Top Five Herbs for Your Garden

Fresh herbs are like icing on a cake, they transform a great dish into an extraordinary one, especially when they’re homegrown, freshly cut herbs.

basket of herbs
Nothing beats the flavour of fresh herbs.

Also Read: Top Tea Herbs for Your Garden, Grow Your Own Seasoning Blends, Join Herb Chat on Facebook

The variety of colours, textures, scents and flavours of herbs is endless.  You can get shrubby ones, sleek ones, creeping ones, tall ones, variegated ones, dark ones, light ones and so on.  Not only do they make your food taste great, but they can also create a beautiful, interesting garden space.  Many also attract beneficial bees, butterflies and other helpful insects.  And for those of you who have deer or rabbits who wander through your garden, many herbs are deer resistant.

Most herbs prefer direct sun with at least 6 hours of light and well draining soil with consistent but not too frequent watering.

My Top Five Herbs to Grow

If you’re new to growing herbs, here are five herbs that are easy to grow and very popular in the kitchen.

1. Chives

Some people wait for tulips to signal the arrival of spring – I wait for the day I can dash outside and snip a few chives to add to supper.

  • read more about Growing Chives and check out 12 Chive Recipes
  • one of the mildest members of the onion (alium) family
  • a perennial that is one of the first plants to come back in spring
  • can be cut repeatedly throughout the season with new shoots growing back
  • grows in clumps about 12″ wide and 12 to 18″ high
  • beautiful pink to purple blossoms that can be used as a garnish, to infuse vinegar or in baking like in these chive biscuits.
  • direct seed into the garden or start 4-6 weeks prior to the last frost free day then transplant into containers or into the garden
  • OR if you have a friend with an established patch of chives, ask them if you can slice off a small section of their chives to transplant into your garden.  Chives are very hardy and will easily tolerate being split and moved.
  • remove dead flowers to prevent self-seeding
  • use chive greens or blossoms in salads, dressings, dips or on top of baked potatoes

chives

2. Dill

Where would pickles, borscht, salmon, baby potatoes and egg salad be without dill?  Growing up in a German household, dill, next to parsley and chives, was probably the most common herb I grew up with.

  • dill is a fast, eager, self-seeding plant which reseeds itself without any hesitation or thought about your gardening plans; luckily, it is very easy to pull if it gets too carried away
  • its narrow stems and fern like leaves grow 16 to 24″ high
  • dill is harvested for it’s tender fern like leaves and for dried seeds at the end of the season How to Harvest Dill
  • tiny white to yellow flowers form on umbrels and quickly turn into brown seeds that will disperse and come up within the same season or the following year
  • direct seed into the garden after the danger of frost has past as dill prefers warm soil
  • dill does not transplant well – so do not seed indoors
  • it is easy to dry dill, but dried dill does not keep its flavour long, it is best to Freeze Dill for use throughout the year

dill

 3. Parsley

Parsley should be a staple in your garden. Not only is it great for garnishing just about any dish, but its curly bright green leaves make an attractive border for flower beds or planters. And, did you know you can use parsley as a breath freshener at the end of the meal? Of course you need to grow this herb in your garden!

  • beautiful intense green colour,  in curly or flat leaf varieties which are equally tasty
  • can be cut repeatedly for use throughout the season How to Harvest Parsley
  • grows in mounds about 8-24″ tall and wide
  • parsley is a biennial, meaning it will come back a second year to form seeds; however, in our Zone (2b-3) it may not come back at all and if it does, most of its energy will be directed into seed production and therefore will not be as full and as bushy as in its first year, it is best to plant a new plant each year
  • makes an attractive border in gardens and attracts swallowtail butterfly caterpillars (black and green stripes with yellow dots)
  • parsley has a very long germination period (4-6 WEEKS) and a tough seed coating making it tricky to start from seed – be patient
  • soaking the seed in warm water overnight will help soften the seed coating
  • direct seed into the garden when soil is warm and all danger of frost has passed
  • if starting indoors, use deep containers to allow tap root to grow and avoid damage during transplanting
  • parsley can be dried, but it loses flavour quickly, I prefer Freezing Parsley

parsley

 4. Basil

Basil is not something I grew up with, but it is an herb I have learned to love.  Now, I can’t imagine my garden without it. There are so many great recipes with basil.

  • basil comes in several varieties with the most common being the sweet basil with large green, shiny leaves
  • regular pruning will grow a full, luscious basil plant and leads to repeated cuttings How to Prune & Harvest Basil
  • snip off flower heads to encourage continued growth and to get best flavour from leaves
  • direct seed into garden or containers after all danger of frost has past or start 4-6 weeks prior to the last frost free day then transplant
  • basil will not tolerate any frost either in spring or fall
  • Here are 6 Ways to Store and Preserve Basil
basil varieties
This planter has lettuce along with thai basil, purple rubin basil and sweet basil. So many tasty and beautiful options.

  5. Oregano

Another herb that I use frequently in my kitchen today but that was not a part of my childhood experience is oregano.  Now, whenever Italian or Greek dishes are on the menu, my homegrown, dried oregano is sure to be part of the picture.

  • oregano is a perennial, but because of our climate, it doesn’t always return every year, that’s why here in the prairies we often grow it like an annual (I always consider myself lucky if the previous year’s oregano makes an appearance)
  • oregano comes in several varieties – but for best flavour look for Origanum vulgare; other varieties including golden oregano or variegated oregano make and attractive border in the garden
  • can be cut repeatedly for use throughout the season, best flavour is just as it is flowering
  • retains its flavour very well when dried How to Harvest and Dry Oregano
  • direct seed into garden or containers after all danger of frost has past or start 4-6 weeks prior to the last frost free day then transplant

oregano

Those are just the top five.  If you really want to get into the spirit of planting herbs, consider joining Herb Chat, a Facebook group I facilitate that’s all about growing, harvesting and enjoying herbs. It’s a private group, which means you’ll have to answer a couple of questions before you get admitted. The questions are super easy but are a useful way to keep spammers and bots out of the group. That let’s us focus on all things herbs. Come check it out.  https://www.facebook.com/groups/herbchat

Other herbs worthy of adding to your garden and that we talk about on Herb Chat include:

  • rosemary
  • cilantro/coriander
  • stevia – the natural sweetener
  • sage – multiple varieties
  • thyme – multiple varieties
  • fennel
  • lavender
  • mint – multiple, interesting varieties (be careful, some mint varieties are very aggressive perennials)
  • chamomile
  • anise hyssop (a prairie native in the mint family) – makes amazing tea
  • marjoram
  • sorrel
  • borage

Choosing the top five herbs out of that list was tough!  What are your favourite herbs to grow and/or cook with?

Here are a few other How To’s to get your herb gardening going:

Grow Your Own Seasoning Blend

Grow Your Own Herbal Teas

Using Herbs in Cocktails and Mocktails

How to Make Tea with Herbs

Growing Chart for Herbs

Herb Chat – A Facebook Group for Herb Lovers

When to Plant Different Vegetables

herb garden
My herb garden in 2020 with my favourite culinary and tea herbs.

Share your favorite herbs in the comments below or share photos of your herb garden with me on Instagram @getgettys or Facebook @GettyStewart.HomeEconomist.

Getty Stewart is a Professional Home Economist, speaker, frequent media guest and writer dedicated to putting good food on tables and agendas. She is the author of several recipe books on enjoying and preserving fruit, Founder of Fruit Share, a mom and veggie gardener.

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4 Comments

  1. After parsley and dill my favourite herb is summer savory. In Germany it is called “bean herb” and is a great addition to any kind of casserole or soup made with dried beans, split peas, lentils etc. I use it instead of sage in chicken stuffing (sage seems too strong to me – I save it for sausage or pork patties.) Also nice with dill for stuffing and baking a whole whitefish. Very good with venison as it calms any gamey taste
    , same with liver and pork roast. A little goes a long way, kind of like rosemary; too much and it all tastes like Christmas tree, lol. (Nope, not a big Jamie Oliver fan.) I was surprised to see how very expensive it is to buy, but there is not a lot of leaf on it, mostly little woody stems, but they are fine to toss into the pot and just remove them before serving. Before frost I cut the whole plants at the base, run a string through them, and hang to dry in a cool room or basement. Then I just cut sprigs whenever I need them.

    1. Hi Corrie,
      Thanks for sharing your insight. I grew and dried summer savory last year. I’ve put it in stews and soups – so great. I love your other suggestions, thanks!

  2. This year I tried cuttings from the grocery store. Bought rosemary and placed in water. After a couple weeks, some had roots, planted them all. Success rate was about 50%, but still much faster than planting from seed. I also always save one mint plant each fall, regular mint and pineapple mint root very well in water. Hope this adds to your wonderful site for gardening in Manitoba.

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