10 Best Herbs For Beginners
So many of us are turning to gardening again and we wanted to show you the herbs that we grew when we were beginners. We promise to be realistic and look at the best ways to keep it simple!
- Basil is a soft herb that will grow well with plenty of sunlight and good drainage. It is also a family favorite so well worth growing, due to it’s many uses in culinary dishes. Most beginners want to grow herbs that they enjoy eating too.
- Chives are an easy cut and come again herb that will reward you all season long. They are a relatively low maintenance herb and will keep coming back for more. The flowers are also delicate and pretty, most attractive to those all important pollinators. So perfect as a beginner herb.
- Parsley is another cut and come again family favourite and will be sure to get the younger ones interested in gardening. We find that as it has a gentle taste, the kids are happy to eat as they garden, like mini human grazers. This puts the kids as the ideal beginners!
- Lavender can be often overlooked as a herb, but talk about easy to grow! You can buy one plant from the garden centre and continue to propagate it from cuttings for generations to come. The shrub will actually benefit from being cut back and you can create an entire hedge from your grown on cuttings. For a beginner you want a bit of a show stopper in amongst your herb garden too.
- Bay trees can be focal points and add height to any herb garden. Grown in pots or in the ground they will thrive with the right care. You can grow them to larger trees or keep them as ornamental in pots. Over watering is the only problem and you can avoid that with testing the top surface of the soil, beginners may find that this tree grows a little too large if grown in the ground.
- Rosemary is almost impossible to kill off once it is established. This may take a few years but good drainage and a sunny spot means this hardy perennial is pretty low maintenance. You can also harvest the leaves for so many dishes that you will be glad to have planted it! For a beginner rosemary is perfect as it is so popular in many garden settings.
- Thyme is great as ground cover in any container garden and will thrive with good drainage and a sunny location. When you stop being a beginner and start to be a real pro, you may want to investigate all of the different varieties as there is such an array of aromas and tastes! For now we will go for the common variety.
- Chamomile is an absolute star for a beginner as it is rampant and will quickly become almost a weed in your garden. Perfect ground cover amongst other edibles and a total star in a pot or container on your balcony. Chamomile is also super easy to harvest for teas and syrups.
- Mint is actually quite hard to kill off. They say if you can’t grow mint then you can’t grow anything. However there are still tips to learn and ways to get the best from your plants. Mint works very well planted out around an area of the garden that you want to eat. It is known to deter your flying bugs, so plant it in containers to move around. Avoid planting into a bed as it will quickly take over!
- Cress is on our radar as the fastest growing herb! Grow indoors as a one week turnaround from ‘planting’ to eating. We think of this as just for kids but it has those deep mustard flavors that work so well as a garnish. To be honest any herb as a micro herb is fantastic for beginners!
As this is for beginners I want the article to be as comprehensive as possible, without being over the top! No specialist equipment needed and all tips will come from our experiences that we have learned along the way! Whilst the nutrition and health benefits of the herbs may vary, just remember how good it is for your health to grow and eat fresh greens!
Each of the ten herbs will be broken down into sowing, growing and harvesting. We will look at space needed and whether you can grow them outside or on the windowsill! No room for being snobby here, if it is easier to buy the plant ready grown from the supermarket we will tell you! Trust us it is a real shortcut with some of these herbs and if you have no experience and no greenhouse then this can be the best option!
Beginners Herb Growing Tips To Get Started
Our first top tip before choosing which plants you think you can grow is to choose the plants you like to eat and cook with. I know it sounds obvious but we have grown some tricky fruit and veg in the past for very little reward. That is why we have compiled the list of ten.
Growing outdoors will be a great idea, location dependent. If you are too cold a climate then you may need to think about a sunny windowsill. Make sure to cover all surfaces so as to avoid any potential water damage.
Think about the location of your outdoor herb garden. Are you seriously saying that in the middle of a wet and windy January evening you will walk to the bottom of the dark garden with a torch in one hand and your trug in the other? Your herb garden should be a place to get fresh herbs all year round, so position it somewhere close to the back door!
I saw one article where an ‘expert’ advised filling up your fire exit with herbs. Let’s be sensible here, even with a little walkway we don’t want to be putting your lives at risk for the sake of fresh herbs in your pasta! So use your space wisely and do not block any fire routes with containers!
If growing in pots it is important to make sure that they do not sit in water, so make sure there are drainage holes and that pots are raised from the dish.
The top ten is designed to give you a starting point. Obviously we have loads more as we are the homegrown herb garden site!
1. Basil For Beginners
Sow basil seeds late February – Late Summer. Use any pot with good drainage and fill with soil. Use peat-free but with good drainage. Add some perlite or vermiculite to give it that extra boost. It will help to not have seedlings sitting in wet soil, moist is great but wet is terrible news!
Wet the soil before sprinkling the seeds as you want to avoid the watering process washing them all over the place.
Once the seeds are sprinkled over the top just use a water mister. You can cover them with a clear plastic bag to make a sort of greenhouse, make sure the bag is not touching the soil. In around 4 weeks you will have seedlings.
Grow – Once the true leaves have come through you can thin out the seedlings to other pots. This gives the plants a good chance and putting around 3 in a 4 inch pot will be a good ratio on a windowsill. We also fill out terracotta pots in the Late Spring time onwards.
We grow our basil in a few ways. We have a lovely red basil that we can’t get in shops, so grow from seeds and propagation, but for your usual pesto type (genovese) you will be very happy with what you can buy in the supermarkets.
When you get it home separate into several pots with a few plants in each one. Just as you will do for your young seedlings. Then give it a good watering and let them settle. If you have good drainage then you will be able to harvest from the basil as well as have them growing for the rest of the season.
Growing on your windowsill is a great option and can really increase the chances of you actually remembering that you have fresh herbs to use! I find that when I am doing weekday type meals I can totally perk them up with using herbs as garnish, but I really have to remember!
Harvesting is very easy and you will find that your basil thanks you for pinching out fresh leaves. By taking cuttings you can propagate your own basil as well. So really it has it all in it’s favour!
You can keep cut basil in the fridge to extend it’s life, but you can also dry it or use it in herb butter. Store herb butter in the freezer.
2. Easy Chives In Pots
Sowing chives is easy as they are a cooler crop and do well in Spring and Autumn/fall. Sow the seeds about 3 inches apart and cover with a very fine layer of soil. Keep warm and protected from frosts. They will benefit from being started indoors, but do not mind being sown directly.
Growing requires little effort. Thin them out further once they have got established and each plant will need to be around 4-6 inches apart. Ideal in a container or the ground. Chives will thrive on a windowsill and are perfect for a beginner as they are pretty indestructible given the right amount of drainage.
Harvesting chives, you may want to wait and harvest the flowers. They go really well in salads as well as the main crop of the stem. We also love chive flowers in cocktails and will admit to having a really nice herb garden for cocktails!
If you are interested in the stems alone, you can cut to around 4 inches tall and then they will take around a month to be ready for a new harvest. See I look after you with good value herbs as well as easy ones!
TOP TIP – If you have a little human or two a home that you want to get interested in cooking, then let them use chives in place of onions in many dishes. It will mean a less pungent flavour, but no tears and easier to cut with a child safe knife!
3. Parsley Indoors Or Outside
Sowing parsley can be a bit of an art if you care about high germination rates, and will take around 2-4 weeks for seedlings to emerge. If you want to go pro with this, then use a heated propagator and soak your seeds.
If you want to go for gold and see what comes up then you can sow directly to the ground, these are very small seeds so scatter them thinly and then just sort of rough them up on the surface rather than cover with soil. Water well, making sure you have good drainage! Do this in the warmer months when fear of frost has gone. You can always start seedlings off indoors as well. Any time of year.
Growing parsley will mean you have to thin out and give the young plants plenty of space. Keep the spaces in between well weeded. If they are growing in pots that is one less task for you!
Harvesting parsley will help to keep it alive and thriving. Each plant will keep going all year and we have a few that we cover and keep over winter outside as well! You can grow these on your sunny windowsill all year round! Super lovely and really perk up any dish!
You can dry parsley and this is also a nice alternative to having a full windowsill. Or try the herb butter as this goes very well on new potatoes.
4. A Beginners Guide To Lavender
Sowing lavender is a mugs game, or rather a game for those of us with too much time on our hands. I am that mug and do enjoy growing from seed. However it is easier to propagate lavender and far quicker.
Take cuttings from softwood or hardwood and allow for the bottom two inches to be almost skinned and have the leaves removed. This will form the place where the roots will emerge.
You can take cuttings and simply push them into prepared soil. We have a full article on this as there is some discussion in the gardening community about the benefits of root hormone. For beginners though, let’s ignore anything like that!
You need moist soil and to leave the cuttings in the soil for around two weeks before conducting a little tug test to feel any resistance caused by new root growth.
Growing the lavender is easy once new growth has come through you can move into it’s own pot or to the ground where it is to grow. Making sure that all risks of frost have gone. It is a hardy perennial shrub, but the young plants will need to be looked after with an element of delicacy. A cloche in their first winter won’t go amiss either. Or if they are in a pot bring them in and provide plenty of sunlight but shelter.
Lavender thrives in good drainage soil as well as sunny spots, avoid direct sunlight int eh harsh afternoon sun though!
Harvesting Lavender can be easily achieved when the flowers have been opened for a few days and bees and other pollinators have had a chance to do their thing!
Your lavender shrubs should happily live on forever more so choose your plants wisely and pick ones that will grow to the height you would like! These are worth a solid investment from an early stage as they will be forever rewarding you with scent and flowers!
5. Bay Tree as A Shrub
You will purchase your bay tree as a tree and find that a pyramid tree is fantastic for all of your kitchen needs. Go for one about 60cm in size and you can grow it to the size you prefer.
Growing your bay tree is relatively easy as long as you provide it with plenty of drainage and allow it a regular feed during the main season for growth, Summer and early Autumn.
Personally I would be reluctant to plant your bay outside in the ground, unless you do have 4 metre gap to fill? It will grow to fill the space available and then becomes a little too tall to gather leaves from. I’m not just talking about for the kids either! Five foot three is a respectable height!
We keep ours in a pot and bring it inside the greenhouse when it is threatening frost for prolonged periods of time. As you will find it wants to grow repotting can be a chance to increase the size or cut back the root ball to limit any further growth. For more on that we have a full article as it is a bit of a process and a beginner could get a little carried away!
Harvesting bay leaves is simple and you can take pretty much as you please at any time of year. Be aware that the bay leaves work really well in a bouquet garni where they are separate from the main dish and in a little ‘tea bag’ type situation. Choking on a bay leaf will not kill you but you may not be that happy with the chef afterwards!
6. Beginners Introduction To Rosemary
Sowing Rosemary is not always the best way to get plants. We prefer to propagate from cuttings. We have a complete article on the many ways to do this and it can be very rewarding to make more plants for free! Our neighbours have chosen to line their driveway with rosemary plants that are taller than me and flower nearly all year it seems.
Rosemary can grow tall very quickly!
It is a woody shrub and can be great to grow for beginners as once established in a spot with good drainage it needs very little attention.
Growing rosemary needs nothing more than a sunny spot with good drainage and space for it to fill!
Harvesting – We harvest all year round and eat it fresh in many dishes. It can be dried by simply hanging the stems in a cool, dark area which has a bit of free flowing air. Then you can remove the leaves and use it as and when you would like.
7. Thyme For Beginners
Sowing Thyme is easy and will result in a good germination rate. Simply scatter seeds over prepared soil. Cover lightly and keep warm and moist. Check moisture levels and a few weeks later you will see the first seedlings poking through. The true leaves take a little bit more time, but you can keep it in a well lit warm area.
Growing – Once they are big enough to handle you can thin them out to where they are to grow. Thyme is great as a beginners herb as it will grow and fill spaces in borders or containers. We love making up pots of similar herbs, ones that enjoy the same levels of watering, drainage and sunlight.
Some locations will require you to cover tender thyme in winter and protect from frosts. Being a gardener certainly keeps you checking those weather apps!
Harvesting thyme is very simple and you can eat fresh thyme for most of the year. Surprisingly thyme thrives on a windowsill and we enjoy the flavour in so many dishes. For us this is a very good value herb!
8. Chamomile Is Bee Friendly
Sowing chamomile is a nice job for the kids. You need well prepared soil and then you can gently sprinkle the tiny, light seeds over. Keep them as equally spaced as is reasonable. Then leave them in a warm location with plenty of sunshine. No need to cover them over, we use a spot of perlite just to make sure they are making contact with the soil, but nothing too heavy!
Growing times vary but around two weeks after sowing and you will see tiny little seedlings have merged. Wait until they are large enough to handle then transplant them to where they are to grow. Perfect in little gaps. They are from the daisy family so you get a lovely simple flower from them.
Ideal around certain other garden veg as they have anti-fungal qualities that deter infection.
Harvesting chamomile is as simple as taking a teapot filled with boiled water into the garden and putting a handful of fresh flowers into it. Letting it steep for five minutes means you get a lovely relaxing brew.
If you want to harvest and store the flowers you can air dry them in the kitchen and store in a sealed jar for all year round gorgeous taste.
9. Mint Is A Real Spreader!
Warning! Mint will invade all of you garden so keep in pots on your windowsill or as part of a container garden that is under control as the sneaky roots will leave the pot via the drainage holes!!!
Sowing is pretty straight forward with a well prepared pot of soil and a pinch of seeds sown thinly. Cover with the smallest amount of soil and water in well. A few weeks later and you will find the seedlings have emerged.
Growing on is just as simple. Thin them out into pots and make sure to leave plenty of room to expand. Mint is perfect to buy from the supermarket and grow on. Very affordable and easy to do. With quick rewards!
It is hard to kill mint making it perfect for beginners.
Do not be tempted to over water though and make sure to take plenty of leaves as it actually encourages new growth!
Harvesting mint is an absolute pleasure and pinching out the fresh growth can release the most incredible aroma. As such this is a job for the kids to enjoy! They will eat them straight from the plant as well which is lovely.
You can store mint very well in a herb butter and it is a fabulous way to show off at a BBQ, with hot buttered new potatoes!
10. Cress Is The Fastest Herb
Sowing cress is a family activity. Don’t get me wrong beginners start at all ages but our very young nephew enjoys growing and then eating cress!
No need for soil! So does this make it the ultimate beginners herb? You will need a wet paper towel and a plate to rest it on. Wet the towel without soaking and then scatter the seeds one layer thick.
Growing cress just requires a spot of light and some warmth. The seeds will sprout up within a week. Keep them moist but not wet
Harvesting – you can cut them with around 3/4 of an inch left at the bottom. This will then encourage new growth. We have a record of five new growths per sheet of paper towel!
Cress rocks and we have a larger article on the ins and outs here.
Beginners, Are You Ready?
I hope that we have shown you that no specialist equipment is needed and that you can start to enjoy growing and eating your own herbs from today! We would love to hear from you and know that you are all doing well so please do subscribe below.
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