Fresh Herbs Made Easy! This beginner’s guide for an outdoor herb garden teaches you everything about a kitchen garden for fresh herbs.

Herb gardens are a wonderful addition to the yard. Growing your herbs is not only incredibly rewarding, but it’s also surprisingly easy, even for beginners.

An outdoor herb garden can bring much enjoyment through the spring and summer seasons. You will have wonderful aromas filling the air when the windows are open in the house. This guide will walk you through everything you need to know to create a thriving kitchen herb garden right outside your door. Let’s unlock a world of fresh flavors to have an opportunity to harvest fresh herbs to use in salads, sauces, and cooking various dishes.

Herb Garden 2.jpg

Did you know that you can cut fresh herbs and add them to your floral arrangements? It smells A-M-A-Z-I-N-G mixed with the aromatic scents of flowers.

An herb garden right off of the kitchen is often referred to as a “kitchen garden.”

You can have an herb garden mixed into a flower bed next to the house or a raised bed in the yard. If you don’t have much of a yard, consider growing herbs in containers on the patio or deck.

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Why Grow Your Herbs? 

There are many reasons to consider growing your herbs. For one, fresh herbs add a burst of flavor and life to any dish, far exceeding what dried or store-bought options can offer. They’re also surprisingly easy to grow, even for beginners. Herbs require minimal space and maintenance. Having your herb garden means you can harvest exactly what you need whenever you need it. Fresh herbs in culinary dishes taste better than dried versions.

Annual basil plants in an outdoor herb garden near a water feature.

Location, location, location! It is important to plan your herb garden in an area of the yard that gets 6-8 hours of full sun. Herbs grow best in a place with full sun and light, well-drained, moisture-retentive, fertile soil with plenty of organic matter incorporated.

Herbs of thyme and oregano in a kitchen herb garden.

Decide how large you want your garden. Do you want a small manageable herb garden? A container garden off the kitchen or patio area? A larger garden with herbs mixed in with vegetables or flowers.

If this is your first time gardening, I recommend you start small as a beginner. You could mix herbs in along with your flowers.

How to start an herb garden is going to depend on the zone you live in. Herbs do best in Zones 5 and higher. Research to see what plants will work best in your area. In Maryland, the Zones range from 5-8a. We live in the southern part of Maryland close to the water. It’s in the middle of Zone 7b-8a. Here temperatures don’t go below 10-15 degrees Fahrenheit.

For example, English Lavender grows good in Zones 5-8. However, French Lavender grows well in Zones 8 and 9. French Lavender is not a winter-hardy plant. Although I live in Zone 7b-8a, I have not had success with French Lavender in my area.

Seeds or Transplants? You will need to decide what is right for you.  Starter plants are certainly more expensive than a packet of seeds. Sometimes one single starter plant can cost the same as a package of 200 seeds of the same plant. So, while starter plants may save you a lot of time, seeds will save you a little cash.

The pro is that seeds can save money. A con is that outdoors, the seeds need to be planted pretty darn close to the “right time” on the garden calendar.

If you are planning a large herb garden, you will want to consider growing herbs from seeds and transplanting the garden. However, in this beginner’s guide, we will be focusing on healthy plants purchased locally.

How to start a herb garden? Well, it will take a little bit of work but bring you years of enjoyment. Where to start?

Clean the area where you want to have the garden. Remove any weeds, grass, stones, tree roots, and debris from the area. Then you should remove a layer of dirt as well and put it in a wheelbarrow to use later.

Next, it is good to put down a weed barrier fabric to help keep weeds to a minimum. You will arrange your herbs and flowers on top of the fabric. Then with your spade, pierce the fabric to plant the herbs and flowers. I break up the roots with my hands, so the roots are not bound together.

If the soil is sandy or clay-heavy, add plenty of compost. Even if your soil is in pretty good condition, I generally will work in compost to help provide some added nutrients to the plants to help them grow. Now add your soil over the fabric around the plants.

Top the dirt off with mulch. The mulch will help to hold moisture around and protect the plant.

Herbs and flowers look wonderful added to containers and placed in the garden.

Do you want fresh herbs but have limited space? Don’t fret! Container gardening is the perfect solution. You can add a touch of green and flavor on a balcony, patio, or even a sunny windowsill.

Herb garden in a container for a kitchen garden.

A container with oregano and thyme does well together. Basil, rosemary, and any kind of mint should be placed in separate containers and not together. They will compete for the water supply. Mint grows nicely and you can keep it well contained in a pot. It likes to spread by shoots underground.

Benefits of Container Herb Gardens:

  • Compact – Containers fit neatly into any nook or cranny. You can maximize even the smallest spaces. Move them around to capture optimal sunlight during the day.
  • Easy Maintenance – Container gardens offer more control over soil quality and drainage. It will simplify watering and care needs.
  • Instant Herb – No need to wait for an in-ground garden to mature. Container herbs are ready to harvest quickly.

Getting Started With Your Container Herb Garden

Select a pot with holes at the bottom to provide adequate drainage. This will prevent too much water from staying in the pot. Too much water will cause root rot.

Consider the size and mature height of your chosen herbs when selecting pot size. Terracotta pots offer breathability, while plastic pots retain moisture.

  • Potting Mix – Use a high-quality, well-draining potting mix specifically formulated for herbs.
  • Sun – Remember most herbs thrive in at least 6-8 hours of direct sunlight daily.
  • Watering – Water deeply when the top inch of soil feels dry. Avoid overwatering, which can lead to root rot.
  • Snip and enjoy- Harvest regularly to encourage bushier growth. Pinch off flower buds to maintain a longer harvest season. Do not allow the herb to flower. It will cause the herb to become bitter.
Terra Cotta Planter and Herbs for a container garden.

Top Herbs for Container Success:

  • Basil
  • Chives
  • Cilantro (plant new seeds regularly as it has a short lifespan)
  • Mint (plant in a separate container to prevent it from taking over)
  • Oregano
  • Parsley
  • Rosemary
  • Sage
  • Thyme

Unless you have space or a greenhouse to start plants from seeds, I recommend that you purchase starter plants. Starter plants can be purchased at your local nurseries or from Lowes and Home Depot Garden Centers. I find that the best selections of herbs are from two sources: 1) local Amish Farmers; and 2) local nurseries or farms.

Basil

Some herbs such as Basil are annuals. You will need to replant each year. Other herbs mint, oregano, and thyme are perennials and will grow back each year.

Statue and garden flag in a herb garden of basil, thyme, oregano, with annuals and perennials.

What’s in my garden? Well, here are some of my favorite herbs found in my kitchen garden:

Dill (perennial) – Although dill is not a pretty plant, it is great to cook with. It compliments a lot of seafood dishes very well.

I plan to expand my garden this season to add even more herbs and perennial flowers. The photos in this post are the first year of the garden. This spring marks my second year in the herb garden here at White Lilac Farmhouse.

I love to mix in some annual flowers like white or pink Begonias. Begonias bloom from spring into early fall. It gives added color to the garden and is a perfect companion to the herbs.

Perennial flowers add color without spending extra money every year on all annuals. One of my favorite perennials is Stokes’ Aster also known as Stokesia or Cornflower Aster. It has beautiful green foliage with stunning clusters of purple flowers. It looks beautiful mixed with herbs, flowers, and/or shrubs. I love planting white begonias with it. It makes the purple flowers of Stokesia pop.

Stokesia or Cornflower Aster with gorgeous purple blooms.
Stokes’ Aster or Stokesia

I love visual interest in a garden. Whether it’s a flower or herb garden adding decorative elements such as a cement statue, large rock, sundial, or lanterns hanging from a shepherd’s hook, adds visual interest and draws your eyes in. A fountain looks so beautiful in a garden too. The sound of the water is soothing and tranquil. It also is perfect for butterflies to grab a drink or my little furry baby below.

Piper the French Bulldog enjoying a drink of water from the fountain.

Like any garden, it will need adequate sunlight and water to grow. You picked your sunny spot, now it’s time to care for your plants and water them. Never water your plants when the sun is strongest in the afternoon. The water sits on the plants with the sun beating down and can cause damage to the plants. It’s best to water the gardens early in the morning and later in the evening before the sun sets.

You need to make sure that you regularly weed the garden. This prevents weeds from taking your plants and stealing good nutrients and water from the soil. Weeds also can choke out and kill your plants.

A necessary task for the success and health of your herbaceous plants will be to prune them. It helps the plants to grow in the beginning. If you are using your herbs for cooking, you will be lightly pruning. It is good to keep them pruned so it prolongs the growing season for you.

Herbs should be pruned to not allow the plant to bloom also. Herbs can become bitter if they bloom. I will lightly prune each week to use the herbs for cooking.

Once they are done with the growing season, you can heavily prune them back in late summer or early fall.

I hope this gives you some good ideas to start your herb garden. The aromas during the summer are amazing. I find it so therapeutic to harvest fresh herbs and add them to my summer dishes. One of my favorites is to make homemade pesto. It can be put in the freezer to enjoy during the winter months. It’s also great to give to family and friends!

Thank you for stopping by the blog. Make it an amazing day, sweet friend!

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2 Comments

  1. Tammy – I love your water feature … and looks like cute Piper does too. Great ideas for getting started with herbs. I’m looking forward to painting herbs in our new raised beds … nothing like fresh herbs from the garden for cooking or a cocktail garnish! xo

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