Diving into the world of herbs is fascinating. Herbs can be used in a variety of ways – culinary, medicinal, and as companion plants. They’re pollinator-friendly additions to the garden and often add color while also being functional. Growing an herb garden isn’t rocket science, but having a plan in place can go a long way when starting, especially if it’s your first time.
Here are some things to think about as you get started:
Where to place your herb garden is an important first step. There isn’t necessarily one right or wrong way to do it if you just keep certain factors in mind. First, plant herbs in areas that are easily accessible for you. While a community garden plot 10 miles away might be the most space and sunshine, it might not be realistic for everyday care and maintenance. You can plant herbs on your windowsill, in your backyard, on the porch, in hanging baskets. There are endless options if you’re willing to be creative.
Sun is super important (especially for certain herbs) and you’ll want to make sure there is access to water nearby. You don’t want to be lugging buckets of water up the stairs or around the block if you can help it.
If you’re planting your herb garden outside, consider the area’s exposure as the wind can affect plants’ growth. If you’re using a space with violent winds, you can experiment with techniques to block the extreme gusts and keep your plants healthy.
Humans aren’t the only animals who enjoy delicious herbs – so you’ll need to plan accordingly. Consider using chicken wire, eggshells or other non-pesticide techniques to keep other hungry critters from devouring your herbal harvest.
When it comes to choosing which herbs to plant, remember to have fun! Pick herbs you’re excited about and will be excited to use and incorporate into your life. If you love the relaxing smells of lavender, you could experiment with different varieties to see which one is your favorite. Citronella is a popular herb for insect repellent.
Fresh rosemary will spruce up any meal and can improve your memory and cognition. Sage can help with digestion. Whatever your interests, there’s probably an herb that will enrich your experience. It’s an opportunity to engage with the world and learn about plants, so don’t worry too much and enjoy yourself.
That being said, depending on what herbs you want to plant, planning can be incredibly important. For example, mint can be incredibly invasive when planted in the ground. If you’re not careful, it’ll take over the entire garden and be really difficult to remove. Rosemary grows well next to plants cabbage and beans but doesn’t actually do well with most other herbs. Whatever it is you decide to grow, be sure to do a quick google search on companion plants to set your herb garden up for success.
As you go about starting to grow your herb garden, consider using your exciting endeavor to also help out some pollinator friends in your area. Bees love a lot of herbs including marjoram, borage, hyssop, and mint to name a few.
If this is something that is important to you, you may also want to investigate where your seeds or starter plants are coming from. Ask your local garden shop or grower if their products are neonicotinoid-free. These pesticides have been linked to the decline of honey bee populations, which has reached alarming levels. There are organic nurseries where you can purchase starter plants and seeds and be sure that you’re helping nature work its magic for years and years to come.
Starting a garden of any sort can be intimidating because it feels like there is so much to learn. Part of the beauty of plants and gardening is that no matter how much you learn, there will still be more to observe. Even the most experienced master gardeners find delight in surprises, experiments, and uncertainties.
One of the most important aspects of growing an herb garden successfully is the simple act of patient observation. Check on your herb garden, observe the little ways in changes over time. See how certain plants thrive or die.
Many gardeners keep a journal of their process and this can be a really helpful thing, even if you’re just getting started. Doing so can help you remember what you planted and where, it can serve as reminders for years to come about what worked and what didn’t, which is all part of the experience.
Many people are tempted to bite off more than they can chew when they start growing an herb garden. This is understandable – there are so many cool plants to learn from and grow. But as you go about planning and starting your herb garden, use moderation. You don’t need to start a farm on your first try. Make a plan that feels doable, relaxing and fulfilling.
As your garden gets going, there’s a really strong chance that not everything will thrive. That’s okay too. Gardening isn’t about perfection or predictability for the most part. Every gardener has to be willing to roll with the weather, make changes as they go and accept that sometimes, the best-laid plans don’t work out exactly how we’d like.
Use your herbs to experiment with new recipes, make homemade bug-repellent, infuse your kitchen with fresh smells, or bake a lavender-infused cake, dry the herbs for tea…the possibilities are endless and it’s the best part of starting an herb garden: enjoying the process.