Start an Herb Garden: An Ultimate Guide to the Benefits of Growing Herbs

start an herb garden featured image

Homesteading and gardening seem to go hand in hand. Most homesteaders grow vegetables, fruit, and berry bushes. But perhaps the greatest garden you can grow is an herb garden.

When you start an herb garden on your homestead you will create a means to provide not only culinary flavors to add to your daily meals but also the ability to dye cloth, heal the sick, boost your family’s health, perfume your body and house and add a source of food for wildlife pollinators.

Now that you know the benefits of doing so, why not start an herb garden on your homestead?

Start an Herb Garden

large herb garden

Preparing to Start

Before you run out and start buying random herbs, you need to know the 3 basics you must be aware of before you start an herb garden:

  • Your Hardiness Zone
  • Basic Needs
  • Your Purpose

Your Hardiness Zone

First, check HERE to see what zone you live in. Make note of your hardiness zone. Then make sure the herbs you wish to grow will thrive in that zone by going HERE. The RHS, Royal Horticultural Society, classifies each herb to show how well a plant will grow in hot to freezing conditions.

Plants in zones 1 and 2 require frost free conditions year round. From zones 3 and up the higher the zone number the lower temperature below freezing the plant will tolerate.

Basic Needs

All plants including the herbs you will choose to start an herb garden must have 4 essentials to survive:

  • light
  • water
  • nutrients
  • space to develop

Some plants will require more of one of the necessities than others. Therefore, some of the herbs are perfect when you first start an herb garden and some herbs are better left for the more experienced gardener.

Your Intended Purpose

We don’t grow herbs “just because”. No, instead there should be a purpose, a reason we choose certain herbs to start an herb garden. Some examples may include:

  • herbs for cooks or bakers
  • medicinal uses
  • drinks
  • wildlife
  • DIYers and florists

Decide the purpose of your herb garden before you move on to choosing a spot to start planting in.

herb garden where needs of plants are met

Location, Location, Location

Herbs need to be planted in their optimal site where their needs are met to be able to thrive. These needs vary for each herb. For example, Mediterranean Herbs need hot, sunny locations with good draining soil to provide the most aromatic leaves. These herbs may include:

  • thyme
  • rosemary
  • lavender

Other herbs prefer more shady areas and moist soil to thrive. These may include:

  • mint
  • comfrey
  • wild garlic

Once you know where the location suits your chosen herbs, you can prepare your soil. Make sure your location has some sort of access to water too.

Preparing a New Herb Bed

Once you pick the location to start an herb garden, you should dig the new area thoroughly, removing any rocks and weeds or grass, including all the roots. Cover the area with a thick layer of good organic compost. Rake it in! Then smooth the soil. It is now ready to plant. Most herbs will thrive in multipurpose peat-free compost. If your herbs prefer more well-drained soil, mix a bit of grit in with your com

Most herbs will give a better harvest if grown directly in the ground rather than a pot.The ground allows more space for their roots. One exception to this is Basil which prefers the warmth of a windowsill. Herbs can be added to a vegetable garden or a flower garden. When planting in a vegetable garden it is always best to keep annual and perennial herbs together so that you don’t disturb the roots of the perennials when the annuals are removed.

Herbs can also act as companion plants and can attract more pollinators to the vegetable garden. Marigolds are known to ward off pests for other nearby plants. Basil masks the smell of carrots which has been known to deter wild rabbits.

herb garden to attract pollinators

Tools you may need include:

  • watering can and/or hose
  • small shovel
  • garden fork
  • spade
  • rake
  • compost
  • organic fertilizer
  • gloves
  • mister or spray bottle
  • trellis, string, or canes (for support)
  • markers to identify your herbs

Types of Herbs

In choosing which herbs you wish to grow, you should learn which herbs are perennials, shrubs, and/or trees, and which herbs are annuals. This knowledge can help you to decide which ones are right for you and your needs before you start an herb garden.

Perennials

Perennial herbs come back year after year and are some of the easiest to grow. They require minor maintenance and less troubles than other herbs. Perennial herbs include:

  • mint
  • lemon balm
  • lovage
  • chives
  • fennel
  • sorrel

Perennials are best planted in Spring or Fall. These herbs should be cut back after flowering.

Lemon Balm
lemon balm

Shrubs and Trees

These herbs can be grown in the ground or in large containers. Usually available as bare-root plants in their dormant season. Newly planted shrubs and trees need to be well-watered for their first few months to help them become established. If potted, pots may need to be replanted each year. Shrubs and trees include:

  • citrus
  • rosemary
  • lemon verbana
  • bay
  • myrtle roses
  • elder
  • nutmeg
  • black pepper

Annuals and Biennials

Annual herbs grow from seed. They flower, make seeds, and then die. This usually takes place in a single growing season.

Biennial herbs take 2 growing seasons. Usually, they grow foliage in year 1, then flower, turn to seed, and die in year 2. These herbs include:

Annuals

  • basil
  • dill
  • borage
  • shiso
  • summery savory
  • nasturtium
Nasturium
nasturium

Biennials

  • parsley
  • caraway

Let’s break down these herbs even further as to the best places to plant certain herbs to help you further make the right choice of which herbs to choose to start an herb garden.

The Easiest Herbs for Beginners

The easiest herbs to plant directly in the garden:

  • chives
  • lemon balm
  • elder
  • sorrel
  • rosemary
  • thyme
  • marigold
  • bay
  • lavender
  • borage
  • sage
  • nettle
  • fennel
  • violet
  • oregano
  • nasturium

The easiest herbs to plant in containers:

  • mint
  • parsley
  • lavender
  • thyme
  • marigold
  • sweet violet
  • oregano
  • lemon verbena
  • bay
  • marigold
  • rosemary
  • nasturium
Herbs in containers
Herbs in containers

The easiest herbs to grow on windowsills:

  • mint
  • thyme
  • basil
  • parsley
  • chilies
 When you start an herb garden on your homestead you will create a means to provide not only culinary flavors to add to your daily meals but also the ability to dye cloth, heal the sick, boost your family's health, perfume your body and house and add a source of food for wildlife pollinators.

Detailed Information to Start an Herb Garden

I have quite a few resources on herb gardening within my site. For more information to start an herb garden, herbs and their uses, and harvesting and preserving, please check out the following posts:

For growing specific herbs, check out the following posts:

Looking for a good product to help you get started with your herb garden? Check out Herbs 101: Gardening and Preserving for the Beginner.

Herbs 101 Ebook

About the author

I'm a mama to four and grandma to six. Yankee born with a love of the south. I love old-fashioned ways with modern thinking. I'm a homesteader, gardener, blogger. I enjoy “from scratch” cooking, consider myself a crafty do-it-yourselfer, and animal rescuer.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.