Many people are interested in growing herbs because they are one of the easiest plants to grow. Though they are often overlooked, fresh herbs can be used to enliven a bland dish. Added as garnish or as flavoring, they lend a fragrant aroma to your favorite foods. Many gardeners also seek their potential health benefits. While herbs sold in stores may not seem prohibitively expensive, the cost can quickly add up, and are oftentimes less fresh. By contrast, herbs grown in the garden retain their flavor longer. Herbs can be interspersed with garden ornamentals and vegetables to optimize space or can be planted alongside other herbs.
Growing Herbs in Raised Garden Beds
Herbs can be grown in a variety of settings, from containers on the windowsill to raised garden beds. A raised garden bed is a great place to grow herbs, as the elevated platform allows you to grow more in an enclosed space. Many herbs have a shallow root requirement and do not require much maintenance. Some varieties of herbs, such as mints, are considered invasive, and should be constrained with structural barriers to prevent them from overtaking your garden.
Growing an Herb Garden or Apothecary Garden
Those looking to start a garden solely dedicated to herbs can consider growing an herb or apothecary garden. It need not be a large area – a small plot of land or an area set aside shall suffice. Herb gardens are considered low maintenance, as many herbs can easily be grown in any type of container or in-ground. Common plants in an herb garden include lavender, sage, thyme, spearmint, chamomile, and rosemary. Small indoor herb gardens are a great way to introduce some greenery into your home or kitchen.
One of the lesser-known garden types, apothecary gardens have been around since Medieval times. Monastic orders in Europe frequently grew an apothecary garden to treat various ailments. While medical practices in the Middle Ages were poor, the efficacy of those herbs is well-documented. Many medicinal herbs and plants are easy to grow and offer a myriad of benefits. Research is necessary to understand which herbs to grow and how to prepare them to access their medicinal benefits.
Types of Herbs
Herbs of the same category can be grown in conjunction with each other to save space. Generally, crops that favor the same environmental conditions will be positively associated with each other. Companion planting, a strategy used to maximize garden efficiency, can be used to enhance flavor, repel pests, and enrich the soil in the garden.
- Mediterranean Herbs. The vast Mediterranean region, known for its temperate climate and crystal blue seas, is home to many culinary classics. Lavender, rosemary, oregano, sage and thyme are all Mediterranean herbs that can be grown together. They prefer full sun and areas with dry, rocky soil, similar to their climate of origin.
Lemon-Scented Herbs. If you savor the taste of lemons, but find it a hassle to grow them, then lemon-scented herbs are an alternative. Lemon thyme, lemon verbena, and lemon basil do well when planted together.
- Mints. As mints can become invasive, they should not be planted with other herbs. However, they can be planted with other mints. Though it may seem unusual, true mints can actually cross pollinate when planted in close proximity, which may result in a new variety with altered traits. While the term “mint” conjures a specific flavor popularized by mint toothpaste and gum, there are many varieties of mints – lemon mint, orange mint, and even apple mint – that contain subtle differences in flavor.
Popular Types of Herbs to Plant
Below is a list of popular culinary herbs and their various properties.
Basil repels whiteflies, mosquitos, and aphids. Though they can be planted with other herbs, they will fare better when planted with vegetables. Avoid planting basil near sage and rosemary. An Italian classic, basil has a complex flavor reminiscent of clove, pepper, and anise. It is used to add flavor to pesto, garnishes, and herb butters.
Thyme has an earthy flavor with hints of lemon and mint. It grows well with other Mediterranean herbs, but should be avoided planted next to basil, coriander, and chives, which prefer moist soil. Thyme has anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, and antiseptic properties; when distilled into essential oil, it can be used to treat coughs and respiratory tract infections and reduce inflammation.
Often planted with carrots, potatoes and tomatoes, chives can repel aphids, beetles, and cabbage worms. It has a subtle garlic taste that enhances poultry, eggs, and potato dishes. High in dietary fiber, provitamin A, vitamin K, and flavonoids, chives have been shown to improve heart health, bone health, vision, and immunity.
The highly fragrant leaves of the dill plant impart a citrusy taste with a grassy undertone. Its sweet, bright taste makes it popular in salmon dishes and sauces. Dill grows well with chives, lemon balm, and lemon thyme.
Frequently Asked Questions
What herbs grow in full sun?
Those herbs should be planted in full sun – at least 6 hours – for optimal results.
What herbs can grow in partial shade?
Though most herbs prefer full sun, there are some that can tolerate some shade. Partial sun, partial shade, and dappled sunlight are all designations for the amount of sunlight required. Partial shade and partial sun are often used interchangeably to refer to plants that require 3 – 6 hours of sun, though partial sun plants are more heat-tolerant. Dappled sunlight is a more poetic term that refers to light filtered through a canopy.
- Lemon Balm
- Bee Balm