Can You Help Me Learn How to Grow Herbs?

“I want to start growing my own fresh herbs. I am CLUELESS on gardening….help!” Question from Lisa of Erie, Pennsylvania

Answer: You are in luck! Herbs are some of the easiest plants you can grow. Almost all herbs require full sun, fertile soil with good drainage, and average water. Some are perennials (meaning they will survive the winter and grow each year) and others are annuals (meaning they will survive just one growing season and die). They are very easy to harvest. Just clip the leaves as you need them, being sure to leave enough to keep the plant full and healthy. Here are some great herbs to grow in your USDA Hardiness Zone 5 area.

Perennial Herbs

All of these herbs will live for at least three years in the garden. At planting time, be sure to give them good soil. If planting them in pots, they grow best in Black Gold Natural & Organic Potting Mix, which is approved for organic gardening. If growing them in a prepared, weed-free garden work some Black Gold Garden Compost Blend into the soil to ensure they perform really well. After your herbs have been initially planted, water them every other day to help them become established. After a couple of weeks, you can water garden-grown plants less unless the ground becomes very dry. Potted herbs will need to be watered every other day or even daily if the weather is very hot and windy.

Lavender: Grow this easy herb in full, hot sun and raised very well-drained soil. The fragrant, shrubby perennials have pretty flowers that are highly attractive to bees. Many are not very winter hardy, but there are a few that will survive your winters. (Click here to learn more about growing lavender up north.)

Mint: Everyone loves mint, but this aggressive herb will take over a garden in no time, so plant it in a big pot filled with good potting soil. This will keep its roots from roaming.

Oregano: Like mint, oregano is a fast spreader but not quite as aggressive as mint. It should also be planted in a large pot.

Sage: This classic, bushy herb is evergreen and continues to look nice through winter. It’s broad, dusty gray leaves smell pungent when crushed, and in early summer, stems of pretty violet-blue flowers appear. I like to harvest it in the fall for late-season dishes.

Thyme: French thyme (Thymus vulgaris) is a favorite herb for flavor with lemon thyme (Thymus citriodorus) being a close second for taste. (Click here to learn more about other lemon-scented herbs.) Plant thyme in rock gardens or south-facing beds.

Annual Herbs

Annual herbs can be grown from seed or purchased at your favorite plant nursery.

Basil: This is one of the best annual herbs for hot summer days. It can easily be grown in the garden or containers. (See the video below to learn how to care for container-grown basil.) Clip the leaves all summer to keep plants tidy and flavorful.

Cilantro: This cool-season herb grows best in spring or fall. Harvest cilantro leaves when they are lush and green. As the plants mature, they produce frilly white flowers that develop into round seed heads, which can be ground to create the spice coriander.

Dill: Dill is a cool-season herb like cilantro. Its delicate dilly leaves taste great in salads, and its seeds can be used to flavor dill pickles.

Parsley: Parsley grows and tastes best in the spring or fall. Sometimes it will survive one winter, but it is best grown as an annual. Once it has flowered, it is time to pull it from the ground and plant more.

I hope that these growing tips help!

Happy gardening,

Jessie Keith

Black Gold Horticulturist


Plants are the lens Jessie views the world through because they’re all-sustaining. (“They feed, clothe, house and heal us. They produce the air we breathe and even make us smell pretty.”) She’s a garden writer and photographer with degrees in both horticulture and plant biology from Purdue and Michigan State Universities. Her degrees were bolstered by internships at Longwood Gardens and the American Horticultural Society. She has since worked for many horticultural institutions and companies and now manages communications for Sun Gro Horticulture, the parent company of Black Gold. Her joy is sharing all things green and lovely with her two daughters.

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