Growing herbs in the home garden provides a supply of fresh herbs for all your culinary or medicinal needs. But, herbs also attract butterflies and bees and add interest and movement to your garden. Most herbs thrive in sunny locations, tolerate drought well and are not fussy about the soil. For beginning gardeners, there are several easy-to-grow herbs to choose from.
Oregano grows profusely in a sunny garden bed, reaching heights of 2 feet or more. This versatile herb flavors meats, stews and tomato dishes. Often referred to as the pizza herb, oregano lends rich robust flavor to Italian recipes. This perennial does tend to become invasive once established. Planting it in containers, or sinking a gallon can into the soil around the plant to curtail its spread by underground roots, keeps oregano under control.
Mint releases a burst of fragrance when brushed and comes in a variety of scents. Peppermint, chocolate mint, orange mint and spearmint are favored for flavoring deserts and teas. These fast-growing perennial plants thrive in full sun and require little care. Leaf size and plant shape depends on the cultivar. Mint is also invasive and benefits from a physical barrier to spreading.
Lemon balm produces rich green scalloped leaves and emits an uplifting lemony scent when disturbed. This perennial returns each year in large 2-foot clumps that reach heights of 2 feet. Lemon balm typically appears early in the spring and grows rapidly. Use lemon balm to flavor teas or desserts.
Thyme forms a dense mass of tiny green, or green and yellow variegated, foliage. This attractive herb produces purple blooms that attract bees and butterflies. When planted in raised beds or containers, thyme trails gracefully over the edge adding depth to your garden. Used to season meats, vegetables and egg dishes, thyme thrives in full sun and returns each year in a larger mass.To add interest to your bed, consider adding lemon thyme, as well.
Basil requires at least 10 hours a day of direct sunlight, but is worth the effort. When planted from nursery-grown seedlings, basil grows quickly and emits a pungent fragrance. Used to flavor tomato dishes, meats and vegetables, basil is often grown with tomatoes. Planting from seed can be unpredictable, as seeds tend to take a long time to germinate--sometimes up to several weeks--depending on the soil conditions and weather.
Chives grow in large clumps of grass-like foliage. Delicate lavender blooms form atop the foliage creating puffy balls or color. Foliage provides a mild oniony flavor suitable for herbed butter, seasoning for meats and vegetables and in fresh salads. This perennial herb requires little care other than cutting it back after blooming. Chives self-seed rapidly and produce new plants. Pick blooms before the seeds mature to prevent chives from taking over your garden bed.