a good option for anyone who doesn’t have the space, especially in a garden.

Some herbs though should be grown in your garden because of their ability to attract the right kind of insects or deter the wrong kind of insects.

1. BASIL

Basli

Basil is native to the tropical regions of Central Africa to Southeast Asia where it is treated as an annual plant. However, it can also be grown as a perennial.

It is known for its fragrant leaves that are used in popular culinary recipes, it can grow to be as tall as 1 foot, and the time to harvest is three to four weeks.

Basil is best harvested by clipping the stem above the point where the two largest leaves meet. Regular clipping of the stems will result in a bushier and more rounded plant with more leaves.

If you’re growing it in a pot, keep in mind that it needs watering more frequently than other plants. Water it deep when the top inch of soil is dry and as the weather warms up, it will need even more watering.

Mulch or rocks will help to keep moisture in the soil and extend watering intervals.

Ideally, you should plant the seeds six weeks before the last frost. However, basil is sensitive to cold, therefore using a seed starter tray will allow you to start the seeds early indoors.

VARIETIES

  • Sweet basil
  • Holy basil – is also known as sacred basil or tulsi in India and is called kaphrao in Thai.
  • Thai basil
  • Camphor Basil
  • Dark opal basil
  • Lemon basil – a cross-pollinated hybrid between Thai basil and Mrs. burns’ lemon.
  • African blue basil – a cross-pollinated hybrid between camphor basil and dark opal basil.
  • Lettuce leaf basil
  • Mammoth basil
  • Dwarf bush basil
  • Genovese basil
  • Nufar basil – a variety of Genovese basil and is resistant to fusarium wilt.
  • Spicy globe basil – grows more like a bush.

TIME TO HARVEST

  • 50 – 70 days

SOIL PH LEVELS

  • 6.0 – 7.5

PESTS

DISEASES

2. CHIVES

Chives

Chives are naturally widespread throughout much of Europe, Asia, and North America.

They are related to onions, shallots, scallion, garlic, leeks, and Chinese onion, with the flowers and leaves being eatable.

Planting chives in early spring will give you the best results, but they can also be planted in fall in the south for harvest during winter.

They prefer a sunny location but they will tolerate partial shade and are also drought resistant.

When planting them in your garden, keep in mind that they need to be planted 8 to 10 weeks before the first frost, but they can be started indoors by using cardboard seed starter pots or an empty cardboard egg carton.

Chives are perennials that will do well in containers with enough room for them to spread.

When established, they need little care although you must harvest the leaves regularly to encourage new growth.

They should be harvested by hand when the leaves are six inches tall and the leaves should be cut about half an inch above the soil level.

TIME TO HARVEST

  • 50 – 70 days

SOIL PH LEVELS

  • 6.1 – 7.8

PESTS

  • Aphids
  • Thrips – onion thrips and western flower thrips.
  • Onion maggot

DISEASES

  • Puccinia alli – also known as rust fungus and chive rust.
  • Phoma terrestris
  • Rhizoctonia solani
  • Fusarium culmorum
  • Pythium aphanidermatum

3. Mint

Mint

Mint is a widely distributed plant that can be found in wet environments, where it grows best, across North America, Europe, Africa, Asia, and Australia.

Unlike most herbs, mint prefers moist soil that is well-drained and should be planted about 2 feet apart because it can grow to be 2 feet wide.

This pungent perennial herb grows so fast and will quickly take over an area if left unattended, therefore you will need to harvest or trim them more often than other herbs.

Because of their ability to grow so fast, they are a good fit to be grown in containers that can be placed anywhere.

This herb can be used for many purposes, such as soothing gastrointestinal issues, helping with digestion, relieving headaches, and repelling bugs.

VARIETIES

  • Peppermint
  • Spearmint
  • Pineapple mint
  • Chocolate mint
  • Japanese peppermint – also known as American wild mint, Canada mint, Chinese mint, Sakhalin mint, and East Asian wild mint. It contains higher amounts of menthol which gives the minty aroma and flavor.
  • American wild mint – also referred to as Canada mint.
  • New Zealand mint
  • Slender mint – native to South Australia, Victoria, New South Wales, Queensland, and Tasmania.
  • Forest mint – native to eastern Australia.

TIME TO HARVEST

  • 75 – 90 days

SOIL PH LEVELS

  • 6.5 – 7.0

PESTS

  • Root Borers
  • Spider mites

DISEASES

4. THYME

Thyme

Thyme is native to the Mediterranean region and was used by the ancient Egyptians, ancient Greeks, and Romans.

It is mainly used today for culinary purposes but it can also be used for medicinal purposes as well as decorative purposes.

When planting it make sure to space the plants 12 to 24 inches apart in well-drained fertile soil that contains plenty of organic matter.

When choosing thyme for your herb garden make sure you choose a variety that has low maintenance requirements.

Harvesting should begin at the outermost branches of the plant and work your way down the stem. By cutting off the outermost branches, you’ll encourage branching and more leaf production.

You should also remember that thyme is a perennial herb. As such, it grows year-round in milder climates and you can even cultivate this herb as an evergreen.

VARIETIES

  • Silver thyme
  • English thyme
  • Lemon thyme
  • Orange balsam thyme
  • Pennsylvania Dutch tea thyme
  • Juniper thyme
  • Hi-Ho silver thyme
  • Caraway thyme
  • Italian oregano thyme
  • Foxley thyme

TIME TO HARVEST

  • 75 – 90 days

SOIL PH LEVELS

  • 6.5 – 7.0

PESTS

  • Aphids
  • Meadow moth
  • Sandy slow
  • Weevil

5. CILANTRO

Cilantro

Cilantro is also known as coriander and is native to Southern Europe, South-Western Asia, and North Africa.

It’s important to work the soil evenly because cilantro plants have deep and long taproots.

Growing cilantro in a container that is at least 8 inches deep is a great way to enjoy this aromatic, pungent herb year-round.

If you want to make a continuous harvest throughout the season, plant cilantro seeds every two weeks or so with the time to harvest is about 30 to 55 days after sowing.

TIME TO HARVEST

  • 50 – 70 days

SOIL PH LEVELS

  • 6.5 – 7.5

PESTS

  • Aphids
  • Beet armyworms
  • Leaf hoppers
  • Whiteflies

DISEASES

  • Pseudomonas syringe
  • Erwinia carotovora
  • Erwinia chrysanthemi
  • Pseudomonas marginalis
  • Carrot motley dwarf disease
  • Carrot mottle virus
  • Powdery mildew
  • Pythium spp
  • Rhizoctonia solani

6. MARJORAM

Sweet majoram

Sweet Majoram or knotted marjoram as it is also known is native to Western Asia, the Mediterranean region, Cyprus, Turkey, and the Arabian Peninsula.

Seeds are best started indoors four weeks before the average last frost date in your region.

Soak the seeds overnight to help with germination and then transplant them into larger pots or in your garden when they are about four to five inches tall.

Plant seedlings 12 inches apart in well-drained soil with plenty of sunlight.

Growing marjoram in a container is an excellent solution for those who don’t have space to spare in a garden.

When temperatures begin to fall, it will need to be moved inside and placed in front of a sunny window.

Once the plant has rooted, they need about 21 days to start blooming and this will help to attract pollinators, which is what this plant is well known for.

TIME TO HARVEST

  • 75 – 90 days

SOIL PH LEVELS

  • 6.5 – 7.5

PESTS

  • Whiteflies
  • Spider mites
  • Thrips

7. LEMON BALM

Lemon Balm

Lemon Balm is in the mint family and is native to southern Europe, the Mediterranean Basin, Iran, and Central Asia.

It is a very hardy herb that can grow to a considerable size in a garden or container.

Start the seeds at least 6-8 weeks before the last frost and transplant them outdoors once the soil has warmed up enough.

When growing lemon balm in a pot or your garden, keep in mind that it can become a bit invasive if not harvested or trimmed on a regular basis.

TIME TO HARVEST

  • 50 – 70 days

SOIL PH LEVELS

  • 6.0 – 7.5

PESTS

  • Aphids

DISEASES

8. NETTLE

Nettle

Nettle is native to Europe, North Africa, most of Asia with more moderate temperatures, and New Zealand.

It prefers moist soil that is well-drained and that already has a good amount of nitrogen in it.

This plant also makes great fertilizers, so be sure to grow some extra for your compost pile or turn it into the soil.

Growing it in and around your garden is another great way to use it as a natural pesticide and to help keep the wildlife out of your garden.

This herb is a great deterrent for deer and other animals because the hairs on the plant that are meant to protect it from predators.

Remember to use gloves when handling the hairs which contain cystoliths that can irritate the urinary system.

If you get poked by the plant expect to see some inflammation at the site along with some skin irritation. Using a cream with an antihistamine or hydrocortisone will give some relief.

TIME TO HARVEST

  • 80 – 90 days

SOIL PH LEVELS

  • 5.0 – 8.0

HARVESTING HERBS

All herbs should be harvested by hand, with the best time being in the morning. You can use a pair of scissors or pruning shears to cut the herbs.

HOW TO STORE HERBS

There are various ways to preserve them, including air-drying, freezing, and refrigerating.

If you’re going to use them soon, it’s a good idea to freeze them.

DRY THEM OUT

After the herbs have been harvested, wash them, bundle 3 to 5 stems together and wrap the steams with cotton twine, make a knot that is not too tight and leave a trail that is about 3 inches long.

Don’t bundle more of the 5 stems together because of the possibility of mold developing on the plant.

From this point, you can use the tail to hang the herbs by hanging a piece of twine and tieing the herbs to that piece of twine.

Hanging the herbs upside down while drying allows the oils in the stems to flow into the leaves, making them more flavorful.

The drying process will take 5 to 7 days, depending on the humidity level where they are being dried.

Another method for drying out your herbs is to use a dehydrator. They come in several different configurations to choose from to fit your needs.

PRESERVING HERBS IN OIL

Preserving herbs in any kind of oil is a great way to add some flavor to any dish. The leaves of any herb can be used in combination or by themselves.

Before preserving any herbs, you will need to get some glass bottles that have a resealable cap such as a twist-on cap or a reusable cork that is attached to the bottle.

Make sure that the herbs are fully dried before adding them to the oil, if any water is allowed to mix with the herbs then this will make the oil go bad or rancid and the whole contents will have to be trashed.

Basil pesto comes from Italy and is the most famous example of preserving herbs in oil, which dates back to 1863.

It is traditionally made with extra virgin olive oil, sweet basil leaves, parmigiano reggiano, peco rino, and pine nuts.

FREEZING

If you freeze the herbs after drying and preserving them in oil or butter, they can last six to nine months without significantly losing their flavor.

This method is best suited to harder varieties of herbs such as oregano, rosemary, sage, thyme, and basil. Other varieties of herbs may not freeze well, such as chives, dill, and basil.

Remember to label the herbs and include the date, this will ensure they stay fresh for as long as possible.

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