Herbs Growing Guide

Herbs are of great value to the kitchen gardener, because in addition to attractive greenery and flowers, they add scents and tastes that boost our moods and improve just about every type of meal. How ironic, then, that they're among the easiest of plants to grow! All they need is sunlight, soil, and a modicum of water to produce lush, useful foliage and flowers.

HerbWhen to SowSun/Part ShadeSeed SpacingRow SpacingPlanting DepthSpacing After ThinningDays to GerminateDays to Maturity
Basil When soil workable Sun/Part Shade ¼ inch 30 inches ½ inch 12 inches 7-10 78
Borage When soil workable Sun/Part Shade 12 inches 24 inches 1/8-¼ inch 10-12 inches 7-14 50-60
Bread Poppy When soil workable Sun 1 inch 24 inches 1/8 inch 6-8 inches 7-10 85-120
Calendula After last frost Sun ½ inch 24-36 inches ¼ inch 10-15 inches 10-14 65-80
Catnip When soil workable Sun/Part Shade 1 inch 18 inches ¼ inch 18 inches 7-21 85
Chives When soil workable Sun/Part Shade 1 inch 12 inches ¼ inch 4 inches 10-15 80
Cilantro After last frost Sun 1 inch 15 inches ½ inch 8 inches 15-20 60
Dill After last frost Sun 1 inch 2 inches ¼ inch 8 inches 10-15 40
Fennel When soil workable Sun 1 inch 2 inches ¼ inch 10 inches 12-18 80
Marjoram After last frost Sun 1 inch 18 inches ¼ inch 12 inches 10-15 70
Oregano After last frost Sun 1 inch 2 inches 1/16 inch 18 inches 10-20 90
Parsley When soil workable Sun 1 inch 15 inches ¼ inch 3-6 inches 20-30 60
Peppermint When soil workable Sun/Part Shade 1 inch 18 inches 1/8 inch 8 inches 10-12 85
Sage After last frost Sun 1 inch 18 inches ¼ inch 15 inches 10-20 90
Thyme After last frost Sun 1 inch 18 inches ¼ inch 8-12 inches 14-28 50
Valerian After last frost Sun/Part Shade 12-18 inches 18-36 inches 1/8 inch 18-36 inches 7-14 2 years

 

Soil and Fertilizing
To find your frost date to determine whether the soil is ready, click here. Most of the herbs listed above do best in well-drained but moist soil, enriched with a vegetable fertilizer. Some even prefer average to poor soils.

Thinning
Thin plants to suggested spacing (see chart) when they reach around 2 inches high.

Watering
Be careful not to overwater. Normal rain and an occasional watering should be enough to keep your herbs growing. In fact, most of these herbs do well with very little water. The exceptions are listed in the Special Notes Section below.

Harvesting
Most of the herbs listed here can be harvested as needed. Use a pruner to remove sprigs or individual leaves, and never harvest more than a third of a plant all at once. If you wish to dry your herbs for later use, do so in a cool, dry, dark place.

Special Notes
Basil: Pinch back or prune the tips to maximize the plant’s bushiness.
Bread Poppy: Mix seeds with a cup of sand or other inert material and broadcast over planting area.
Calendula: For earlier blooms, start indoors 6-8 weeks before last frost.
Catnip: Needs a moderate amount of water.
Dill: May require staking. Tastes best when harvested in mid-summer.
Marjoram: Pick the leaves after the flowers bud, but before they open.
Parsley: Soak seeds for 24 hours, then plant as soon as soil can be worked.
Sage: For earlier harvest, start seeds indoors in March.
Thyme: Don’t water at all. Pinch back or prune the tips to maximize the plant’s bushiness.
Valerian: May need staking. Harvest valerian root for tea when the plant is over 700 days (nearly two years) old.

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