Herb garden tricks: what to grow, when to harvest, how to preserve

Monarch on a echinacea flower in a garden
Oregano after winter
New Spring growth at the base of a Thyme plant

It’s that time again . .  .
you remember how your garden looked late last summer and then you lift the mulch and see just how long winter has been for your plants. 

They may look a little less robust than you recall, like my oregano above, but hopefully you’ve discovered a lot of new growth, like this Thyme plant. 

No matter what, now’s the best time to consider what herbs you’d like to grow this year. 

Cilantro growing in early Spring in a planter with a ceramic bird
You can grow cilantro early if you protect the plant from cold weather with a cardboard box.

How to decide what herbs to grow

Your fresh herb growing decisions are important, especially if you;
~ plan on using them in recipes during the season 
~ need enough to harvest for a big recipe
~ and want to try preserving enough herbs for cooking and baking during the colder months.

What do you have growing now and what do you need for your kitchen later?

Then, with so many herb choices out there, and knowing that seeds take a while to germinate, what do you choose if you don’t have a lot of soil space, or you live in a zone with a short growing season? 

Close up of chive flowers
Add flowers from chives to a salad or make chive blossom vinegar

An easy gardening idea for your kids

Infographic showing kid-friendly steps to gardening

Which herbs should you grow

Sunlight will be your biggest non-negotiable, decision-maker.
Many herbs need bright sunny places, but they also appreciate a little afternoon shade.
For example, chives are happiest in the sun, but they’re hardy and will also grow in the shade if they have to.
Chamomile loves partial shade if possible.
Thyme is a little fussy, preferring a slightly more alkaline soil.
That means the pH level should be a little more than 7.0 which means you’ll need a soil testing kit (or see below for a fun ladybug who does this for you) and a bag of limestone or lime to change your soil.

And, the soil is something you can change over time, but the bottom line is, most herbs are happiest growing in a well-drained environment.

mint leaves on an old wood plank
To enjoy mint in colder months, let the leaves dry out and store in an airtight, labelled container. Perfect for herb teas!

Knowing the best herbs to grow for you

There are really only two types of herbs to choose from – the delicate and robust.

Delicate herbs should be used in colder dishes or last minute in cooking. 
Cilantro and chives are a good example of using herbs as a last-minute garnish for an extra pop of flavour.
You’d also use these last minute in a wok or add them to a simple omelette.

The more woodsy, robust herbs fare better with long slow roasting or baking to help release their essential oils and aromas.
Rosemary, for example, goes with roasted meats and vegetables and bay leaves work best in slow cooking.  
You’d never use these in a wok or add them to an omelette.

Your cooking style in the kitchen will help you choose and grow the right herbs for you.

If you’d like a quick checklist on which category your favourite herbs fall into, here’s another post here where I explore the differences.

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When to harvest your herbs

It can be hard to know when to pick those leaves or snip the stalks, but if your plant is healthy, taking a few leaves here and there won’t do any harm. In fact, some herb plants are happy having more room to grow.

Just leave enough leaves to let the plant continue growing.
Think of it this way, when the plant is younger, just take 2-3 leaves at a time.
Once the plant has had time to mature and has established its root system, you’ll have a chance to really have a herb-feast.

dehydrated herbs on top of tomatoes in a pot
Nothing beats that proud feeling when you use your herbs

Easy cooking ideas for your herbs

Let’s take a look at one herb, fennel, and see how many ways every part of it can be used. 

Lay a stalk beside your fish while it bakes or simmers, for a light infusion
Use the fronds in a salad or as a garnish.
Add the seeds to a pizza already covered with goat cheese, prosciutto, and arugula.
And don’t forget the seeds in vegetarian sausages, patties, or meat-less balls. 
And if you eat meat, they still go great in all of these dishes!

Chamomile flowers

How to preserve your herbs

Dehydrated, in olive oil, vinegar, butter, ice cubes, salt, or sugar . . . the method depends on which herbs are best and how you’d use them over the cooler months.
For example, lavender, mint, or rosemary are amazing left in a jar of sugar for baking and drinks later!
Basil or rosemary are incredible in jars of salt for cooking with later.
Lavender, mint, rosemary, chives, or basil taste gorgeous in frozen pats of butter for the frypan or mashed sweet potatoes.
Lavender, rosemary, chive flowers, make unusual vinegar.
And then think about all of that infused oil!

How to grow, use, and preserve 15 culinary herbs.

You’ll be inspired to grow your own herbs after you’ve read this downloadable. 

Inside are tips and ideas on how to grow, use, and preserve your herbs.

Grab these easy tips & recipe ideas

for growing, using, and preserving 15 culinary herbs

When you need a gift idea for your favourite herb gardener

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I’ll earn a commission, at no additional cost to you. Read my full disclosure here.

1. Ladybugs
Now, instead of using a soil testing kit, this ladybug probes the soil, testing for dampness and pH levels!
I say it’s perfect for the home gardener who isn’t looking for anything too complicated.
Plus, who doesn’t love a splash of bright red amongst the greenery.
This is on my wish-list.

2. Geek and Tech
When I found the AeroGarden, the first thing I noticed was; this design is for serious indoor gardeners and those who love geek and tech because WiFi and Alexa are helping you – I kid you not!!! 
You should at least take a look. 
The reviews are positive, the company reaches out to questions, and customers are very happy. 
This is on my wish-list if summer doesn’t get here any time soon!

3. Non-GMO and Heirloom
And then, in case you like growing plants from seeds, these are non-GMO and heirloom, and I love the variety. 
GASP . . . they almost match the free guide you can sign up for here!
They even give you Garlic Chives which would taste spectacular preserved in butter!

I’m a bit of a geek-grass-roots gal who loves how technology is part of our lives yet we can still seek heirloom and non-GMO.

If Herbs Seem Scary to You

Herbs infographic explaining the delicate and robust types

Let’s face it:  herbs can be daunting.
With so many to choose from and, you can bet, that one herb your recipe asks you to use, is not available.

In this post, you’ll learn how easy it is to discover the amazing world of cooking with herbs and not ruin your dish!


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