5 Easy-To-Grow Herbs To Plant This Year
Spring is just around the corner (I hope), and I’m starting to dream of flowers and green, growing things.
I love growing all kinds of plants, but herbs are especially fun to grow. They can be grown in the ground or in containers. They look and smell nice. And they provide lots of flavor for cooking and can be used in herbal remedies.
Many herbs are also easy to grow and are good plants to start with for those with not-so-green thumbs. All you need is some good soil and a little land or a few containers to get started.
So if you are feeling inspired to start an herb garden this spring, here are 5 easy herbs to grow outside.
Basil is a very popular herb for cooking with, especially in the summer. Whether you want it for pizza, pesto, or lemonade, basil is a very versatile herb. Fortunately, it’s also easy to grow.
Basil will grow well either in a garden area or in a container. I grow it in a container on our back porch because this makes it easy to step outside and pick a bunch of basil whenever I want it.
Two or three basil plants will give you a good amount of fresh basil, but if you want to use it for pesto, I would at least double that number. You can either buy a packet of seeds and put them directly in the soil when it’s warm enough or just buy a few small plants.
Basil likes warm weather– think 80 or 90 degree weather- and does best with at least 6 hours of sunlight. This means you don’t want to sow your seeds or put in your plants until late spring, after all danger of frost. Stick with one plant per container (unless it’s a really large container) or plant them 12-18 inches apart in the ground.
If you want a supply of basil all summer long, you’ll want to plant it multiple times. For example, I might plant one round of basil at the end of May, then another round at the end of June, and so on.
Tip: The soil in a container will heat up more quickly than the ground will. If you live somewhere with cold winters, you may have better luck growing basil in a pot. Just keep in mind that containers need watered more often than plants in the ground do.
Parsley is another easy herb to grow. It does better in cooler weather, so it can go out weeks before basil. Fresh parsley is much stronger and better than dried parsley (which mostly tastes like nothing). I love adding it fresh to salads or cooking it in soups.
Like basil, parsley can be grown from seed or bought as a plant. It also does well in a container or in the garden (space about 10-12 inches apart).
Unlike basil, parsley does not like a lot of heat. This means you can plant it in early spring and start enjoying fresh parsley before other herbs are ready. It can even tolerate a light frost (but not a hard freeze).
If you live in a hotter climate with mild winters, plant parsley in the fall so that it can grow through the winter.
There are two types of parsley: flat-leaf and curled-leaf. I like the curled-leaf because of how it looks, but the flat-leaf is a little easier to clean and work with. Why not try both?
Tip: Parsley will fade out as the weather turns hotter. You can get a second round of parsley by planting some at the end of summer so that it can grow through the cool fall weather.
Oregano is a favorite herb used a lot in Italian and Greek dishes. Oregano also looks decorative because it will start trailing out over the sides of the container it’s grown in and will eventually get small white or pink flowers.
Because it looks nice and is convenient, I prefer growing oregano in pots, but it can also go out in the garden. Oregano loves sunlight, so try to put it somewhere that gets a lot of sun.
Oregano will grow pretty easily from seed. You can start it from seed indoors and then plant it outside. Or you can just buy an already started plant and put it in your containers or garden after the last spring frost.
Oregano doesn’t like cold weather as much as parsley, so make sure all danger of frost is past before planting.
You will need to water oregano during long, dry periods, but it doesn’t need as much water as other plants. (It comes from a drier, Mediterranean climate.)
Space oregano plants about 8-10 inches apart or put 2-3 plants in a medium to large container.
Tip: You can start lightly trimming oregano when it gets 4-5 inches tall. This will make the plant become bushier, and you can use the ‘trimmings’ in your cooking.
Mint is not only one of the easiest herbs to grow, it can also become an herb that’s difficult to stop growing.
If you plant mint in a small section of your garden, it will happily start trying to take over the rest of the garden and keep popping up even when you thought you got rid of it.
For that reason, I recommend growing mint in a container unless you’re prepared to spend the next few years trying to control your ‘small’ patch of mint. It grows pretty well even in shaded areas, which is a plus.
It’s easiest to buy a mint plant or two for your herb garden (or find someone who’s been overrun by mint and is giving it away for free). Plant one per container or if you’re feeling really adventurous, space each plant about 2 feet apart in your garden.
Mint is pretty care-free but will benefit from frequent harvesting. It’s also a perennial and will keep coming back each year. However, if you are growing it in pots, the pots will need extra insulation over the winter if your climate is cold. (Mint in the ground will be just fine.)
If you want to branch out from classic mint, try pineapple, citrus, or chocolate mint.
Tip: If you really want to grow mint in the ground, try to plant it where there’s a natural barrier like a wall or a walkway. It grows through underground runners, so you won’t even see it spreading until too late.
Lemon balm is a really nice herb that can be used to flavor water and tea or used in salads, salad dressing, and marinades.
Lemon balm is also very, very easy to grow (it’s a member of the mint family) and another herb that should be kept to containers.
True story, I once put a cute lemon balm plant out in the garden and later discovered its children growing in the gravel underneath my car!
This is another easy herb to grow from seed, cutting, or as a plant. It does like full sun but will tolerate many less-than-perfect conditions. Put out your plants or seeds after the danger of frost is past.
Unlike mint, which spreads through underground runners, lemon balm spreads by seed. The best way to keep it from spreading all over your garden is to cut it back often so that it never flowers.
Tip: Lemon balm loses much of its flavor when dried or cooked. It’s best to enjoy it fresh during the growing season.
Note On Containers
Some herbs are okay growing in small pots. But if you want your plant to be large enough to really get a good harvest, use medium or large containers.
Be sure that the containers you choose have holes in the bottom for drainage. Before putting soil in, cover the holes with an old piece of fabric (that you never want to use again). This allows the water to drain out without taking your soil with it.
Containers do need watered more frequently than plants in the ground, but they are also much more convenient. Put your containers within easy access of the kitchen, if possible, so that you’re more likely to actually use the herbs you grow.
When you’re ready to harvest your herbs, there’s no need to pull out the whole plant. Just cut off however much you need and let the rest of the plant keep going. For parsley, harvest the outer stems and let the inner ones keep growing.
Harvesting on a regular basis will also encourage the plant to keep growing and producing more leaves.
For most herbs, once the plant flowers the leaves will become more bitter and won’t taste as good. (This is because the plant is now putting its energy into the flowers). You can cut off the flower stems before they bloom to delay this.
Once the herbs flower, leave them there if you can! Pollinators will start coming to the flowers, and that’s a good thing.
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When In Doubt, Read The Label!
When you buy any kind of plant, it should come with a plastic marker stuck in the soil around it. This marker tells you a lot of useful information– like how much sun the plant needs, when to plant it, and how far apart to space the plants.
Seed packets also have important information printed on the back. This includes information like how deep to plant the seeds, when to plant the seeds, and how long it will take them to sprout.
Apparently, many people seem to think the plastic markers are there for decoration and just throw them away. Then, they wonder what to do with their new plant.
If you aren’t sure what to do with an herb, first consult the marker/label that came with it (or the back of the seed package). The answer will usually be there! If it’s not, consult Google.
Start Your Own Herb Garden!
That about wraps this post up. All of these 5 herbs are easy to grow outside and are good ones for beginners to start with. You can grow them even if you have limited outdoor space.
Try one or all five and discover the joy of having fresh herbs at your doorstep!
If you have any questions about growing these herbs, leave them in a comment below. I’ll do my best to help you out! And if you want to learn more about using herbs as herbal remedies, check out my series about using herbs to benefit your health.
Happy Herb Gardening!