Herb gardens are wonderful addition to the yard. Today, let’s talk about how to start an outdoor herb garden. A garden you can really enjoy!
An outdoor herb garden is going to bring you so much enjoyment through the spring and summer season. You will have wonderful aromas filling the air when the windows are open in the house. Plus, you will have the opportunity to harvest fresh herbs to use in salads, sauces and cooking various dishes.
Did you know that you can cut fresh herbs and add them to your floral arrangements? It smells absolutely A-M-A-Z-I-N-G mixed with the aromatic scents of flowers.
I love having an herb garden right off of the kitchen. You hear people refer to them as “kitchen gardens”.
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. I did this for many years at the old house.
All you need is a good sunny spot. Herbs love the sunlight.
Where to Begin – Zones
How to start an herb garden is going to depend on the zone you live in. Herbs do best in Zones 5 and higher. Do 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. Our winters rarely the temperatures go below 10-15 degrees Fahrenheit.
For example, English Lavender grows good in Zones 5-8. However, French Lavender grows good 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.
Find a Sunny Spot
Herbs grow best in a place with full sun and light, well-drained, moisture-retentive, fertile soil with plenty of organic matter incorporated.
Prepare the Area and Soil
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 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 top the fabric around the plants.
Top the dirt off with mulch. The mulch will help to hold moisture in around and protect the plant.
Add some containers
Adding some containers in the garden can create levels. A large decorative planter or large clay pot with some herbs mixtures or flowers look lovely. You should make sure that pot has holes at the bottom to provide adequate drainage. Here I used some small containers that I had on hand.
Mint grows nicely and you can keep it well contained in a pot. It likes to spread so place it in a pot with some flowers.
Use starter plants
Unless you have space or a greenhouse to start plants from seeds, I recommend that you purchase starter plants. Starter plants can be purchase at your local nurseries or from Lowes and Home Depot Garden Centers. I find that for the best selections of herbs are from two sources: 1) local Amish Farmers; and 2) local nurseries or farms.
Some herbs such as Basil are annuals. You will need to replant each year. Other herbs mint, oregano, thyme are perennials and will grow back each year.
Herbs that are in my garden
What’s in my garden? Well, here are some of my favorite herbs found in my kitchen garden:
Basil (annual) – highly aromatic and gorgeous plant. It is by far my favorite to eat fresh in salads, cook with and add to flower arrangements.
Dill (perennial) – Although dill is not a pretty plant, it is great to cook with. It compliments a lot of seafood dishes very well.
Lavender (perennial) – highly aromatic and wonderful in teas, homemade ice cream, added to soaps and bath salts.
Mint (perennial) – Mint is a very aggressive and fast-growing plant. It springs shoots under the ground. You may want to consider putting it in a container in the garden. If you don’t it will spread like a wildfire. I have orange mint in my garden. It is wonderful in hot and cold tea. Also, orange mint is nice in chicken dishes and in salads.
Oregano, Greek (perennial) – This plant can be an annual if you have very hard winter months. It is a fragile perennial. Mine in Maryland tends to come back each year.
Rosemary (perennial) – highly aromatic. Another plants that is great to cook with and even add to floral arrangements. In some zones, you may have to bring your rosemary plants indoors. We live in zone 7b-8a and it works well here.
Sage (perennial) – I have purple sage in my garden. I don’t really cook with sage. Although regular sage pairs well with poultry and sausage. I love the look of purple sage. The leaves and tiny flowers that it gets. It will maintain an nice round shape on it’s own without any pruning. Some pruning either during or after it flowers will encourage the plant for new growth.
Thyme (perennial) – another highly aromatic plant. These plants do prefer less water than the other herbs.
I plan to expand my garden this season to add even more herbs and perennial flowers. The photos in this post is the first year of the garden. This spring marks my second year of the herb garden here at White Lilac Farmhouse.
Mix in some annual and perennial flowers
I love to mix in some annual flowers like white or pink Begonias. Begonias blooms from spring into early fall. It gives added color to the garden and are a perfect complement to the herbs.
Perennial flowers adds color without spending extra money every year on all annuals. One of my favorite perennial are Stokes’ Aster also known as Stokesia or Cornflower Aster. It has beautiful green foliage with stunning clusters of purple flowers. It looks beautiful mix with herbs, flowers and/or shrubs. I love planting white begonias with it. It makes the purple flowers of Stokesia pop.
Add a water feature and/or Decorative Elements into your herb garden
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, it 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 a perfect for butterflies to grab a drink or my little furry baby below.
Like any garden, it will need adequate sun light and water to grown. 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 the 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 avoids weeds over taking your plants and stealing good nutrients and water from the soil. Weeds also can choke out and kill your plants.
Pruning the herbs
A necessary task for the success and health of your herbaceous plants will be to prune them. It helps for the plants to grow in the beginning. If you are using your herbs for cooking, you will be lightly pruning. It good to keep them prune 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 the plant flowers. I will lightly prune each week to use the herbs for cooking.
Once they are done the growing season, you can heavily prune them back in late summer or early fall.
Some of my favorite garden finds
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I hope this gives you some good ideas to start your own herb garden. The aromas during the summer are amazing. I find it so therapeutic to harvest fresh herbs and add 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 too!
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