Planning Your Own Kitchen Herb Garden

When to Plant

Most herbs are planted just after the last spring frost.


Herbs require good drainage. A raised bed is your best bet. Mix in compost, well-rotted manure, shredded leaves or other organic matter to improve drainage in clay soil or hold water in sandy soil.


Most herbs need six hours of sun a day. Catnip, lemon balm, mint, cilantro, dill, salad burnet, parsley and Vietnamese coriander can take partial shade. Chervil, ginger, `hoja santa,' galangal and apple mint `require' partial shade. Rose-scented geranium likes filtered afternoon sunlight.


Most herbs are grown for their leaves, so cut them back regularly to keep them neat, to encourage new growth and to keep them from flowering. Exception: chamomile, the flowers of which are used to make tea.

Mexican marigold mint has pretty yellow flowers in the fall, by which time you will have had all summer to use the leaves -- so feel free to let it bloom.

Mulch around plants with organic matter such as straw to retain moisture.

Herb Chart

CHART CATEGORIES: These are the most commonly used culinary herbs. If you don't have much room, or you're starting out small to keep things manageable, grow these.

1. Rosemary ( Rosmarinus officinalis)
Transplant: After last frost
Tender perennial, 24-36 inches
May not make it through the winter; some other varieties are hardier. Do not overwater.
Pungent, slightly piney; Meats, potatoes and other vegetables

2. Oregano (Origanum)
Transplant: After last frost
Perennial, 18 inches
Hot, peppery; Tomato sauce, egg/cheese combinations, breads, vegetables, meats

3. Thyme ( Thymus vulgaris)
Transplant: After last frost
Perennial, 12-18 inches, creeping or prostrate varieties to 3 inches
After the first growing season, cut stems back by half to encourage new growth.
Delicate, with faint clove aftertaste; Meats, stews, butters, tomatoes and other vegetables

4. Parsley, flat-leaf ( Petroselinum crispum var. neapolitanum)
Seed or transplant: Fall or early spring
Biennial, 12 inches
Likes cool weather
Gentle, slightly bitter flavor; Meats, poultry, Middle Eastern foods such as tabbouleh

5. Sage ( Salvia officinalis)
Transplant: Early spring or fall
Perennial, 18 inches
Needs air circulation; requires little water.
Lemony, camphorlike, slightly bitter; Meats, stuffings, sausage, poultry, vegetables, cheese, eggs

6. Marjoram ( Marjorana hortensis)
Transplant: After last frost
Tender perennial, 24 inches
Similar to mild oregano, with a slight balsam flavor; Meats, vegetables, stews, cheese spreads

7. Basil ( Ocimum basilicum)
Transplant: Late spring through mid-May
Annual, 12-24 inches
Spicy, peppery, trace of cloves; Italian, Mediterranean and Thai cuisines, especially pasta, tomatoes, meats, poultry, soups, eggs
Surrounding herb garden
Once you've grown the basics, here are some more exotic herbs you might try:

8. Arugula ( Eruca vesicara)
Seed or transplant: Early September through April
Annual, 12 inches
Needs cool weather
Peppery, nutty; Salads, omelets, with meats or in sandwiches or stir-fries

9. Bay (bay laurel) ( Laurus nobilis)
Cutting or purchased young tree: Fall for cutting or any time for nursery transplant
Tender perennial, 5 feet
Grow in pot, and bring in for the winter.
Subtly spicy; Soups, stews, vegetables, sauces, shellfish, game

10. Apple mint ( Mentha suaveolens)
Transplant: Spring
Perennial, 18-24 inches
Needs extra water and afternoon shade; plant in pot to contain growth.
Mild apple or fruity flavor; Fruit salad, cottage cheese, cream cheese, garnishes for drinks

11. French thyme ( Thymus vulgaris French )
Transplant: After last frost
Perennial, 6 inches
Intense thyme flavor; Use as you would other thymes.

12. French sorrel ( Rumex acetosa)
Transplant: Early spring
Perennial, 18 inches
Can take a mild freeze
Sharp, acidic taste; Ragouts, sauces, soups, goose, salads

13. Winter savory ( Satureja montana)
Transplant: Early spring
Tender perennial, 8-12 inches
Needs little water; likes heat
Stronger peppery thyme flavor than summer savory; Poultry, vegetables, especially beans

14. French lavender ( Lavandula dentata)
Transplant: Early spring
Tender perennial, 24 inches
Dig and plant in pot before frost; don t overwater.
Floral, perfumey; Jelly, ice cream, vinegar, flavored drinks

15. Lemon thyme ( Thymus x citriodorus )
Transplant: Early spring
Perennial, 8-12 inches
Needs little water, likes heat and sun.
Lemony; Chicken, fish, tea

16. Bush basil ( Ocimum Basilicum Minimum )
Transplant: Late spring through mid-May
Annual, 6 inches
Similar to sweet basil but milder; Use as you would other basils

17. Chives, onion ( Allium Schoenoprasum)
Transplant: Early spring or fall
Perennial, 12 inches
Mild onion flavor; Veal, seafood, creamy sauces, cheese, eggs, potatoes, other vegetables

18. Rose-scented geranium ( Pelargonium Graveolens )
Transplant: Spring
Tender perennial, 24 inches
Grow in pot and bring inside in the winter; don t overwater.
Rose flavor; Jellies, teas, desserts, sugars

19. Chamomile (Chamaemulum nobile)
Seed or transplant: Early spring
Annual, 16 inches
Can't take heat; Apple, Tea

20. Salad burnet ( Poterium sanguisorba)
Transplant: After last frost or in fall
Perennial, 18 inches
Likes cool weather but tolerates heat
Cucumber; Salads, vinegars, butters, iced beverages

21. Lemon balm ( Melissa officinalis)
Transplant: Spring
Perennial, 24 inches
Reseeds freely
Lemon with a touch of mint; Fruit or green salad, marinated vegetables, chicken salad, poultry stuffing, marinades for fish

22. Summer savory ( Satureja hortensis)
Transplant: After last frost
Annual, 18-24 inches
Peppery thyme; Tea, herb butter, vinegar, soups, eggs, vegetables

23. Fennel ( Foeniculum vulgare)
Transplant: Spring
Perennial, 36 inches
Anise; Salad, sausage, duck, cabbage, herb butter, cheese spread; seeds in desserts and breads.

24. Borage ( Borago officinalis)
Transplant: Early spring
Annual, 3 feet
Cucumber; Steam leaves, or eat leaves or stems raw; use in fish, poultry, vegetables. Flowers can be candied and used to decorate desserts.

25. Curry plant ( Helichrysum angustifolium)
Transplant: After last frost
Perennial, 24 inches
Likes heat, sun
Curry powder; Cream cheese, egg or chicken salad

26-29. Thai, jalapeno, cayenne and habanero peppers (all Capsicum) species
Transplant: May
Annuals, 24 inches
Not really herbs
Fiery; Mexican and Asian sauces, vegetables, chicken, seafood

30. Kaffir lime ( Citrus hystrix)
Transplant: After last frost
Perennial, 8-10 feet
Grow in pot, and bring indoors in winter.
Citrus; Hot and sour shrimp soup and other Thai dishes

31. Perilla (beefsteak plant or shisho) ( Perilla frutescens)
Seed or transplant: After last frost
Annual, 3 feet
Reseeds easily
Spicy; Asian pickles, cucumbers, tempura and sushi

32. Galangal ( Kaempferia galanga)
Division: Late spring
Perennial, Low-growing ground cover
Earthy, gingerlike; Asian fish and other dishes

33. Thai basil ( Ocimum citriodorum Thai )
Transplant: Late spring through mid-May
Annual, 18-24 inches
Sweetly perfumed; Thai fish, chicken and beef curries, vinegar, stir-fries

34. Vietnamese coriander (rau ram) ( Polygonum odoratum)
Transplant: Spring
Perennial, 3-4 inches
Needs lots of water; spreads rapidly
Cilantrolike, but milder, lemony and peppery; Soups, salads

35. Ginger ( Zingiber officinale)
Rhizome: Spring
Tender perennial, 24-48 inches
Plant in pot from plump, walnut-size piece with an eye (as on a potato); keep moist.
Citrusy, spicy; Asian, Caribbean and North-African dishes, fruit salads, meats, vegetables, breads and cakes

36. Garlic chives (Chinese chives) ( Allium tuberosum)
Transplant: Spring
Perennial, 16-18 inches
Reseeds readily
Mild garlic; Salads, stir-fries

37. Lemon grass ( Cymbopogon citratus)
Division (or plant from bulbs from an Asian grocery): After last frost
Tender perennial, 30 inches
Needs lots of water
Lemon; Beef, chicken and shrimp stir-fries and curries, soups, tea

38. Spearmint ( Mentha spicata)
Transplant: Early spring
Perennial, 18-36 inches
Invasive; plant in pot
Mint; Meat, fish, vegetables, fruit salads

39. Cilantro ( Coriandrum sativum)
Seed or transplant: After last frost or in fall
Annual, 24 inches
Can't take heat
Pungent, with hints of sage with citrus; Southeast-Asian salads and relishes, Mexican meat and cheese dishes, sausage

40. Purslane ( Portulaca oleracea)
Transplant: After last frost
Annual, 6 inches
Tart, vinegary; Soups, sandwiches

41. Mexican marigold mint ( Tagetes lucida)

Transplant: Spring

Perennial (dies down but comes back), 36 inches

Tarragon; Greens, sauces, chicken, tuna and shellfish salads

42. Epazote ( Chenopodium ambrosioides)

Transplant: After last frost

Annual, 3 feet

Likes heat; reseeds

Pungent; Pork, crab, chili, chicken soup, vegetables, cheese

43. Lemon verbena ( Aloysia triphylla)

Transplant, Spring

Tender perennial, 3-4 feet

Mulch well in late fall or dig up and plant in container indoors; cut back by half in June to encourage more growth.

Lemon; Tea, salads, desserts, peas

44. Hoja santa ( Piper auritum)

Transplant: Early spring

Tender perennial, 6 feet

Needs plenty of water

Sarsaparilla and licorice; Tamales, chicken mole, sauces, fish

45. Mexican oregano ( Poliomintha longiflora)

Transplant: Spring

Tender perennial, 3-4 feet

Needs little water

More pungent than ordinary oregano; Meat, chicken, beans, beef stew

46. Yerba buena ( Mentha species)
Transplant: Spring
Perennial, 18 inches
Invasive; plant in pot
Spearmint; Chicken or tomato soup, meatballs

47. Pineapple sage ( Salvia elegans)
Transplant: After last frost
Tender perennial, 3˝ feet
Pineapple; Drinks, chicken, cheese, jellies

48. Garlic ( Allium sativum)
Cloves: October
Annual, 12 inches
Dig up bulbs in June when 2-3 leaves start to turn brown; dry bulbs where air circulates; replant in fall.
Garlic; Eggplant, tomato sauce, butters, cheese spreads, breads, beans, meats, poultry, vinegar



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