Nothing spices up your meals or gives you greater gardening pride than growing your own fresh herbs. Herbs are generally easy-to-grow, and they give, give, give all season long – that is if you routinely harvest snippets for the kitchen.

Herbs in small containers

Select your herbs based on your culinary uses and palate preferences.

Photo Credit: Megan Bame

Looking down at herb boxes

Be sure to allow your herbs plenty of space to grow. Plant the taller ones in the back of the container so the shorter ones get plenty of sunlight.

Photo Credit: Megan Bame

Boxes of herbs

The size and shape of your herb containers don’t matter much, but be sure to place your herbs where they’ll get a lot of sun.

Photo Credit: Megan Bame

With most common culinary herbs, like rosemary and basil, it’s the leaves, rather than the flowers or seeds, which are used for flavoring. That’s why it’s important to keep cutting back the plant tips as you harvest. This deters flowering that may delay the growth of new leaves. Cutting back also encourages your herbs to send out new branches, which ultimately produce more leaves for harvest and keeps the plant compact.

Though you can certainly grow herbs in a traditional in-ground herb garden, they make ideal container plants, too. To get the most out of your herbs, gardening chefs say the key to using them is making them easily accessible to your kitchen – just outside your door, they recommend. Containers can make this possible! But remember, most herbs prefer full sun, so keep that in mind when selecting a location.

When choosing which herbs to grow, try to think of what ingredients you use most. My mother-in-law loves baking rosemary chicken. My husband wouldn’t dream of making salsa without cilantro. I harvest dill seed as a key ingredient in my pickled okra. Consider adding a flavor kick to your favorite sandwich by replacing the lettuce with sweet basil. Of course, this awesome herb is also revered for its place in easy-to-make pesto. And just think what a sophisticated treat it would be to add a sprig of parsley to your guests’ entrées.

You can start your herb garden in one of two ways: by seeds or with young plants. You can purchase either at your local garden center. While a young plant, or start, may run you a bit more than a packet of seeds, it cuts down on the waiting time for your flavor. Young plants may be available as single cups, but if they come in a multi-pack, consider making up several containers and gifting little herb gardens to friends or neighbors. They’ll appreciate it all season long!

The container size or shape you select matters little – a window box, strawberry jar or whiskey barrel all work well. As with any container planting, remember that the soil can only hold a limited amount of water. The older the plants get, the more established their root system becomes and the more water the plants will require, so plan accordingly.

While there’s obviously a culinary connection between your kitchen and vegetable gardening, why not take it one step further. Get your herbs fresh from the garden instead of dried from your spice rack. Many chefs consider the defining factor between a good dish and a great dish is the use of fresh herbs. Taste for yourself!

Growing your own cilantro? Try this zesty treat on for size:

Fresh Salsa


(Recipe from North Dakota State University Extension Service)

Ingredients

  • 1-2 garlic cloves, finely chopped 

  • ⅓ large onion, finely chopped

  • ½ large green bell pepper, finely chopped

  • ½ to 1 whole jalapeno pepper, finely chopped

  • 3-4 large Roma (paste) tomatoes, chopped

  • 1 small bunch of cilantro leaves, finely chopped
Juice from ¼ lemon

Directions

Mix ingredients together and serve, altering the recipe to suit your own taste preferences. Store covered in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.