How to start your own herb garden

Save money and improve meals by growing your favorite plants all year long

By Reese Kimmons

Growing herbs isn’t difficult, even for those who have never tried it. Herb gardens take up very little space. In fact, herbs can be grown in containers or scattered amongst other plants in your flower or vegetable garden. Choosing the right herbs to grow can be as simple as taking a look at your spice rack. Just grow the ones you’ve been buying; save some money, and enjoy them freshly picked rather than settling for the dried alternatives.

All you need is a small, well-drained, sunny spot to grow your own herb garden. Herbs are easy to grow, don’t require a lot of fertilizer, and actually like it when you take some cuttings for use. This encourages them to put out new growth. Local garden centers stock a variety of herbs that grow well in the Lowcountry. They also have seeds available. Once you start cooking with fresh herbs, you’ll find that they have better flavor than the dried, store-bought alternatives, and you’ll probably end up using more and more of them in your favorite recipes.

Herbs do well in the Lowcountry as long as they are protected from intense sun. Basil, ruffled and flat parsley, cilantro, chives, oregano and mint are all good starters. As your plants grow, you’ll feel proud while you snip your fresh herbs to enhance your lunches and dinners.

Choosing where to plant your herbs

Whether you want to grow your herbs in containers or in a garden, make sure you choose a location where they will get at least six hours of sun daily. They also need to be planted in well-drained soil. If you’re planting herbs in an existing garden, that’s fine unless the other plants will deprive them of sunlight or you are applying considerable amounts of fertilizer to the areas where your herbs will be. Herbs tend to have better flavor if they don’t get a lot of fertilizer. That’s good news. They’re low maintenance.

When planting perennial herb varieties (those that come back every year), give them space to grow. If you don’t, they will eventually fill the area, making it overcrowded and leaving them deprived of the small amount of nutrients they do need. Herbs also do better in areas with good air circulation. If they are planted in a humid environment, the moisture retention in a crowded area can be problematic.

If you have a shortage of space that has adequate sunshine, you can plant your herbs in pots or hanging baskets and move them around. If need be, put them in the morning sun when you leave for work, then move them to afternoon sun when you get home. You can harvest a lot of herbs from only a few small containers. If you have a sunny patio area near your kitchen, you may want to put some herbs in containers there to make them easy to access while you’re cooking.

Annual and biennial herbs

Annuals including basil, summer savory, cilantro and dill have to be replanted every year. You can easily start these from seeds. Since they produce for a limited time each year and will not come back on their own, you’ll want to grow enough to freeze or dry some to give yourself a year-round supply.

Biennials, which you can initially start from seeds, include caraway and parsley. They produce the first year. Then, in the years that follow, the previous year’s plants actually come back long enough to reseed themselves. The second year, these plants produce blooms and seeds, then die. Your new crop grows from the seeds they drop.

Perennial herbs

Hardy perennial herb varieties including winter savory, mint, thyme, chives and sage, will come back year after year, taking up more and more space over time. These are the herbs you especially want to avoid planting in crowded areas.

Less hardy varieties of perennial herbs are those that you may want to plant in easily movable containers so that you can bring them indoors in cold weather. Leave them outside as much as possible as long as the weather is warm. These varieties include stevia, tarragon and rosemary.

Great garden centers & nurseries

Hilton Head Island

  • Carolyn’s Landscaping & Nursery 
  • The Green Thumb – Hilton Head
  • Bruno’s Landscape & Nursery
  • The Greenery

Bluffton area

  • Taylor’s Landscape Supply & Nursery
  • Southern Marsh Nursery
  • The Green Thumb – Bluffton 
  • The Garden Gate Nursery 
  • Sunshine Hardscape Landscape & Nursery

Beaufort area 

  • Buds and Blooms
  • LowCo Gardeners
  • Naturescapes Nursery
  • Palms on the Parkway

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