By: Megan Pasche

Cultivating your own herb garden is fairly easy, even if you aren’t blessed with the greenest of thumbs. The best part is, herbs can be grown either outdoors in the garden, or indoors, in containers. As long as you have a space where they can get approximately five hours of sunlight a day. You can start your plants from seedlings, which are very young plants that you can transport into your garden or container, or you can buy seeds, which are cheaper, but take longer to grow.

Once you have all your herbs planted, you’ll need to water them at least once a week, or whenever the soil is dry to the touch. Almost all the plants will grow new leaves, as long as you don’t pick the stems completely bare. Fresh herbs can be used directly in food, provided you rinse them first. You can also pick them, and store them for later by either drying or freezing them. To air dry herbs, you cut the stems where the soil is, and hang upside down in bunches, and let them dry for about one or two weeks. Once they are dry, you can take the leaves off the stems and keep them in an airtight container for up to a year. If you decide to freeze your herbs (the benefit of which is that they retain more of the “freshly picked” flavour), you can do this by placing the picked herbs directly into freezer bags, then just unthaw when you need them.

Basil
-This can be added to salads, sandwiches and wraps in its raw form, or it can be cooked into soups and sauces, chopped onto pizza or pesto. You harvest basil by clipping the upper leaves first, only taking a few leaves from each stem at a time.

Parsley
-This takes a little bit longer to grow them other herbs, but when it’s finally ready, you can use both the leaves and stalks for salads, soups and in various Mediterranean inspired dishes. You harvest parsley by cutting the outer stalks that are just above the ground, which helps the plant continue to grow.

Chives
-This is one of those plants that can be eaten from top to bottom. The bulbs taste like a milder version of an onion, and the leaves can be used in salads, and various other dishes. To harvest, you can cut the leaves off with scissors, but make sure to leave about two inches at the bottom.

Cilantro
-This plant can be a little fussy, and does not like the hot weather. If the soil gets to hot (generally above 75 degrees), the plant will go to seed. To make the best use of it, make sure to prune frequently for immediate use, or storage. When harvesting cilantro, you can either wait until the plant gets about 6 inches high, and then remove the outer leaves with scissors, or you can wait until the plant is fully grown, and pull the whole thing from the soil to use all at once. Cilantro, an acquired taste, can be used in salads, wraps, and lots of Mexican recipes.

Rosemary
-It is often easiest to start this particular plant from a seedling, as opposed to just buying the seeds. This plant can get overwatered easily, so just remember that rosemary likes soil that is a bit on the drier side. It is easy to harvest, and you can do so by just cutting the pieces off the stem as needed. It has many uses in food, as well as a healing herb.

Thyme
-This is another herb that is easier to start from a seedling as opposed to seeds, and like rosemary, it prefers drier soil. To harvest, you can cut pieces off the stem as you need them, and it is great to use as flavour in soups, stews and in meat dishes.

Dill
-Another herb that prefers drier soils, dill is great for using as flavouring in fish dishes, on potatoes, in dips and in salads. You can harvest it when the plant is at least 12 inches tall, and you should never harvest more than 1/3 of the leaves at one time.

Mint
-This is a plant you will want to keep in a container, otherwise it may take over your whole garden. You can pinch off the sprigs as needed, and mint can be used in salads, desserts, in drinks, and more, as it is quite versatile.

Sage
-Sage can be harvested by picking off the leaves as you need them, and is great for use in numerous dishes including roasted meats, in butter or other sauces, and in pasta. It can also be used for teas and in other herbal remedies.

Some Tips:

If you herbs are indoors, regularly rotate them in regards to the sunlight, so they don’t just grow in one direction.

Make sure you have containers that drain appropriately to avoid water logging the roots.

Plant herbs according to water preference, for example, rosemary and thyme both prefer dry soil, so keep them together.

Clip the herbs back regularly. If the herb starts to flower, that is a sign that they are not being clipped back enough.