Best Herbs for a home garden: beginners growing guide

Learn how to grow popular herbs for your home garden to add freshness and flavor to your cooking.  

An herb garden is a great place to start for beginners. There is nothing more rewarding than going out to your garden and plucking fresh herbs to add to your cooking. This post covers the best culinary herbs to grow in your backyard and tips for a thriving herb garden! 

Why you should grow herbs

Growing your own herbs is a great way to learn to have a home garden, or to add some edible plants to your flower beds! They are easy to grow and will teach you basic gardening skills. It is also a fun activity to get your kids involved with or to spend more time outside. 

Here at Pleasant Grove Homestead, we grow and sell lots of different herbs, both as herb plants and ready-to-eat! If you only want to grow a handful of herbs at home, you can purchase the rest from us!

Small terracotta pots with herb plants

What is the difference between annual and perennial herbs?

If you browse garden centers you’ll notice the terms “annual” and “perennial” are everywhere. So, what does this mean and why does it matter? Let’s break it down:

Annual: This means that the plant will only grow for a lifespan of one year, or one season. Annual herbs, such as basil, will likely need to be planted new each year.

Perennial: This means that the plant will grow back in the spring each year, for many years. Perennial herbs, such as chives, will die back in the winter but will grow back the next year. 

Biennial: Less common than annual and perennial plants, biennial might be another term you come across. This means that the plant finishes its growing cycle in two years. Biennial herbs, such as parsley, will last for two years before they turn to seed. 

Herbs in a garden in a raised bed

What is the best way to grow herbs?

The best part of growing your own herb garden is that you can grow it in several different spaces! Many people will grow herbs inside their houses on a sunny windowsill, or in small pots on their patio, which are both great options for urban settings or if you live in an apartment with a small space. Herbs also grow great in your garden bed, a raised bed, or in a larger container. Keep in mind that herb gardens inside smaller pots need to be watered more often than those in a larger garden space. The size of your herb garden is really up to you and the space you have available, but the options are endless! With the right growing conditions, you can have a thriving garden no matter the size. 

Herbs every home garden should have

This list contains herbs that are easy to grow and likely in your dried spice cupboard!


Chives with purple flowers in a garden

Chives are a perennial herb and are great for pollinators! 

Flavor: Chives are a part of the onion family and have a light onion flavor. Garlic chives are a different variation and have more of a garlic rather than onion flavor. 

Culinary uses: Chives pair great with eggs or make a great fresh garnish on top of any dish. The best part? Chives produce pretty purple edible flowers that you can toss in salads or use as a beautiful garnish! 

Gardening tips: Chives are a great addition to your garden or raised beds because they are a great pest deterrent. They are also great in smaller pots that are at least 6 inches deep with a drainage hole. Chives thrive in full sun, but they will also tolerate partial shade as long as they have 4-6 hours of sunlight. Chives should be watered when the top two inches of soil feel dry. 

Mint (Spearmint and Peppermint)

Close up of mint in a pot

Mint is a perennial herb and is actually a whole family of different herbs!  The Lamiaceae, or mint, family includes herbs such as basil, sage, and thyme. When we typically think of mint, we think of spearmint or peppermint, but there are also other fun varieties such as chocolate mint. This section covers planting spearmint or peppermint in your garden.

Flavor: Mint has a very distinct flavor that is slightly sweet and slightly sharp. 

Culinary Uses: Mint is a great addition to drinks or teas, it can be used in salads for a refreshing twist, or as a garnish on any dish. 

Gardening tips: Mint spreads very easily so be prepared that wherever you plant it, it will spread out and grow! This is important to keep in mind when plating in a garden or raised bed. Mint grows great inside of a container or pot. Plant mint in a container at least 6 inches deep with really good drainage. They do not like to have wet roots, so make sure to use soil that has good drainage or mix some sand in to ensure the water drains properly. Keep your mint in a sunny spot to keep it happy and thriving! 


Close up of cilantro in a garden

Cilantro is an annual plant and also contains the spice coriander! Cilantro is the leaves of the plant, whereas coriander is made from seeds and is typically ground up. 

Flavor: Cilantro has a slight citrusy flavor and has a very distinct taste.

Culinary Uses: Cilantro is most popular for its uses in Mexican cuisine and is typically an essential ingredient for topping tacos or used in salsas.  

Gardening tips: Adding cilantro to your vegetable garden to have a “salsa garden” with tomatoes and jalapeños is a great use for cilantro! Cilantro does great in early spring or late summer because it loves cooler weather, so be sure to water well during the heat of the summer. Cilantro loves the sun and well-drained soil. Most people struggle with cilantro because they do not keep it cool enough.

Lemon balm

Close up of lemon balm herb in a black pot

Lemon balm is a perennial and is a part of the mint family, so it grows well like spearmint and peppermint do! It is also a natural pest deterrent such as for mosquitos, and the flowers are great for pollinators such as bees and butterflies. 

Flavor: Lemon balm has a bright lemon citrusy flavor with a subtle flavor of mint. 

Culinary Uses: Lemon balm makes a beautiful herbal tea or can be used in salads, Lemon balm also makes a fun and unique pesto! Learn how to make it here

Gardening tips: Lemon balm is one of the easiest herbs to grow! You can grow it almost anywhere that is a sunny location, or it can also tolerate partial shade as well. Lemon balm can grow in most soils, although it does prefer well-drained soil. 


Dill in a garden

Dill is an annual that loves cooler weather. It will grow very tall, up to several feet, and the flowers that it produces are loved by butterflies. 

Flavor: Dill has a fresh, slightly citrusy, and slightly grassy flavor. 

Culinary Uses: Most well-known for its use in pickling, dill can also be used in dishes such as dips, salads, and pasta or used for chicken or fish. 

Gardening tips: Dill has a taproot, which means that the root system has one primary root that grows vertically downward. Because of that, dill should be grown in a container that is at least 18 inches deep, if you aren’t able to plant in the ground. Dill grows best in cooler weather but loves full sun. Once the heat of the summer comes, dill will start producing flowers and will stop producing edible leaves. Once the flowers start growing, it will start going to seed and finish its life cycle. But the cool thing about dill is you can use those seeds for eating or planting the next year.  


Basil in a terracotta pot outside

Basil is one of the most common Mediterranean herbs to plant in your garden, and is an annual plant and will give you a bountiful harvest if cared for properly! 

Flavor: Basil has a slightly sweet and slightly spicy flavor. 

Culinary Uses: Basil is well known for its use in Italian dishes and pairs wonderfully with tomatoes or garlic. You can use basil for salads, pasta sauce, or as a garnish. 

Gardening tips: Basil is a common herb to grow in a sunny kitchen window, but it can also thrive outside in the summer. Basil only lasts for one growing season, but you can encourage new growth and promote a long growing season by pruning and harvesting correctly. Instead of cutting basil at the base of the plants, you want to prune with leaves remaining because the plant needs the leaves to produce energy. To keep basil growing longer, if you see flowers emerge, just pinch them off so they will continue to have new growth. Basil loves the sun and needs at least 6-8 hours of full sunshine so be sure to plant in a sunny location. 


Close up of rosemary in a garden

Rosemary is a perennial and can be an evergreen shrub in the right environment. It can grow into a big beautiful and fragrant shrub so you can get endless uses out of it for your kitchen!

Flavor: Rosemary has an earthy and woodsy flavor. 

Culinary Uses: Rosemary pairs wonderfully with poultry and is often used for Thanksgiving dishes with thyme and sage. 

Gardening tips: Rosemary likes well-drained soil and full sun. It can grow very large so keep that in mind when choosing where to plant it. If you want to plant it in a container, opt for a larger pot, or once it starts to grow large inside a smaller pot you can transfer it to the ground. In Iowa, we keep our Rosemary outside in the summer and indoors all winter.


Close up of oregano in garden

Oregano is a perennial plant and another member of the mint family. It is a hardy herb and grows very easily!

Flavor: Oregano has an earthy and slightly bitter flavor. 

Culinary Uses: Best known for being a main ingredient in pizza, oregano is used often in Italian and Mediterranean cooking. 

Gardening tips: Oregano can do well in a container or garden bed. It tends to spread out so ensure you allow enough room to grow. It loves full sun and well-drained soil.  


Parsley plant in a terracotta pot

Parsley is a biennial herb, meaning it has a lifecycle of two years. It is low maintenance to grow and is a great addition to your herb garden!

Flavor: Parsley has a clean, peppery, and slightly grassy flavor. 

Culinary Uses: Parsley is used to garnish and bring freshness to a variety of dishes. It also is great for adding flavor to salads, soups, and sauces. 

Gardening tips: Parsley thrives in cooler weather, between 40 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit, and can survive and grow through mild winters. Parsley has a taproot, so it needs room to grow deep. If you are growing in a container, it should be at least 12 inches deep. Parsley only needs partial light and enjoys the shade as long as it gets at least 4 hours of sunlight. 


Close up of sage growing in a garden

Sage is a perennial herb and has fragrant leaves to enjoy in cooking. 

Flavor: Sage has a woodsy and earthy flavor. 

Culinary Uses: Sage pairs great with poultry and is used often in holiday cooking. You can make a beautiful sage butter, or use it with root vegetables. 

Gardening tips: Sage is pretty versatile and can grow in hot or cool temperatures and can be in full sun or partial shade. If growing in a pot, it only needs to be 6 inches deep, but ensure that there is soil with good drainage. Sage is drought-tolerant and does not like to be too wet so water when the first inch of soil is dry. 


Close up of thyme in a garden

Thyme is a perennial herb that produces woodsy stems and small fragrant leaves. 

Flavor: Thyme has an earthy woodsy flavor with light hints of citrus and mint. 

Culinary Uses: Thyme goes great with savory dishes and pairs great with sage or rosemary. It is also beautifully flavors steaks and roasts. 

Gardening tips: Thyme has shallow roots, making it ideal for growing in plants or containers. Plant in a container with holes for drainage and at least 6 inches deep with well drainage soil. Give thyme 4-8 hours of sunlight, it can tolerate shade but thrives in the sun. 

Ways to use herbs

In addition to using herbs in your favorite dishes, you can use your abundance of herbs by making herb butter, or even freezing in olive oil. Use an ice cube tray and fill with your favorite herbs, then top with olive oil and freeze for a flavorful addition to your cooking year round! 

Our favorite way to use herbs from your garden is with our Anything Goes Pesto recipe. You can use any herb you’d like in this recipe! 

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