If you’re looking to start growing herbs in your home garden, this is the place to start!
It is my intention every single spring to start a gardening journal.
Actually, these past couple of years, I’ve considered writing a gardening blog rather than putting pen to paper but alas, nothing has come to fruition yet.
But this year, since our yard is a complete blank slate, I figured this is the perfect time to get started, informally here.
The 8 Most Popular Herbs for Home Gardens and What to Make with Them
So let’s talk about herbs today! I have my staples that go in the ground or pots every year. Some succeed year after year…and some just don’t. I plant most of my herbs in pots so I can keep them on the deck, making it easy to run out and snip a few while I cook.
Here’s what I usually grow:
- Chives: Oh my glorious chives that I had to leave behind in my last garden! A mid-winter move is never good for transplanting plants in New England. Chives are perennial herbs – they come back every year and proliferate each year. Plant them in a contained space or in pots because they will begin to take over your space after a few years. I pluck them off to munch on as I water in the mornings before work – what a flavor boost so early in the day! I love chives in these herbed ricotta bruschettas, these chive risotto cakes, and in my very favorite fresh herb vinaigrette.
- Thyme: I posted the above photo on instagram earlier today with the caption: “I will survive.” My English thyme survived the winter in that pot and I was floored! It grew beautifully outside through November and when it started to go dormant, we moved the pot to the garage where it stayed until the end of February when we moved. So up until now, it’s been outside and due to the unseasonably mild New England winter we had, the thyme came back with a vengeance. Consider using thyme as a fresh herb in vinaigrettes or cooked in a baked brie or caramelized onion and thyme risotto (photo below!), or mixed into ricotta cheese for these thyme ricotta, prosciutto, grilled potato grilled crostini.
- Cilantro: Major fail!! I just learned this year that it actually needs cool weather to grow. So yeah, that summer heat that we assume helps everything grow will kill off your cilantro. It’s a major bummer too since I use so much of it all summer long in virtually all of the Mexican food I make.
- Oregano: Added to tzatziki for chicken gyros, grilled chicken gyro salad (photo below!), a marinade for Greek grilled chicken, or sprinkled on pizza, this is one of my favorite fresh herbs. My oregano also survived the winter in its pot but I’m planting some extra with the old stuff because it didn’t come back as prolifically as the thyme did.
- Parsley: Another herb in my “fail” category. For the life of me, I cannot grow parsley as it gets stringy and seeds quickly, much like my cilantro usually does. 2018 UPDATE: In the past few years, I’ve found that like cilantro, parsley grows best in cooler weather but since it’s hardier than cilantro, keeping it in part-shade in the heat of summer works wonders. I’ve had GREAT luck growing parsley since figuring out this tiny but significant change! Make some of this chimichurri steak and potato salad with all that parsley you grow, dry it for use in the winter, or make a paste with olive oil and freeze it in ice cube trays for tossing into homemade spaghetti sauce.
- Mint: Perfect for iced tea, mojitos, tabblouleh, or no-churn mint chip ice cream. This is another invasive plant so I highly recommend that you plant it in its own pot unless you want it taking over your garden and yard.
- Rosemary: Give me a handful of rosemary, thyme, and chopped garlic, and the possibilities are endless, especially as the weather cools down and the roast chickens start to appear on our menu. Rosemary grows well for me and the more you snip off, the better it grows. Use it in rosemary chicken bacon avocado salad, on this 3 cheese rosemary pepperoni pizza, or even in these mistletoe kiss cocktails!
- Basil: Basil is always touch and go for me. I know a ton of people whose basil grows by the bushel-full (I’m always crazy-jealous) but even with being vigilant about not letting it go to seed (which is when white flowers start to form on the tops of the plants), it doesn’t usually grow in plentiful amounts for us. But nevertheless, we grow it every year and this year, I’m planting 12 plants just to ensure that we have a enough to last us a while. This pesto is one of my favorite ways to use fresh basil (though Kyle can’t eat that version) and we also love it in caprese bruschetta, on all kinds of pizza, in the insanely popular reader favorite one-pot creamy sausage pasta, in avocado pasta with burst tomatoes, and in these tomato and goat/feta cheese tarts.
Tips for Watering Herbs
- As far as watering potted herbs, I find that they are pretty resilient to heat (except the cilantro and parsley). Water them every couple of days and water them deeply at the roots – not the entire plant.
- In extreme heat, many herbs will likely wilt during the heat of the day. If you’re living in a very dry area, a spritz of water on the leaves mid-day will help to prevent your herbs from drying up in between waterings.
The Benefits of Growing Herbs in Pots
When growing herbs in pots, you have the ability to:
- Move them around for good sun exposure (especially if you’re new to growing them)
- Pull them inside during bad weather like hail storms or hurricanes
- Extend their life span in the fall as it begins to frost at night by pulling them inside or quickly covering them up with a sheet or a large plastic bag
- Overwinter some herbs by moving the pots indoors to a sunroom to extend their growing season or into a garage or basement to allow them to go dormant while under more moderate temperatures without much sunlight until the spring weather arrives again
- Keep them close to your house for easy access from the kitchen while you are cooking.
I’d love to hear what herbs you guys are planting! Tell me about what works, what doesn’t, and any tips you’d like to share with the rest of us. Looking forward to hearing from you!