Tips & Tricks

Kind of a Big Dill: Your Step-by-Step Guide to Cultivating an Herb Garden

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Herbs hold the power to elevate even the most basic of weeknight staples. Drop some basil into your tomato salad and it’s borderline caprese, or add tarragon to roasted carrots for a mouthful of spring. Aromatic herbs are also great for medicinal purposes, and their blends make a mean tea or fragrant potpourri. With their endless uses, it’s no wonder herb gardens are on the rise.

But why purchase the overpriced grocery store varieties when it’s so easy (and rewarding) to grow your own? Here’s everything you need to know to start your own outdoor or indoor herb plant garden:

#1. Decide Which Herbs You Want to Plant


Your personal palate is top priority. Are you an oregano aficionado, or cilantro-phobic? Does the scent of lavender relax or repulse you? While you’re shopping for herbs, get a good whiff of any unfamiliar or obscure plants to gauge whether you’d enjoy them on your plate – if the answer is yes, then they should be the top contenders for your herb garden.

Next, factor in your level of gardening experience and how much effort you want to put into cultivating your herb garden. The easiest herbs to grow indoors include chives, mint, lemongrass, oregano, basil, parsley, and coriander. More, ahem, seasoned gardeners can spring for more challenging herbs, such as white sage, rosemary, and lavender. These varietals are notoriously fickle to cultivate from seeds. In it for the long haul? Then you’ll appreciate the resurgent characteristics of perennial herbs like thyme and tarragon. Albeit slower at first, these types grow back year after year. For contrast, the fastest growing herbs are mint, basil, and dill.

Try giving your herb garden a head start by picking up some some pre-planted cuts from your local farmers market. As an added bonus, vendors typically have advice for growing herbs specific to your region and climate.

#2. Figure Out Where Your Herbs Will Be Happiest

Image source: A Beautiful Mess

Herbs prefer warm, sunny spots. Generally speaking, they need four to eight hours of direct sunlight per day. You’ll need to decide at this point if you’re cultivating an outdoor or indoor herb garden.

For herbs grown indoors, southwest-facing windows typically provide ideal light conditions. However, some of the easier-to-grow herbs, like chives, mint, and lemon balm, tolerate at least partially shady conditions.

Overall, don’t fret too much over the temperature conditions. Herbs are generally comfortable in the same climates as humans. And just like us, they need plenty of loving  – specifically in the form of H2O. Water your herb garden whenever the soil is dry to the touch. In hotter months, it’s best to water at night so the plants are able to retain moisture longer.

These easy-to-maintain conditions are typically why indoor herb gardens thrive: If you’re comfy, your cilantro and coriander will be, too.

However, if you do want to plant your herb garden outside, a raised garden bed is your shortcut to success. Start planting in late spring or early summer, when all threat of frost has passed.

The bigger the bed, the better, since certain herbs really thrive in sprawling spaces. Rosemary, sage, and marjoram can spread up to four feet, basil and tarragon two feet, and cilantro, dill, and parsley a foot each. Cross-planting with other types of plants like vegetables makes for an even richer harvest. Focus your energy on planting rather than fitting all your gardening gear into your car by using Dolly to bring your new plants, garden bed, and gardening supplies home. Dolly Helpers can pick up these items from your local nursery or home improvement store in a pickup truck and bring it straight to your home.

#3. The Indoor Alternative: a Kitchen Herb Garden

Jonesing for more herb garden ideas, but don’t have much room to spare? Window boxes pack a big punch in confined kitchens. Don’t cram too much into your indoor herb garden, though – more room to root translates into a healthier plant. If you have multiple windows, go for multiple boxes.

A note: though most all plants look good in a window garden, there are some exceptions. Avoid planting anything that will grow so tall it’ll block your window if unchecked, like lemon thyme or Genovese basil.

Want something that’s more (literally) outside the box? “Upside down”  isn’t just a dimension from Stranger Things – it also works in tiny kitchens as a method of hanging plants. (Bonus: It’s a real conversation piece for your next party.) Or repurpose some old mason jars you have lying around into starter homes for your indoor herb garden, with this simple six-step DIY. Then there’s the standby option of terra cotta, which is a classic for a reason: It looks good virtually everywhere.

No matter which planter you choose, drainage is key for herb plants. Holes on the bottom are a definite must-have, as is a sturdy bottom plate to catch seeping water. Overwatering without release will cause any herbs’ roots to rot.

#4. When Planting Your Herb Garden, Be Strategic About Your Soil Selections

One rule of (a green) thumb is to plant herbs with similar soil and water needs in close proximity to each other. Herbs that are common to the mediterranean, for example, dislike too much water. These drought-resistant types (e.g., oregano and sage) thrive best in well-drained, even chalky, soil. Plant them separately from their fertilizer-friendly cousins, like parsley and chervil. Cilantro grows well in both damp and dry soil, so it’s a great buffer herb between different types.

Speaking of soil, Den Garden recommends avoiding the typical garden variety when planting an  herb garden. Instead, mix two parts sterile potting soil, one part perlite, and one part compost. Normal soil is better tolerated in large garden beds, so long as there’s adequate drainage.

And of course, don’t forget to include labels – how else will you distinguish your oregano from your marjoram? Stick markers directly in the soil, or get creative with DIY markers to add some character to your herb garden.  

#5. How to Harvest Your Herbs

You’ve watered your herbs to their sweet spot, oversaw their sunlight intake, maybe even sang to them, and it’s finally paid off: Your herbs are ready to reap.  

Constant pruning and picking is actually beneficial for herbs, as it stimulates their growth. It also staves off pests, which are rare, but do occasionally invade. The best time of day to prune your herbs is early in the morning, when the dew is lingering and the oils are still concentrated in the plant. A simple pinch with your fingers is typically enough for their delicate leaves and stems.

If you planted outside, annual and biannual herbs will start to wind down when the temperature dips. At that point, you can bring the herbs indoors (we’ll even help you do so!). Alternatively, cover them with a 2-3 inch layer of frost-deterring mulch.

Want some help getting your herb garden blooming? Whether you need a hand transporting a large garden bed for your backyard or hauling multiple boxes to deck out your window sills, book a Dolly to make it easy. Leave the time-consuming transportation to us, and save your energy to whip up garden-fresh culinary masterpieces. Book your Dolly today.

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