Fresh herbs can improve both raw and cooked meals, not to mention the fact that they smell and look lovely in your garden. As with other garden plants, herbs divide into annuals and perennials. While many popular herbs are annuals (such as basil, dill and cilantro), several others are perennials (such as thyme, tarragon, mint and chives). Plant a mixture to maximize your kitchen possibilities year-round. If you live in a climate with mild winters, it may be possible to do staggered annual herb plantings and have herbs from your garden year-round.
Garden Prep and Planting
Select a location that gets full sun. Dig up the soil, to a depth of about 10 to 12 inches. Dig in a 1:1 ratio of compost to soil.
Sow herb seeds according to package instructions after all danger of frost has passed. Water in gently, using the "mist" (or similar) setting on your garden hose so you do not disturb seeds or soil.
Transplant herb starts when they are 6 to 8 inches tall, after all danger of frost has passed. Squeeze the sides of the cell in the flat to loosen the root ball, then place in a hole the same size as the root ball. Cover with soil and firm down, then water gently.
Apply mulch in a 3- to 4-inch layer around herbs once plants have germinated. Keep mulch about 2 inches away from the bases of plants to avoid excessive dampness and rot potential.
Indoor Herb Jump-Start
Fill cells of flat with starter mix. Sow seeds according to package instructions. Water using a mister bottle so you do not disturb seeds or soil.
Cover with plastic wrap. Place in indirect sunlight, such as next to a window with blinds or curtains.
Water daily with mister bottle, replacing plastic wrap after every time you water. Use the same sheet of plastic wrap over and over to create a miniature greenhouse; a new sheet is not necessary.
Remove plastic wrap completely when seeds have germinated. Place in a window that gets full sun daily. Keep soil moist, but do not let plants soak in water.
Harden off herbs just before they will be transplanted outside. Bring the flat outside for an hour in the middle of the day the first day. Increase to two hours the second day, three the third, and so on for a week. Leave out overnight just prior to the day you will transplant outside. Monitor water levels closely and always keep soil moist.
About this Author
Amrita Chuasiriporn is a professional cook, baker, and writer. In addition to cooking and baking for a living, Chuasiriporn has written for several online publications. These include Chef's Blade, CraftyCrafty, and others. Additionally, Chuasiriporn is a regular contributor to online automotive enthusiast publication CarEnvy.ca. Chuasiriporn holds an A.A.S. in culinary arts, as well as a B.A. in Spanish language and literature.