If you’re looking to start growing herbs in your home garden, this is the place to start!

How to grow the 8 best herbs in your home garden

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.

Caramelized Onion and Thyme Risotto

  • 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.

Chicken Gyro Salad

  • 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.

No-Churn Mint Chip Ice Cream

The Mistletoe Kiss Holiday Drink

  • 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!

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Leave a Comment

  • June 3, 2012 at 12:03 PM

    I am a total gardening novice, but decided a few months back that we really should do something with our garden as it was just grass. We’ve now planted lots of things and some seeds and I find myself checking most days for those first signs of a shoot! I’m so looking forward to having a beautiful garden and just hope that I can manage to look after everything OK. We have raspberries, strawberries, redcurrants, blackberries, tomatoes, peppers, lettuce and many more!! So I also can’t wait to be able to eat and cook with fruit and veg from my own garden! We also have coriander and basil so I’m crossing everything that these grow well. I have two shoots on my basil, but I’m still a little apprehensive that it might not be an amazing bushel!

  • June 3, 2012 at 4:47 PM

    Ohhhhh how I wish I could grow herbs. I kill them by just looking at them

  • June 4, 2012 at 11:56 AM

    I found an old pottery strawberry planter in our garden shed and decided to try planting herbs in it this year…(2 kinds of mint on top with chives and lemon balm, then down the sides are cilantro, basil, rosemary and dill). I have it sitting on the table in the back terrace and everything seems to be doing very well … except that the cilantro is getting brown around the edges (your post has explained my problem so I think I will take the cilantro out and plant it in a separate pot which I’ll keep in the shade of the clematis that grows all over our back porch railing – a perfect little shady cool spot in which, hopefully, a pot of cilantro will thrive!). I have already been snipping off mint leaves like crazy for Mojitos – I’m thinking I need to transplant the mint into a larger pot the way I am going through it! I also have two tall metal planters that I have put a larger rosemary in one and basil in the other. I’m thinking that the strawberry planter might be just a wee bit too small for my herbal requirements! Oh well, it was worth a try 🙂

    • June 4, 2012 at 11:56 PM

      Cathy: A strawberry planter is a GREAT idea for herb gardening, especially when space is limited!

  • Ali
    June 6, 2012 at 10:07 AM

    Great post!!! I love summer herbs, I think it makes cooking so much more fun to use products from your garden! My cilantro also is not doing well and it goes to seed so fast!

  • Mayura
    June 14, 2012 at 11:35 PM

    This information is very helpful!! I have tried a couple of your recepies and love them. I just bought a few herbs for my kitchen garden ion my apt in Bangalore, India and these tips are great. I cant wait for my herbs to grow and use them in cooking
    … 🙂