Growing Herbs

Whether you are a beginner or advanced gardener, you should be growing herbs in your garden.  There are so many reasons to grow your own herbs.

Herb Garden by Midwest Gardening
  • Fresh herbs are always a few steps from your kitchen

  • Many herbs are easily grown in containers, indoors or out, or in your garden beds

  • Buying fresh herbs is very expensive and never as fresh as growing your own

  • Many herbs help repel pests in your garden

  • Many herbs have medicinal benefits

  • And of course herbs can add so much flavor to your food

  • Use herbs to brew teas, create potpourri and aromatics

Like any plant you want to grow, you will need to know what climate and soil conditions the herbs require to thrive and of course the sun, water and nutrient needs.

Most herbs are very easy to grow and don’t require a lot of care.  At least four hours of sun and just an average amount of water will be enough for most herbs.  Some are annual and some are perennial.  And you will want to learn how best to harvest your herbs to encourage continued health and production.  Perennial herbs will need to be prepared for winter dormancy.  Some   herbs are grown very easily from seed, some will be best grown from starter plants.

Harvesting Herbs

Learning how to harvest and prune your herbs is very important to maintain the health and vigor of the plant and keep it producing.  

Generally you will want to maintain a reasonable size for each plant so that it does not become leggy or woody.  Because you are probably growing herbs for relatively small use amounts, you will likely need to keep the herb plants pruned in addition to harvesting for your personal needs.  Rather than dispose of excess harvest or prunings, you may want to learn how to dry or preserve some of your herbs to be used over winter.

There are different methods for harvesting based on the growth form of the plant.  You may want secateurs for snipping stems and shears or scissors for shearing handfuls of cilantro or chives.  And there are a few general practices that will either help maintain the health of the plant, as well as the vitality of the cuttings.

  • Always use clean sharp tools

  • Cut early in the day when the natural oils and flavor of the herb are cool and fluid and not dried from the sun

  • For most herbs, harvest frequently and never remove more than one third of a stem at a time.

  • When not harvesting for use regularly, your plant may become overgrown, flower and go to seed if you do not continue to prune. Pruning will maintain the size and health of the plant and encourage new fresh growth for harvest. Continually remove any dead, broken or weak stems.

  • Herbs that produce single stems that rise from the soil, such as chives and lavender, cut at ground level

  • Harvest leafy stems as the flowers begin to form

  • To harvest seeds, allow the flowers to mature and turn brown

  • Strip leaves from the stem for cooking or tossing into salads by simply running your thumb and forefinger down the stem, from top to bottom. Large tougher leaves may need to be snipped off.

Be ruthless, keep your herbs pruned to a reasonable size to encourage new growth and maintain good air circulation which helps prevent disease.

Sharon Dwyer