How to Grow Culinary Herbs

Overview

Culinary herbs such as thyme, tarragon, sage, basil, parsley, chives or dill aren't difficult to grow. Most culinary herbs will thrive in small spaces, in nearly any soil type that drains well, and once planted, will require little maintenance. You can even plant culinary herbs in containers and place the containers on your patio where you can have fresh, savory herbs at your fingertips.

Planting Culinary Herbs in a Herb Garden

Step 1

Select a sunny planting spot. Most herbs require at least 4 to 6 hours of sunlight per day. Be sure the soil drains well. If rainwater remains in the spot for more than five hours, choose a better spot. You can also build a raised herb garden from railroad ties, lumber or concrete blocks.

Step 2

Purchase herb plants at a garden center or greenhouse. Select healthy, compact plants with good color and no brown, yellow, or wilted leaves.

Step 3

Prepare the planting spot a few days ahead of time. Pull any weeds and remove large clods and rocks. Use a shovel or garden fork to cultivate the soil to a depth of 10 to 12 inches, then work in 4 to 6 inches of decomposed animal waste or compost. Level the soil with a rake.

Step 4

Use a trowel to dig a hole in the prepared area for each herb plant. Place the plant in the hole, with the top of the root ball at ground level. Fill the hole with reserved soil, and tamp the soil lightly around the herb plant.

Step 5

Water the herb plant immediately to settle the soil. Keep the soil damp until the plant takes root, which is indicated by the appearance of new growth. After that time, water the herbs deeply once every week, unless it rains. Nearly all herbs prefer fairly dry soil.

Step 6

Spread 2 to 3 inches of mulch such as dry grass clipping or bark chips around the herb plants, but don't pile the mulch over the plants. Mulch will keep the soil temperature even, deter weeds, and retain soil moisture. Spread a fresh layer of mulch directly over the plants in autumn to protect the roots from winter cold.

Planting Culinary Herbs in Containers

Step 1

Fill a sturdy container with a mixture of half peat moss and half commercial potting soil. Any container will work, as long as it has a drainage hole in the bottom. But clay or terracotta are porous, and will provide air circulation to the plant's roots.

Step 2

Plant the herb in the container, and water the plant immediately. Check the potting mixture every day, as containerized herbs dry out quickly. During hot weather, the plants may need to be watered more than once daily. Water whenever the top of the soil feels dry.

Step 3

Place the herb plant in a sunny spot.

Step 4

Snip the herb as desired for culinary use, and to encourage the plant to continue producing. Pinching the plants often will promote bushy growth.

Step 5

Bring containerized herb plants indoors before the first frost in autumn. Keep the herbs near a sunny window, and water whenever the soil feels dry to the touch.

Things You'll Need

  • Railroad ties, lumber or concrete blocks
  • Herb plants
  • Shovel or garden fork
  • Decomposed animal waste or compost
  • Rake
  • Trowel
  • Container with drainage holes
  • Peat moss
  • Commercial potting soil

References

  • University of Rhode Island: Growing, Harvesting and Using Culinary Herbs
  • Texas A&M: Planting
  • University of Illinois: Growing Herbs in the Home Garden
Keywords: grow culinary herbs, culinary herbs, herb garden

About this Author

M.H. Dyer is a long-time writer, editor and proofreader. She has been a contributor to the East-Oregonian Newspaper and See Jane Run magazine, and is author of a memoir, “The Tumbleweed Chronicles, a Sideways Look at Life." She holds an Master of Fine Arts from National University, San Diego.