Herbs are much more than just flavoring for food, they also add tons of nutrients, especially when picked from your own backyard. Mid-April (think Tax Day) is a perfect time to begin your herb garden. Herbs also make beautiful, unique landscape plants and are simple to grow. Have fun and venture out from the common herbs such as oregano and basil and perhaps try nasturtiums and catnip. For a comprehensive list of herbs including more exotic varieties, visit
Here are some growing notes for planning your unique herb garden.
Sage is for more than seasoning your Thanksgiving turkey. Harvest fresh leaves from your kitchen garden to flavor meat and bean dishes or toss the blossoms into salad! You can even wire dried sprigs to a frame to create an aromatic wreath or swag.
Thrives in full sun. Prefers well drained soil.
You can also start plants from root cuttings from established plants. Set plants or thin seedlings to stand 24 to 30 inches apart. Sage thrives in full sun and well-drained soil. Young plants need a steady moisture supply until they start growing vigorously.
Each spring, prune out the woodiest stems and spent flower stalks. Stop harvesting early in the fall to encourage the plant to harden off for the winter. After a few years, plants become quite woody and less productive. Plan a year ahead to replace them.
Rosemary Fragrant evergreen herb used with meats and stews. An easy to grow perennial that enhances everything from eggs to bread to vegetables and meats. This dependable and versatile herb needs little care or water to thrive. Since it is attractive and tolerates some degree of drought is also used in landscaping It is considered easy to grow for beginner gardeners and is pest resistant. Rosemary is extremely high in iron, calcium and Vitamin B6.
Rosemary prefers full sun but will grow in part shade as well.
Once established, Rosemary is a hardy evergreen that is somewhat tolerant to mild frost. Rosemary can be grown in a container. A full-grown rosemary bush may need a 10-gallon pot or larger at maturity.
Chives Great for dressing up potatoes and spicing up salads, this easy-to-grow Allium’s pinkish-lavender flowers make an attractive clump or edging in flower gardens.
While chives will tolerate a wide range of soil conditions, they prefer slightly acid soil (pH 6.2 to 6.8) with moderate fertility and high organic matter. Chives can grow to 2 feet tall.
Regular cutting helps keep plants vigorous and healthy and encourages spreading. Keep flowers picked to discourage dormancy in warm weather
Wild Bergamot is a perennial bush that can reach heights of 5 feet or more, and will show distinct, pale purple blooms that are a favorite of many types of pollinators, especially hummingbirds.
Select a location that is partially covered by shade in the heat of the afternoon.
Hyssop Native to southern Europe and the Mediterranean and has found application in medicine. Hyssop is sometimes used to provide comfort to the upper respiratory system and soothe the sore throat. It is also said to be effective as an expectorant and promote improved circulation and digestion.
Hyssop will grow at a height of nearly 2 feet and produce vibrant bright -blue flowers that are a favorite of bees from midsummer into fall.
Hyssop requires full sunlight and is somewhat tolerant of shade but will produce fewer blooms. It will do better with light, dry, sandy or rocky soil and low to moderate water. Will spread by seed, pick flowers before mature seeds develop to manage or plant in a wide-open area.
Catnip or catmint is named because of their famous effect on cats—Catnip stimulates cats' pheromonic receptors, typically resulting in temporary euphoria. According to traditional herb medicine, catnip tends to have a mild sedative or calming effect on humans.
Most catnip species are perennial plants, but some are annuals. They have sturdy stems with opposite heart-shaped, green to grayish-green leaves. The flowers are white, blue, pink or lilac and occur in several clusters toward the tip of the stems. The flowers are tubular and spotted with tiny purple dots.
Use smooth sticks or dowels placed 2 to 3 inches apart within the canopy of your catnip to keep your cats from flattening it.
Plant catnip in a place where your cats can rub and roll in it without hurting adjacent plants. Some cats like catnip so much that they lie on it, roll on it, and chew it to the point of destruction. If you find that to be the case, place some 1- to 2-foot-long bamboo sticks or thin dowels every 2 to 3 inches within the canopy of the plant to make it impossible for a cat to lie on top of the plant. Some cats are very rough on plants. To keep plants from being loved to death, cover each with an arch of chicken wire. The stems can grow up through the holes, yet the plant's base and roots are protected.
Catnip grows as a loosely branching, low perennial and can also grow in containers. Also consider planting catnip in the vegetable garden to attract your cat, who can help keep down rodents in the garden.
The small white flowers that appear in the summer will form seeds that sprout; the plant also spreads by underground runners.
Lemon balm Fresh leaves burst of lemon when squeezed. A truly delightful tea made from the dried leaves is our favorite anytime tea as it both stimulates the heart and calms the nerves. Fresh chopped leaves are also interesting in salads, soups and stews.
Lemon Balm can grow to a height of about 24" with fragrant heart-shaped leaves. Lemon Balm will grow best in full sun to part shade, and prefers a moist, well-drained, medium rich soil.
Parsley deserves recognition for more than its role as a garnish. It’s rich vitamins A and C, a good source of iron, and freshens your breath, to boot! Parsley is a key ingredient in tabouli, and compliments sauces, stuffing, fish, and poultry dishes.
Biennial Plant. Likes full sun or part shade. Prefers rich, moist soil. Slow-sprouting seed.
Although parsley is a biennial, it’s best to start new plants each year because the leaf flavor is not as good in the second season. Parsley is very hardy: You can direct-sow seeds 2 to 3 weeks before the last spring frost. (If you sow seeds directly in the garden, keep the area as weed-free as possible so the tiny, slow-growing seedlings don’t have to compete with a jungle when they sprout.) Plants do well in sun or partial shade.
Chocolate Mint Makes an excellent tea and adds flavor to many foods. It is also very good for digestive problems. The oil from the Mint plant can be rubbed on your forehead and temples to relieve a headache. Your Mint plants will make a nice addition to your herb garden.
Choose a location that is partly sunny and partly shady. Keep the soil moist but not wet constantly. Harvest the Mint when the plants are about 12 inches tall. Pick the larger outside leaves as the plant grows to encourage more leaf growth.
Mint can be terribly invasive, particularly in rich, moist soil. To keep it from overtaking your yard, confine it to a bed with edging of metal or plastic. Bury edging to a depth of 14 inches around the perimeter of the mint patch, or simply grow the plants it in pots.
A single plant is plenty for a small garden, as it will quickly spread to fill its allotted space. Choose a sunny location with moderately fertile, soil. Use a light mulch to retain moisture and keep leaves clean.
Basil Plant basil in fertile soil in a spot that gets direct sun for at least 6 hours per day. Pinch the tip from the center shoot of basil after it has grown for 6 weeks to force side growth and prevent early flowering. If flower stalks develop, simply snip them off.
Basil needs a steady supply of moisture and warm soil temperatures to produce well. This heat-loving herb is susceptible to even mild frost; harvest the remainder of your crop if temperatures are predicted to dip into the 30s.
Nasturtiums These plants, with their bright greenery and vibrant flowers, are good for containers or as ground cover. Their pretty fragrance also makes them a good choice for cut flowers. Nasturtiums are perfect to grow with children because they grow so easily and rapidly. Plant nasturtium seeds in early spring in moist, well-drained soil in full sun. They can grow in partial shade, but they will not bloom as well.
Nasturtiums prefer poorer soils and they do not need fertilizers. Fertile soil will produce fewer blooms and more foliage.
Dill Pickles, salad dressing, seafood, potatoes, and cucumbers: these are just a few of dill’s culinary dance partners, making it a favorite in the herb garden. The umbel of delicate yellow-green flowers attracts beneficial insects, from pest-eating wasps to colorful butterflies.
Common dill grows to a height of about 3 feet. Dill produces a strong taproot like its cousin the carrot, and so does poorly when transplanted. Instead sow seed right in the garden. Plants thrive in rich, loose soil and full sun location. If you hope to harvest seed at pickling time, plant 1 to 2 weeks before the last spring frost date. In plots that receive less than 6 hours of direct sun per day, grow stocky varieties, such as ‘Fernleaf’.
If your garden is in a windy spot, stake the tall plants to prevent wind damage, or grow a dwarf variety. If you let a few plants mature and drop seed, and leave the area undisturbed, seedlings will emerge the following growing season.
Cilantro Coriander is a frost-sensitive annual with feathery, finely divided leaves growing on stems from 18 to 36 inches tall. Coriander leaves, known as cilantro, resemble flat-leafed parsley. Blossoms in spring and summer are tiny white to pale pink flower clusters. The plant sets small round, ribbed, beige-colored seeds in late summer.
Plant coriander in full sun; it will tolerate light shade. Coriander grows best in well-drained but moisture-retentive soil rich in organic matter. Prepare planting beds in advance with aged compost. Space rows 12 to 15 inches apart.
Keep coriander evenly moist throughout the growing season. Do not let plants dry out. Avoid overhead watering as plants reach maturity; overhead water or rain can reduce seed yield. Add aged compost to the planting bed in advance of planting. Do not fertilize at midseason.
There are countries that have herbalists and medical doctors who prescribe herbs for medical conditions. Most herbs have a powerful nutritional benefit. Take the opportunity to season liberally while cooking and try adding fresh herbs to smoothies, hot tea or water. Here are some of my favorite smoothie recipes that add healing herbs.
Raspberry Rosemary Smoothie
Lemon-Thyme Blueberry Smoothie
More resources for superfood herb smoothies: