How to Start an Herb Garden

You don't need a sprawling backyard to have access to your own fresh herbs for cooking or mixing cocktails.

U.S. News & World Report

How to Start an Herb Garden

Scandinavian white kitchen, shelving system, minimalistic interior design

Growing fresh herbs for cooking doesn't require a lot of outdoor space. Your herb garden can thrive in a yard, on a balcony or in your kitchen as long as you can provide the right amount of light and water.(Getty Images)

Plenty of homeowners love spending time in their kitchen. Whether it's to entertain or just prep dinner for one, the kitchen is a bright, meditative and central space in the home.

One thing that can enhance your kitchen time and cooking experience is to have fresh herbs and vegetables. An easy way to make sure you always have your favorite herbs or vegetables on hand is to grow them yourself in a miniature kitchen herb garden, or even a small garden in your backyard or on your balcony.

Not only will starting your own garden help you ensure that you rarely run out of your favorite herbs, but there can be some additional benefits, too.

The Benefits of a Home-Based Garden

There are obvious benefits to having available fresh herbs or other home-grown foods in or around your home, especially if you fancy yourself a home chef. For instance, you’ll know exactly what you’re eating – you grew the food yourself, after all. That means you know what types of soil and fertilizers you used, watered it regularly and watched it grow.

You know where it came from, and know exactly what you’re putting in your body. If you’re a clean-living or organic food advocate, that kind of peace of mind can be a game-changer. Not to mention the satisfaction that comes with creating and using something all on your own.

While a small, home-based garden can have nutritional advantages, it may also add value to your home, though that will depend on a variety of factors, including whether the garden you create is permanent, its size and positioning on your property, how well it produces and more. Ultimately, any potential value-add to the property will only be realized if you decide to sell – and then, it will need to appeal to prospective buyers.

Not all homebuyers may be interested in pulling weeds or sticking to a strict pruning schedule. So, it can be hard, if not impossible, to really quantify the value added with a home-based garden.

However, the mere presence of one can send some signals to any would-be buyers. It’s an indication that your property gets lots of sunshine and fresh air, for instance, and that the property can foster a healthy atmosphere. That’s something that will be a turn-on for many, if not most potential homebuyers.

Plant the Seed: How to Start Your Own Herb Garden

If you’re sold on the idea of a home-based garden, there are several ways to get started. But again, what you do (and how you do it) will almost completely depend on your circumstances.

If you live in an apartment or condominium, for example, you may not have the option of planting a large garden. You may not even have any balcony space to dedicate to growing, and will need to stick with a small, indoor system.

Small, Indoor Gardens

There are plenty of out-of-the-box solutions for starting an indoor garden. Click & Grow is a company that offers a compact and easy way to get a small garden started almost anywhere in your home, allowing you to grow herbs, flowers, fruits and vegetables in a smart planter that ensures everything gets enough water and light. There are numerous other smart gardens that work similarly, but essentially, you’re getting everything you need to start growing: lights, soil and seeds.

You can get some planters and find a well-lit part of your home to opt for a low-tech indoor garden, but make sure the plants are getting enough light throughout the day.

Balcony-Based Gardens

If you have a bit of outdoor space, like a balcony or terrace, you may be able to use any available natural light to your advantage. Be aware of your limitations: Most herbs will need between five and six hours of sunlight every day to properly grow. Some good choices for a balcony-based garden include parsley, mint and chives, because they thrive in shady spots.

Get started with some pots and potting soil – which you can probably find at most gardening or hardware stores. Keep in mind, too, that you may need to move your plants around from time to time, to maximize sunlight exposure, or to protect them from nasty weather. Pick pots or planters that you can easily manage.

Backyard Gardens

If you don’t live in the city, or otherwise have more space, like a backyard, to build a bigger garden, you’ll have many more options. Take details like sunlight exposure and soil composition into account, but with the extra space you can even build a permanent gardening area in the ground or in a raised bed.

You’ll also be able to plant pretty much anything you want with the extra space – assuming, of course, that what you plant can survive in your particular climate. What will flourish in the Pacific Northwest, for example, may not do so well in suburban Phoenix.

But the basic rules still apply: Make sure your plants are getting enough light and water, and that you’re protecting them from pests and weeds. In some cases, that may mean also protecting them from any neighborhood animals, be it dogs, squirrels or even deer.

As for what to plant? Popular choices among amateur herb gardeners include rosemary, cilantro, mint and basil.

Cultivating a Green Thumb

Gardening won’t come easy to everyone. But with some practice, it may just bloom into a fun new hobby.

If you’re lost, however, you can always ask some professionals for help. Venture out to your city’s flower district or a local plant nursery and see what types of herbs or plants they would recommend growing for your region. They may also be able to give you some pointers to make sure you see a bountiful harvest in the months ahead.

Don’t forget to have fun – you may not have been born with a green thumb, but you may be able to cultivate one.

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