Grow Your Own Food – Top 10 Herbs to Grow in Your Garden is full of great ideas to add to your new or existing herb garden.
Grow Your Own Food is an information series on Gardening in Canada that covers every aspect of growing your own food at home. I help you every step of the way so that you can have the garden you dream of. This series was originally written for and published on Food Bloggers of Canada.
One of the best additions you can add to your yard is a herb garden. It is a spectacular way to add fresh flavours to your dishes and to add to the dried herb selection in your pantry. Herbs are easy to grow and can be used in recipes, teas and potpourris and many have history as being used medicinally.
Ten Herbs to Grow in Your Garden
Dill is an annual herb that can grow as tall as 2 – 2 1/2 feet tall. They have fern like leaves which can be used in a wide variety of dishes. You can enjoy them fresh and also harvest and dry the leaves to have dill in the pantry year round. I have also froze dill leaves with great success.
Dill develops seed heads that can be picked before the seeds are formed and are used in many pickling recipes and are the main flavor component in dill pickles.
If left the heads will form seeds which you can use whole or ground. Harvest when the seed heads look brown and dry. Save some of the seeds for replanting the following season. If the plants are left in the garden the seeds that drop will germinate in the spring so you many want to dedicate a specific spot in the garden where you will always grow dill.
Parsley is an annual in Canada (a biennial in warmer climates) that can grow to 1 foot tall. There are 2 types of parsley, Curly and Italian Flat Leaf Parsley. It is said that Italian Flat Leaf Parsley has a better flavour and the Curly is better used as a garnish. They have feather like leaves which can be harvested and used fresh or dried for long time storage. You can store freshly harvested parsley leaves with the stems in a jar of water in the fridge for a few days.
To harvest choose stems from the outside of the plants. This allows the herb to get bushy for a continual harvest through the entire season. To dry the parsley set the leaves on a screen or in a carboard box set someplace warm. Alternately you could use a dehydrator for this step. Store the dried crumbled parsley in spice jar in the cupboard.
Sage (Salvia officinalis) is a perennial (in zones 4 – 11) that has woody stems and greyish green leaves. As Sage likes it a bit drier this is the perfect herb for container gardening.
Sage is harvested by pinching off the leaves or stems and used fresh or left to dry. To dry leaves spread them out on a screen or in a single layer in a large box. Set someplace warm or alternately you can use a dehydrator. Once the leaves are dry, crumble and store in a glass container with a lid. To dry the sage in bunches, tie the stems together and hang someplace warm. Once dry, remove the leaves and toss the stems into the compost pile.
For zones where it is a perennial you can do a hard pruning once mid season to encourage new growth. Sage is used in cooking, teas and for smudging. The most prominent flavour in Thanksgiving stuffing and if you have never tired deep fried sage leaves you absolutely must!
Mint is a perennial from Zone 3 up and can grow up to 2 feet tall. It comes in many different varieties, be sure to read the tags at the greenhouse when shopping for mint to discover some amazing flavours. Mint is known as a vigorous grower and can become invasive in some situations.
You can harvest mint aggressively and it will continue to grow. This makes it a great option for container gardening. To harvest pinch leaves and stems to use fresh or dried and the leaves can be frozen. We dry the mint as we do the Sage, on a screen or placed in a box and set someplace warm. The dried leaves can be crumbled and stored in an air tight bottle.
Great for making mint jelly or muddled in a Mojito, mint is a wonderful addition to your fresh herb garden.
Fennel is a perennial herb above Zone 5, it is a member of the carrot family. Fennel has that unmistakable anise or licorice flavour. Its feathery like leaves are used as a herb and its bulb is used as a vegetable.
Like dill if left in the garden it will form seed heads. Allow the heads to dry for harvestable seeds as well as leaving some to fall to reseed in the garden. A dedicated garden spot for fennel is a great idea.
Note: Do not plant near dill or coriander as cross pollination is possible.
Wait until the plants are established before harvesting the leaves. Bulbs can be harvested one they are the size of a baseball. Fennel can be grown in containers that are deeper then 1 foot, only 1 plant per pot.
Lemon Balm is a perennial herb above Zone 5 and is a member of the mint family. Lemon Balm likes it cool so chose a shady cool spot in the garden. It can also be grown in containers.
It is a bushy plant with white flowers. It is advisable to remove the flowers before they go to seed as Lemon Balm can become invasive it allowed to drop seeds.
Lemon Balm is best enjoyed fresh as the leaves lose some of their flavour when dried, though you can dry the leaves. This is a great addition to potpourri. Harvest leaves and stems as needed.
Lemon Balm is said to aid in sleep as well as being a stress reliever and reduces anxiety as well as a long list of other aliments. It can also be used as a bug repellent as it contains high levels of citronellal. And lastly, Lemon Balm is very attractive to bees which is beneficial to all gardeners.
Cilantro is an annual that can grow up to 2 – 3 feet. This is one to be planted in the ground, plant every 2 – 3 weeks for a continuous harvest all summer.
You can harvest the leaves to enjoy fresh. They are a frequent addition to salsa. And interesting fact, the seeds of a cilantro plant are Coriander. You harvest the coriander when the seed heads turn brown but have not yet opened. Seeds should then be dried, set them someplace warm but do not super heat. Once they are fully dry store in a spice jar.
Even though you can use Catnip in salads or use to make tea this one is really for the cats in your life. Catnip is a perennial from Zone 3 up and can grow up to 3 feet tall.
As it is an attractant to cats it is a good idea to plant it in spot in the garden where they can roll around and enjoy they plants. Don’t be surprised if they chew on the leaves, it is common.
It can also be grown in a container. Trim all plants back once a year to maintain appearance.
Stevia is a tender perennial in Zone 8 up and grows to a height of 16 – 20 inches. It can be grown in containers that have a depth of at least one foot. You can bring potted stevia plants indoors to overwinter.
Plants do best when you replant every 2 years. Stevia is a natural calorie free sweetener that is 300 times sweeter than sugar.
You can harvest the leaves as needed and enjoy them fresh or dried. To dry stevia place the leaves on a screen in a warm place or use a food dehydrator. Once the leaves are dry crush them and store in a spice jar. Use in place of sugar in drinks.
Chives are a perennial from Zone 2b up and grow in clumps. In the spring clumps can be dug up and separated into a few smaller clumps so you can move them to more spots around the garden or into containers.
You can start harvesting chives once they are 4 -5 inches tall. Using scissors trim them down to 2 inches from the ground. They will continue to grow.
The flowers of the chive plant are also quite amazing and can be used in salads or steeped in vinegar for a spectacular dressing for salads.
Planting Tips For Herbs
Once you decide which herb you are going to grow be free with your planting. Herbs can be planted in gardens, boxes, beds and containers, and think flower beds. Some of the herbs we discussed grow tall and would be perfect to add height to flower beds.