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How to Plant Herbs

Are you thinking of starting an herb garden? Growing herbs is rewarding and delicious for both beginners and experienced gardeners.

An outdoor herb garden in a wooden crate.

Keep reading for a step-by-step guide on how to plant herbs, including why you should grow them, how to start herbs from seed, how to care for herbs, and more.


Planting an Herb Garden

When it comes to starting an herb garden, there are so many delicious types of herbs to choose from. Some of the most common herb plants include:

Herbs

Common Uses

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Basil

  • Pesto

  • Spaghetti

  • Pizza

Sage

  • Poultry

  • Sausage

  • Root Veggies

Thyme

  • Meat

  • Eggs

  • Sauces

Oregano

  • Spagetti

  • Pizza

  • Fish

Parsley

  • Root Veggies

  • Meats

  • Salads

Chives

  • Potatoes

  • Salads

  • Sauces

Cilantro

  • Mexican food

  • Salsas

  • Dressings

Rosemary

  • Meats

  • Root veggies

  • Breads

Mint

  • Beverages

  • Desserts

  • Salads

But you’re not limited to common varieties. Growing your own herbs is the perfect way to enjoy some less common herbs like boragepurple ruffle basilanise, and tarragon.

If you’d like to grow several different types of herbs, an herb assortment is a convenient way to get several varieties at once.


Why Grow Herbs?

Bundles of fresh herbs. Knowing how to plant herbs gives you fresh herbs for cooking and saves money at the grocery store!

There are lots of reasons to love herbs.

If you use herbs a lot, growing your own culinary herbs is cheaper than buying them at the store. This is especially true for rarer herbs like borage.

Nutrition

Fresh herbs are full of nutrients. After all, they’re leafy greens too! Herbs have antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals that can help lower the risk of heart disease and certain cancers, lower cholesterol, improve your immune system, promote healthy skin, and much more.

Flavor

Not only are they nutritious, but homegrown fresh herbs are also delicious! Herbs are an easy way to add depth and flavor to recipes.

Sage adds great flavor to soups, muffins, and homemade broth. Basil makes a great addition to pasta sauce and sandwiches. Thyme is delicious on roasted meat and root vegetables. Chives are a perfect baked potato topping.

If you’re a fan of mint chocolate chip cream, nothing beats fresh mint chip ice cream with fresh mint you’ve grown yourself!

The uses for fresh herbs are endless. Whether you want subtle or pronounced flavors, herbs work well with a wide variety of ingredients.

It’s Easier than a Large Vegetable Garden

Herbs growing in garden jars.

Most herbs are very easy to grow and require little care and maintenance once established. If you don’t have a lot of time to devote to a large garden, growing herbs is a practical way to add some homegrown food to your diet.

Since they’re so easy, learning how to plant herbs is a great place to start if you’re a novice gardener.

Herbs are Compact

You can grow herbs even if you’re short on space. Since herbs are smaller than many other garden plants they don’t need as much space to grow and thrive.

Herbs can be grown in planters, pots, window boxes, raised beds, or in the ground. You can grow them indoors or outdoors. On a patio or a windowsill. Whatever space you have, herbs will usually fit!


How to Plant Herbs

Now that you know some of the benefits of growing herbs, let’s look at how to plant herbs.

Selecting a Space to Plant Herbs

Herbs need a lot of sun. At least six full hours of sunlight per day. Whether you’re planting your herbs in pots or containers, in a raised garden bed, or in the ground, select a location that gets plenty of sunlight.

If you’re starting herbs indoors, put them in a sunny window where they’ll get plenty of direct sunlight. A large, south-facing window usually works well. If you don’t have a suitable indoor location, consider using a grow light.

Person harvesting basil leaves from a plant.

Preparing the Soil

Herbs like rich, moderately fertile, well-draining soil that stays moist. Most herbs do best with a pH between six and seven.

If you’re growing herbs in containers or pots, use a good potting mix like Dr. Earth or Back to the Roots.

For growing herbs in the ground, you may need to amend your soil with compost to make sure the soil has enough organic matter for the herbs to thrive.

Heavy clay soils may benefit from a soil conditioner. Sandy soils often benefit from a slow-release fertilizer because nutrients tend to leach out quicker in sandy soils.

If you’re not sure what your soil needs, you can take the guesswork out and test it with a soil test kit.

Seeds or Seedlings?

You can plant herbs from seed or purchase seedlings from a garden center, nursery, or even the grocery store. Either one is a good choice. Which method you use depends on your preference and goals.

If you want to save money, seeds are cheaper than seedlings and you can grow many plants from one packet of seeds.

If you want to get to a harvest sooner, seedlings are the faster method. If the seedlings are large enough, you can start harvesting and using herbs right away.


How to Plant Herbs From Seed

Starting herb seeds takes a little more time but the process is so rewarding! You can start seeds directly in the ground, in containers, or in seed starting trays.

Packets of herb seeds from Hoss Tools.

Starting Herb Seeds Indoors

When starting herb seeds indoors, it’s really helpful to have some basic seed-starting equipment. If you’re planning on growing more than just herbs, the investment in high-quality equipment is well worth it!

The good thing about seed-starting equipment is that most of it can be used over and over again. You can keep seed trays, heat mats, and grow lights and use them to plant more seeds within the same season and again the following year. Grow lights can be used to grow food indoors year-round, even during cold winters.

Basic Seed Starting Equipment:

Seedling Starting Equipment

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Hoss Germination Mat

Indoor Seed Starting Light Kit

SunGrow Black Gold Seed Starting Mix

48 Cell Seed Starting Kit

Gardening Gloves

Garden Shovel

Spray Bottle

Watering Can

Garden Labels

If you’re not planning on starting a lot of seeds, you don’t necessarily need all the equipment. At the minimum, you’ll need a container or seed trays to start herbs in, a good seed-starting mix, herb seeds, and a sunny location or grow light. If it’s cold where you’re planting the seeds, you may also want a heat mat.

A seed starter tray and a bag of seedling mix.

How to Start Herbs from Seed

Set up your seed starting location with seed trays or pots in a warm location. If you don’t have a warm location, a heat mat is helpful to warm the soil so that seeds can germinate.

Use a sunny location or grow lights to ensure your seeds have plenty of light.

Fill seed trays with a good quality seed starting mix. Regular garden soil often harbors diseases that can affect new seedlings so it’s important to use seed starting mix and not soil when starting seeds indoors.

Plant seeds according to the directions on the seed packet. For most herbs, the planting depth is around 1/4 inch deep.

Thoroughly moisten the soil and make sure the seeds stay warm and moist until they germinate.

A seed starter tray herb seeds with labels of herb names.

When to Start Herbs from Seed

Most herbs can be started indoors 6-8 weeks before the last frost. Check the back of the seed packets for the best time to plant your particular varieties.

How to Transplant Seedlings

Whether you started your own or purchased some from a store, you’ll want to transplant small seedlings into a more permanent growing location.

If you’ve grown herbs from seed and you’re planning to move them outdoors, make sure to harden off the seedlings before transplanting. Moving from a protected location indoors to the constantly changing atmosphere outside can shock plants. Hardening off gives them time to adjust to their new environment slowly.

Once seedlings are ready to go into their permanent location, dig a hole in the pot, container, or ground where the plant will be going. Gently remove the plant from it’s previous container and place it in the soil. Fill the dirt around the plant and water thoroughly.

Direct Sowing Herb Seeds

If the weather is nice, you can plant herb seeds directly into your garden bed, planter, or patio containers. Most herbs can be planted outside in late spring after all danger of frost has passed.

How to Plant Herb Seeds Outside

Once the location is prepared with good soil, sprinkle a few herb seeds over the soil, then cover them to the depth recommended on the seed packet. For most herbs, the recommended depth for planting is usually around 1/4 inch.

Water thoroughly and make sure the soil stays moist until seeds germinate.


How to Care for Herbs

Once you’ve figured out how to plant herbs, caring for the plants is the next step.

Watering

After herbs are established in their permanent growing location, most herbs benefit from regular watering. About once a week is usually enough. During extremely hot weather, you may need to water leafy herbs like basil and chives more often.

Bundles of fresh herbs.

Fertilizing

If you have fertile soil, applying a slow-release fertilizer at the start of the growing season is usually all that’s needed.

For less fertile soil, leafy herbs like basil, cilantro, parsley, and chives can benefit from more regular fertilizing. About once a month should do it.

Woody herbs like thyme, sage, oregano, and mint don’t usually need additional fertilizing.


Start Your Own Herb Garden!

Woman transplanting rosemary.

Now that you’ve learned the basics of how to plant herbs, you’re ready to get growing!

For more tips on growing and seed starting, be sure to visit the Seed Starting page on our website. You’ll find detailed guides for how to grow specific herbs, vegetables, and flowers, plus product recommendations, ideas, and tips to help you make the most of your garden.