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Starting a Garden, Herb Garden Edition

Starting a garden of any type can feel daunting, especially if it is your first time with a garden of your own. A herb garden can certainly seem a daunting task, especially if you are basing your expectations on something you’ve seen at a botanical garden or in a gardening magazine. Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be so complicated. A herb garden can be as simple as a couple of herbs in pots on your kitchen windowsill if that is all you want.

Before you start, there are a few things you should consider:

  • How much space do you have?
  • What types of herbs do you most often use in cooking?
  • How much time do you want to spend on your herb garden?
  • Do you want herbs to be within arms reach when you are cooking?
  • Do you prefer formal or informal gardens?
  • Do you intend to grow medicinal herbs?
  • How many different types of herbs do you want to grow?
  • How much of each type? Pesto-making takes a lot of basil…

The answers to these questions will tell you a lot about what type of herb garden you want. If you find some of your answers are contradictory, then you’ll have to make some choices about what you want most to do. For example, if you want a small container herb garden containing 3-5 small herb plants, and you want to make pesto, you are going to have to make a choice. It takes a lot of basil to make pesto, and you won’t be able to grow enough basil in a garden this small to make much. That also assumes that you don’t intend to grow anything but basil.

Once you’ve made your choices and have some idea what you want to do, the next stage begins. The steps for container and in-ground gardens are pretty similar but not identical.

Container gardens:

  • Buy seeds if you are starting from seed. Seeds needed to be started long before you can transplant them outside
  • Start the seeds indoors
  • Buy the container(s)
  • Drill holes in the bottom of the container if there are none
  • Buy (or make) potting soil
  • Place potting soil in the container
  • Buy plants (if not starting from seed)
  • Plant the herb plants in the containers, watering well. It is a good idea to stick labels next to them, as even if you are absolutely sure you will be able to identify them later, during the winter some herbs will die down to ground level and it will be hard to remember exactly where each one was. It can also be hard to tell different varieties of the same herb apart. Labels are your friend!

In-ground gardens:

  • Buy seeds if you are starting from seed. Seeds needed to be started long before you can transplant them outside
  • Start the seeds indoors
  • Buy any soil amendments such as manure, sand or compost if you are going to use them
  • Dig out the beds where you will be putting the herbs and add the soil amendments
  • Buy plants if not starting from seed
  • Plant the herb plants in the beds, watering well, and labeling as detailed above