How to Grow Edible Herbs

Lavender is a great herb that also looks beautiful in flower borders. (Image by Jessie Keith)


Herb gardening is undeniably a great way for a beginning gardener to enjoy success while reaping delicious culinary benefits.

All of the five senses are fully engaged when growing edible herbs. There is a serene beauty of a garden composed mostly of evergreen and silver-grey herbs. Herb gardeners are treated to a daily miniature cantata as visiting bees contentedly work their pollination magic among the flowers. The tantalizing fragrance exudes from sun-warmed culinary herbs and is absolutely intoxicating. This is also the perfect lure to prompt a passerby to brush their fingertips across the soft foliage, tear a nearby leaf to greedily sniff, then gratifyingly sample.

Growing Herbs

Chives are beautiful in spring and taste great in a variety of dishes.

Surprisingly, edible herbs are really easy to grow. Provide them with a few simple essentials, and they will reward you with both vigorous growth and flavor.

First, be sure to site your potential herb garden where it will receive six hours or more of full, direct sunlight. When you remember that the majority of our culinary herbs were native to sunny Mediterranean regions, you appreciate how well they thrive in heat and light.

The second most important element to successful herb gardening is excellent soil drainage. Herbs hate wet feet, so there are a couple of ways to approach this challenge.

One is to prepare an herb bed by incorporating a porous soil amendment to increase good tilth. Black Gold Garden Soil has the perfect balance of peat moss, bark, and perlite to lighten and lift heavy garden soils. If your future herb bed is in pretty good shape, try adding Black Gold Garden Compost Blend to improve your soil’s structure and tilth. It can also be added to the soil surface a beneficial mulch.

Since good drainage can make or break an herb garden, many gardeners choose to create raised herb beds with stones, natural wood, or other non-toxic borders. Containers are also great for herb growing.  Fill containers and raised beds for herbs with Black Gold Natural & Organic Potting Soil. This specially-blended organic mix is safe for all edibles, uses worm castings as fertilizer, and won’t pack down with time, so excellent drainage is assured.

After preparing your herb bed or container, the choice of what herbs to grow is completely up to you and your cooking preferences. Here are a few of the easiest.

Choosing Herbs

Thyme is a lovely cascading herb for containers and gardens.

The most familiar herbs, and the ones that were also popularized by Simon and Garfunkel, are parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme. These work well together in a garden due to their complimentary leaf shapes, colors, and textures. Of the four, only parsley would have to be replanted each year as the others are perennial herbs which you should enjoy for years.

Basil is a favorite for pesto and Italian cooking, but is a warm-season annual herb, so wait to sow it into your garden until after all chance of frost has passed. (Click here for a great video about growing basil in containers!)

Cilantro is another annual herb that grows best in cool weather. It’s aromatic leaves are favored for salsa making and its crushed seeds are the spice, coriander.

Peppermint, spearmint, and pineapple mint spread rapidly and can be extremely cantankerous to remove, so consider growing them in large, isolated containers. But, be cautious! Even container-grown mints may sneak out of the bottom of pots or leap over the sides in an attempt to take over your garden.

Basil is one of the easiest summertime herbs to grow.

Oregano is another aromatic member of the mint family that will spread and take over if given a chance. Once again, consider growing this favorite Italian and Greek herb in a contained situation.

Lavender is one of the prettiest herbs for the garden–offering fragrant culinary leaves and colorful summer flowers that are also useful in cookery, potpourris, and sachets. The shrubby perennials can tolerate drought and attract many pollinators when in bloom.

The flavor and fragrance of herbs connect us deeply to memories of traditional family gatherings from holidays past and inspire future recipes. Since the variety of herbs you can grow is endless, your greatest challenge will be to decide where to place even more herb beds and containers.

This container of lavender, thyme, and parsley looks and smells great!

Avoiding A Spring Cold By Measuring Soil Temperature

Pam Beck - Avoiding a Spring Cold
Your soil’s temperature will be more accurate when taken by a professional.

Eager gardeners often forget that the slowly raising temperature of the soil is a more important environmental factor for successful springtime gardening than fickle air temperatures. Measuring soil temperature can help ensure successful transplanting. Seeds and transplants planted during optimum soil temps quickly develop healthy roots necessary to take up precious water and nutrients. Check your local weather channel or state government’s websites for current soil temperature information applicable to your area.

Transplanting Sprouts with Chopsticks

Transplanting Sprouts with Chopsticks - 3 Steps - Pam Beck
Step 1: Use chopsticks to create your planting hole. Step 2: Lift a sprouted seedling. Step 3: Gently replant the sprouted seedling and water.

Practice your fine motor and dining skills on your new sprouts. Transplanting sprouts using chopsticks is an easy, clean, and fun way to transplant your seedlings into a larger-sized pot. Simply fill your container with Black Gold Seedling Mix. Poke a planting hole into the loose soil with the chopsticks. Lift the seedling, and then gently place it into the waiting hole. Smooth the soil, water it well, and you are done.

Reusing Containers To Sprout Veggies Indoors

Salad Containers - Pam Beck
Don’t throw away old salad containers when you can reuse them to start your own homegrown entrees.

Whether you are starting your seeds directly in Black Gold Seedling Mix or testing your seed’s viability by sprouting them between wet paper towels, repurposed fast-food salad containers are an economical and environmentally sustainable way to sprout veggies indoors this Spring. Look for clam shell containers with small vented holes in the top, or punch ventilation holes in the tops and bottoms for best results.

Wrap Up with Climbing Rex Begonia Vine

Climbing Rex Begonia Vine - Pam Beck
If allowed to grow outdoors in summer, the Rex Begonia Vine can reach 12-feet in height.

If you are excited by the prospect of growing a unique vine indoors, there is none more interesting than the climbing Rex Begonia Vine, Cissus discolor. The leaves of this quick-growing vine are deep green, decorated uniformly with silvery brushstrokes, and when flipped, the leaves reveal surprising burgundy-red backsides matching its stems and tendrils.

For the best results, give Rex Begonia Vine adequate support, allow it to dry slightly between waterings, and place it near your brightest windows. The best mix for this plant is Black Gold African Violet Mix.

Colorful Crotons For Indoors Now and Outside Later

Big Croton - Pam Beck
Crotons will brighten a shady patio as well as any interior room.

Eye-catching Crotons easily chase away wintertime blues because the warm colors of their variegated leaves intensifies in cooler temperatures and bright sunlight. During winter months keep Crotons out of drafts and fluctuating temperatures to avoid leaf drop, hold back on fertilizer until spring, and remember to only use tepid water. You can begin moving your Crotons outdoors for vacation once nighttime temperatures remain around 50 degrees Fahrenheit and higher. Crotons grow best in fertile, organic-rich soil. I recommend Black Gold® Waterhold Cocoblend Potting Soil.

Spiky, Snaky, Sensational Snake Plants

Sansevieria - aka Snakes Plants
Snake plants look fabulous outdoors, too, but only during the heat of summer.

Sansevieria (aka Snake Plants or Mother-in-law’s tongue) are architecturally dramatic houseplants. Native from environs as extreme as the nutrient-competitive jungle floor to arid deserts, this plant definitely doesn’t need pampering.

Sansevieria thrive indoors in bright to low light, with minimal watering, so be sure to grow them in a porous potting soil, such as Black Gold Cactus Mix.

Cleaning Your House Plants

House Plant Bath - Pam Beck
Spray your favorite houseplants off in the sink or shower to keep their leaves healthy and dust free.

The cold months are the perfect time to wash away dust and grime that may have accumulated on the leaves of your houseplants by giving them a gentle hosing with tepid water in your tub, shower, or kitchen sink. Washing them will clear the pores on their leaves (called “stomata”) that are responsible for gas exchange and photosynthesis. It will also keep your plants looking attractive. This refreshing bath is especially beneficial to smooth-leafed houseplants, but it is not recommended for succulents or hairy-leaved plants, such as African Violets. Succulents and African violets can be gently cleaned with a brush or a barely damp, gentle cloth to keep their leaves dust and dirt free.

Large-, waxy-leaved plants may develop calcium or other difficult-to-remove grime build up. These can be also be treated with a make-your-own leaf cleaner. Add a drop of dish detergent to a half-gallon of water and add this to your spray bottle. Spray and wipe the leaves off with a gentle, soft cloth and then rinse them with tepid water. A 10% solution of vinegar added to water can also be sprayed on leaves to help remove difficult build up.

After a good wash, your plants will look and perform better.

Quintessential Camellias

Camellias are indispensable broadleaf evergreens in Southeastern landscapes. Varying in height from 3-foot rounded dwarfs to towering pyramidal trees, their irresistible wintertime blooms are a pleasure to enjoy in situ or indoors in arrangements. A traditional method of displaying cut Camellia flowers is to float the blooms in shallow bowls. Simply remember to refresh the water regularly and keep your arrangement out of direct sunlight in order to keep them fresh and lovely. And don’t forget to feed your beauties regularly with a fertilizer formulated for acid-loving plants.