I’ve really enjoyed making and using my own seasoning blends over the past year. It was particularly rewarding when I got to add my own homegrown herbs and seeds to the seasoning mix. Now that it’s time to plan my garden once again, I’m thinking very strategically about what herbs and seeds I should plant so I can grow as many of the ingredients for my favorite seasoning blends as possible. In addition to their culinary gifts, herbs are also an attractive addition to flower and vegetable gardens, whether it’s their blossoms, like these chives or their beautifully textured or colored foliage like this variegated sage (shown early spring).
To plan out my herb garden, I started thinking of my favorite seasoning blends:
German Seasoning – as I’ve dubbed the trio of dill, parsley, chives
Italian Seasoning – basil, marjoram, parsley, oregano, garlic, onion, thyme, sage
Lemon Herb Seasoning – basil, oregano, parsley, onion, celery seed, thyme, garlic, lemon
Mexican Seasoning – chili powder, cumin, coriander, oregano, garlic, paprika, onion, cayenne
Rosemary Finishing Salt – rosemary, salt
Steak Seasoning– coriander seed, paprika, onion, garlic, cayenne, thyme, mustard
Cajun Seasoning – paprika, garlic, onion, cayenne, oregano, thyme
Garam Masala – cardamom, cumin, coriander, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, turmeric
It’s clear that I won’t be able to grow everything on the list. I actually had to google how black pepper is grown. There’s no way I would have the patience for growing a tropical vine that is super sensitive! I decided to stick with plants that can be grown outside in our Winnipeg climate without too much fuss. Here’s the list I came up with:
chives – seed outdoors, super easy to grow, will reseed and return year after year, but easy to manage
dill – seed outdoors, will reseed and return year after year, but easy to manage
coriander/cilantro – seed outdoors, harvest greens as cilantro then coriander after it bolts and goes to seed (tricky to grow because it bolts so quickly, requires constant re-seeding to get fresh tender cilantro)
parsley – start from seedling, easy once established
thyme – start from seedling, super easy once established, will overwinter if well insulated in winter
sage – start from seedling, may overwinter if well insulated in winter
oregano – start from seedling, may overwinter and come back next year, fast and easy to grow
basil – start from seeds indoors – very sensitive to cold/frost, loves the sun, requires regular watering
rosemary – start from a seedling – very sensitive to cold/frost, will not overwinter unless brought indoors under grow lights
onion – plant onion sets early in spring
garlic – plant individual cloves very early in spring (ideally in the previous fall)
cayenne pepper – start peppers from seeds indoors
Growing Tips for Culinary Herbs
- If you don’t have garden space, consider planting herbs in containers. Here’s a container featuring red leaf lettuce with a variety of basil.
- Dill and cilantro (seen below) are fast growing and can look a bit spindly as stand alone plants. They also go to seed fairly quickly, so harvest repeatedly and even consider staggering the seeding throughout the season.
- Herbs don’t like wet feet – ensure good drainage (add a layer of sand or gravel when planting transplants) and don’t over water.
- Most herbs enjoy plenty of sunlight. Some like chives, parsley, mint, coriander/cilantro, oregano, tarragon and thyme will tolerate dappled shade.
- Herbs make beautiful companion plants in flower gardens, often helping keep critters away.
- Cut back and use your herbs throughout the season, they’ll grow stronger and produce more. Here, basil is being trimmed back before it even makes it out of the greenhouse. Trimming the top leaves will make the basil branch out and produce more.
- You can start herbs from seeds, but it requires a little more attention and gardening know-how. If you’re new to gardening or just don’t have a lot of patience, buy small seedlings – you’ll be surprised how quickly they’ll grow.
- You don’t need a lot of plants – one or two of each will serve you well throughout the summer. But if you want to dry herbs for seasoning blends, consider getting a couple extra.
- Talk to your local greenhouse staff about different varieties and their culinary properties.
- Some herbs retain better flavor when frozen instead of dried. While I use both, I find frozen dill, parsley and chives retain more flavor longer than their dried counterparts. I dry some for the seasoning blends and freeze the rest.
Add this list to my Grow Your Own Herbal Tea list and I’m ready to head to the greenhouse.
For other gardening How To’s check out these posts:
Need help planning or getting your vegetable garden going? Get Getty to help you figure things out. Getty Stewart is a freelance Professional Home Economist, author of Manitoba’s best-selling Prairie Fruit Cookbook, Founder of Fruit Share, mom and avid veggie gardener. She loves growing food and has been doing so forever. Need a workshop or a little one-on-one, Get Getty!