Ask an HerbalistFeb 2, 2022

Ask an Herbalist: Can I grow herbs at home?

We love talking about herbs and herbalism, and we especially love answering your questions about those topics. That's why we brought in our team of herbal experts to respond to some of the most common questions and concerns we hear.


Our herbalists have decades of combined experience working with herbs — and the people who take them. They answer your most pressing questions, in our regular column “Ask an Herbalist.”

 

Can I grow herbs at home?


Yes, anyone can grow herbs at home! Starting an herb garden can be a rewarding project. It is a great way to familiarize yourself with the herbs that can thrive in your area. In your own garden, you also have better control over how your herbs are grown. You can choose to use organic methods, and you will be able to harvest and use them at their peak. You’ll connect with the plants on a personal level, whether you start them from seeds or begin with fully mature plants.


You can use existing flower beds to grow herbs or build new raised beds. If you live in an apartment or don’t have yard space, try growing a few herbs in containers or pots on your deck, balcony or a sunny windowsill.
Some cities offer local community gardens, too. You pay a small fee based on the plot size, and it is yours for the growing season. You get the benefits of being part of a community, and many offer gardening and composting classes to help you get started.


Now you’re ready to pick your favorite herbs and start growing them! As you plan your garden, you’ll need do some quick research on the following:

  • What herbs are able to grow in your region? Not all plants can grow everywhere, unfortunately. Find your region’s growing zone on the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map. Then cross-reference your favorite herbs by searching their common or botanical name, habitat or use in the Plants For A Future database.
  • How can you keep the soil fertile for your plants? Read up on these healthy soil maintenance tips.
  • What tools do you need? It’ll vary widely, depending on what you grow and how big your space is. Most small-scale gardeners start with a hand digging tool, garden scissors and container pots. Visit your local nursery or garden supply store to see what you need and ask questions.
  • Where should you plant your garden? This depends on the space you have, the plants you are growing and your access to water. If you only have windowsills, grab some containers and place them in the sunniest window. Most plants have light requirements, like full sun or part shade, so cross-reference the space you are thinking about using and the plants you are thinking about growing. Similarly, stay close to a water source to make your life easier (or invest in a hose and sprayer if you’re gardening outdoors).
  • When should you plant your herbs? To avoid losing your herbs to frost, read up on the average first and last frost dates for your region. These dates will determine when you should sow your seeds or plant your seedlings, when to harvest and when to bring outdoor plants inside for winter.


    A swallowtail flutters around the Zinnia (Zinnia elegans) blooming in our Botanical Education Garden. The flowers are easy to grow at home and attract pollinators.


     
    Finally, consider adding pollinator-friendly plants that are native to your area to help animals and insects like birds, bees, butterflies, moths, flies and bats. The Pollinator Partnership offers helpful downloadable guides for each bioregion in the United States and Canada. Happy planting!