A Guide to Successfully Growing Herbs Outside
An Herb Planting Guide for Starting a Basic Kitchen Garden
I’ll be the first to admit that I am not a gardening expert – not a Master Gardener (yet). In fact, for years, I would have been classified as barely proficient in many respects. Don’t get me wrong – I love gardening. I enjoy spending time outdoors feeling the warm sun on my back as I prepare the soil for planting. I love planning where everything will go and setting the seedlings and small plants in the soil.
And there’s sort of where things start to go downhill. I quickly lose interest in the constant weeding and watering, I never pay attention the sun or soil requirements, and don’t concern myself with companion planting. Which is why I love herbs. They don’t care much about any of that either.
Growing Herbs Outside
Growing herbs outside is extremely easy. Most can be started by sowing the seeds directly outdoors in early spring. They generally don’t care about soil type, how much sun they get, or even if you water them all that often. Bunnies and deer don’t eat them, and bugs don’t generally bother them – in fact, many types of herbs are natural insect repellents. Herbs produce all summer long and with regular snipping, they won’t get leggy or go to seed. Herbs also smell wonderful. Just brushing against one in your garden produces a burst of heady aroma.
Another nice thing about herbs is that you never have to wonder if they are ripe, as you do with other fruits and vegetables. With herbs, if you see leaves and they are large enough for your purposes, go right ahead and snip away.
Herbs don’t take up much space either. You can plant them in small raised beds, containers or even window boxes. All the culinary herbs “play nice together” which means that you can plant them in the same container or space and not worry that one will rob the other of nutrients or space. (Except for mint that is! Mint has a tendency to spread out.)
Cooking with fresh herbs makes a good dish great and a great one even better. If you grow more than you can immediately use, just harvest leaves (mid-morning is the best time after the morning dew has dried but the afternoon sun isn’t at its strongest), spread them out in a single layer on paper towels on cookie sheets or on old window screens and let them air dry, then crumble them and store them in airtight containers in a cool, dark spot. In addition to smelling wonderful and looking pretty, culinary herbs also have some amazing health benefits for both people and animals.
While many herbs are easy to start from seeds, growing basil from small plants or seedlings is recommended. Basil is a bit more difficult to start from seed and started seedlings don’t transplant well, so if you do start seeds, they should be sowed directly into the ground. Basil is a tender herb, so wait to plant outdoors until the soil has warmed sufficiently and nights are staying consistently warm in the spring.
Basil likes well-drained, sandy soil and does best in full sun. Don’t over water your basil plants. Let the soil dry out in between waterings. To harvest, pick the largest leaves throughout the season, then just prior to the weather turning cold in the fall, harvest all the remaining leaves and dry them or you can make pesto and freeze it in ice cube trays.
Thyme is one of the easiest herbs to grow. It’s extremely forgiving and will grow in almost any type of soil. Thyme is a perennial and best started as a small plant, rather than from seeds, which take a very long time to germinate. Thyme prefers full sun and dry, sandy soil, but will usually flourish in any conditions. Thyme is a pretty garnish for food and can also be dried for later use.
Are you growing herbs outside this year? What are your favorites?