Sometimes, the best meals are those you cook at home. Not only will you save money from making your own meals, but you can also customize them exactly how you like it. You also don’t have to be worried if what you put in your mouth is fresh or not.
On the other hand, cooking at home will take up your time and require effort. You have to gather the ingredients, and when you run out of them, you have to rush to a nearby grocery store. You’ll lose time, and maybe even your patience if you’re really hungry.
One way to make it easier to make homecooked meals is by planting your own herb garden. You’ll have access to fresh ingredients for cooking as well as brewing tea. Aside from meals and drinks, there are other reasons why people plant herb gardens (which I will share with you later).
Now, if you’ve never had a green thumb, don’t worry! Beginners can handle this type of garden since plenty of herbs can grow in different types of climate. Continue reading to find out how you can plant a herb garden in your home.
Different types of herb gardens
Herbs are commonly associated with cooking, but it’s not their only function. So before we start planting, let’s find out the different reasons people plant herb gardens.
Culinary Herb Garden
For people who like cooking at home, this is the type of herb garden they have. Herbs are commonly used for flavoring. These can be indoor or planted out in the ground or raised beds.
Medicinal Herb Garden
Aside from being used in meals, herbs can also be used as medicine because some of them have healing properties. Traditional medicine practices are known to use herbs, and there are still some people who apply the same practices today.
Fragrant Herb Garden
Most herbs have aromatic or fragrant properties, so some people use them as natural air fresheners. There are also some who include scented herbs in their potpourri, floral arrangements, or use them to create herbal sachets.
Ornamental Herb Garden
Not all people use herbs as a flavoring, medicine, or air freshener, sometimes they just need them for decorative purposes. They can be used to soften hardscapes or some gardeners use these to accentuate their main garden.
Planning your herb garden
Selecting the location
Whether you have a garden or not, you can still plant a herb garden. Herbs can also grow indoors, but you will have to use pots. If you do have space outdoors, you can grow them in the ground or raised beds.
For an outdoor herb garden, you can use the ground if your backyard has healthy, well-draining, and rich soil. Find a spot with sunlight exposure and has no neighboring shrubs and trees. But if your soil is shallow, rocky, or not suitable for herb gardening, plant your herbs in a raised bed.
A raised bed is simply creating a raised-box garden filled with a different growing mix. This way, you won’t have to use the poor soil in your yard and ensure that your herb will grow properly.
If you have a small outdoor space or prefer having your herb garden indoors, you will need to grow your herbs in pots. The downside with using pots is that herbs may dry faster or not grow to its fullest when the pot is small. It can also be challenging to grow herbs in these since they will need extra drainage because the holes in most pots can easily get clogged.
To successfully grow herbs in pots, select the right size and container depending on the herb. There should be enough holes for drainage, and to improve irrigation, fill it with the right potting mix.
Seeds, cuttings, or divisions?
There are different ways you can grow herbs and these are from seeds, cuttings, or divisions.
For herbs that grow fast, you can easily grow them by directly seeding them. Some well-known herbs that are under this category are basil, cilantro, dill, parsley, and sage.
Note: Make sure to read the seed packet before sowing them.
If you’re planning on getting herbs that grow slowly, it’s better to get divisions. It would be easier to grow these types if you get them from dividing existing herbs or from a nursery. Most of the time, this applies to perennial herbs since they can be divided easily. You can use this method on chives, marjoram, oregano, or thyme.
Another way to start slow-growing herbs is from cuttings. For this method, you cut the stems of healthy herbs and they will be rooted to grow new plants. Some herbs that grow using this method are mint, oregano, rosemary, sage, tarragon, and thyme.
Type of Soil
Choosing the right soil is essential to successfully grow a herb garden. If the soil is wrong for your herbs, these might grow weakly or worse, they won’t be able to grow at all. There are different factors you may need to consider when choosing your soil. This can be the soil’s fertility, alkalinity, and pH level, or how much moisture it can hold and how well it drains.
Most herbs grow best in slightly alkaline and well-drained soil, but you should be prepared to use different soils depending on the herbs. Some herbs may need more drainage, so you will have to mix in sand, perlite, or vermiculite with the soil.
Herbs can grow better in soil with a pH level of 6 to 7. You can use a soil test kit to determine the pH level and if it’s not within this range, you can adjust it by adding organic matter. It’s the same solution for herbs that need more moisture.
Choosing your herbs: Maintenance and Dishes
Thanks to our temperate climate, most herbs can easily grow in the Sunshine State. There are herbs that grow year-round, while for others, you need to time it during the summer or winter. Here are some herbs you can start with:
It's common to find this one in herb gardens. Basil is a popular herb that grows year-round, but it may grow best during the summer months. It’s also best to grow them from seeds, but you can also opt to grow them from cuttings. You can use Basil either fresh or dried.
Basil comes in varieties - they can be sweet or spicy and have a purple, green, or a combination of colors. One of the more popular ones is the Sweet or Large Leaf Italian Basil, which also grows annually. Not all varieties grow just year-round as African Blue Basil grows perennially. Aside from these, other types of basil that can grow in Florida are Dwarf Greek Basil, Genovese, Greek Column-Lesbos, Lettuce Leaf, Spicy Globe, Marseillaise Dwarf, Mexican Spice, Purple Ruffle, and Sweet Broadleaf.
It’s best to harvest basil when you need it, but the newest ones will taste best. To optimize their growth, plant them ½ inch deep and space them 10 inches apart. Place them under direct sunlight during the mornings and then under shade in the afternoon. They don’t do well in wet soil so use large clay pots with soil, perlite, and sand for more drainage. Eventually, top the soil with mulch and compost to encourage growth.
They’re easy to grow, but you would need to deal with downy mildew, which makes the leaves turn yellow and create a fuzzy discolored layer on their undersides. If this happens, the soil is probably too wet so you will need to place the herb in a new pot.
Dishes that use this herb:
If you love Mexican or Asian cuisine, you’ll be needing cilantro in your herb garden. This herb grows annually, but it prefers fall or winter. If you grow it during the hottest months of the year, it will quickly flower and its lifespan will shorten. This means it will go to seed, which turns into a spice called coriander.
These herbs may grow up to one foot, so prepare its container accordingly. Make sure to plant them 8 inches apart. It is best to place it under the shade during the afternoon, even during fall. This herb will grow best in pots with loose soil to provide better drainage. Do not overwater this herb since it also hates wet soil.
Note: If you prefer stronger cilantro, you can try culantro. It’s a Caribbean herb that would grow year-round in Florida, even during the hottest months.
Dishes that use this herb:
If you’re a fan of pickles, you probably recognize the taste of this herb. Using this herb is an easy way to add flavor to your dishes. There are different varieties of dill and one type that will work well in our climate is the Long Island Mammoth.
This herb grows best in slightly acidic or neutral soil that is loose and has good drainage. To improve drainage, you can add compost, sand, and perlite in the soil to keep it loose. Dill can grow from seed as long as you make sure to space them 1 foot apart. It’s best to grow this plant during fall or the cooler months. If you plant them properly, they can grow up to two to three feet.
Unlike basil, which you can transplant when the soil has become too wet, dill may not survive when transplanted. Disturbing its deep roots may kill it, so make sure that the pot is deep and has good drainage.
Dishes that use this herb:
Another herb that is easy to grow in Florida is mint. Similar to basil, it comes in different varieties. You’re probably familiar with the popular types, which are spearmint and peppermint. Other varieties you can grow here are orange mint and apple mint.
Mint can grow from either seed, division, or cutting. They thrive in the Sunshine State because they grow best in warm and wet weather. Unfortunately, this means they can grow and sprawl quickly, taking over the garden space. That’s why you should harvest them quickly, and also because the new ones taste best.
This herb also prefers damp soil but would work well in different types. You can grow them in pots but space them accordingly as these can grow up to 24 inches.
Dishes that use this herb:
This herb is a perennial, which means it has a long lifespan. Not only does it survive for a long time, but it can also be used to decorate yards and bigger gardens. They also give off a nice fragrance and you can harvest the leaves whenever you need it. Rosemary does not do well in the cold, making them perfect for herb gardens in Florida.
Rosemary grows best from cutting, but they can also grow from seeds. You might want to use the first option since it’s hard to grow rosemary from seeds. They prefer the sun and likes moist soil. You will need good drainage and add some sand to the soil. If maintained properly, they can grow up to 5 feet tall thanks to their high stems, and they can also spread 5 feet wide if you give them enough room.