How To Grow Kitchen Herbs and Medicinal Herbs

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Learning how to grow kitchen herbs is where many beginner gardeners start. Kitchen herbs are easy to grow in a small space and most herbs are perfect to grow in containers. Many herbs will survive year after year and these herbs are the ones that present the most potential savings compared to their store bought counterparts. 

Learn how to grow eleven kitchen herbs and four medicinal herbs. These are herbs I grow every year. I’ll also share briefly how I like to use them, and hopefully this will inspire you to try them as well.

Before we begin, if you’d like to watch a podcast episode instead about how to grow and use these herbs, you can watch it here:

How to Grow Herbs Successfully

Let’s learn how to grow 11 of my favorite essential herbs + 4 medicinal herbs with these topics:

Don’t forget to snag your 2024 Garden Planner now to help you on your journey of effective gardening.

essential herbs

Annual Herbs

Before we begin, it’s important to understand the difference between annual and perennial herbs. Annual herbs are ones that you will need to plant every year. They grow, flower, set seed, and die. That’s the way their life cycle works and is why you will need to plant them every year.

Basil

One of my favorite annual herbs that I like to grow is basil. It’s much cheaper to grow fresh than buy from the store; plus, the fresh flavor is fantastic. You can also experiment with different varieties of basil, like thai basil, cinnamon basil, tulsi basil, etc., because of how easy it is to grow. 

I like to use fresh basil to make pesto and I will dry some of the fresh leaves for dried herb to use in cooking. 

basil herb

Parsley

Technically parsley is a biennial herb, not an annual, but all that means is that it will grow leaves the first year and then seeds the second year if it survives the winter. 

Parsley tends to grow longer into the growing season than a lot of other herbs. Another reason I love growing fresh parsley is that it’s cheaper than buying it fresh – especially because most recipes only call for about a tablespoon. I can walk right out my back door and clip a few leaves and use it. 

Parsley is easy to grow, and fresh parsley tastes much better than store-bought. You can also either buy as a transplant or grow from seed. I prefer to just buy as a transplant and have found it lasts all season long.

Not only do I use fresh parsley in my cooking, I will also dry it and grind it up and keep in a small jar for my spice cabinet. 

Dill

Next on my list of essential kitchen herbs is dill. Dill is a multifunctional herb because you can grow it for dill leaves, but if you leave it growing it will also give you dill seeds. It’s like having two plants in one! 

dill herb

I like to use dill leaves and seeds when I make homemade pickles, but I like to dry the leaves and grind them up for my spice cabinet. Then I will use the dried dill for ranch dressing. 

Cilantro

Cilantro is next on my list of essential herbs to grow. I like to grow cilantro because I’m constantly using it for all the Mexican dishes our family enjoys, plus of course, salsa! 

cilantro herb

The tricky aspect to growing cilantro is that it grows best in cool and cold weather. Because it’s more of a fall, winter, and spring crop, I freeze some of the fresh leaves for use in the summer months. 

Perennial Herbs

Perennial herbs are plants that will last from year to year. Keep in mind that some perennial herbs might actually act as annual herbs for you depending on your gardening zone. Some perennial herbs are more tender than others and might perish during the winter, but if they are hardy in your zone, they will come back.

Your gardening zone plays a big part in how well things are going to grow and if they will come back year after year. Grab my Herb Cheat Sheet now so you can see which herbs have the best possibility to survive your winter.

Peppermint

I love to grow peppermint because of it’s enjoyable scent and you can even use it as a way to freshen your breath. Simply grab a stem and chew it. It’s also great to infuse water and tea and is an excellent way to settle an upset stomach. 

Peppermint is easy to grow and will come back year after year for most zones, but it’s a crop that you will never want to plant outside of a container because it will spread and take over. But, it’s also great because you can plant it once and you’ll never have to plant it again. 

Thyme

Thyme is great to use in your everyday cooking. My favorite variety is Lemon Thyme because of the fresh lemony flavor it adds to my food. If you can’t find a Lemon Thyme variety, regular Thyme is wonderful for cooking as well. 

The leaves of thyme are small, so they are great to easily use in cooking. You can use thyme fresh or dried. You can also use thyme to make cough syrup for sore throats and coughs. 

Rosemary

I like to use rosemary in my cooking and grilling. I also love the smell of rosemary, it’s very calming and invigorating. You can also dry your rosemary and add to your spice cabinet.

rosemary
Fresh green rosemary herbs growing in garden

For my zone 8a garden, rosemary is usually a perennial, though a few very cold winters have killed it. You can try covering it during the winter, but that doesn’t always work. Many gardeners plant rosemary each year if it doesn’t survive winter.

Oregano

Oregano is the herb that I probably use the most, both fresh and dried. It’s in a lot of my Italian recipes like pizza sauce, and in my garden it comes back year after year. 

It produces more during the spring and late summer, which is a great time to harvest it and dry it for adding to your spice cabinet. I can harvest leaves year-round, though the best quality come in those late spring and late summer windows.

Marjoram

I like marjoram because it’s sweeter and milder than oregano and is a key ingredient in almost all of my Italian recipes. 

It’s great to use fresh or dried and can be used in most cases when a recipe calls for oregano if you are wanting a milder flavor. 

Marjoram is a perennial plant in zone 8 but it will likely perish in the winter in colder climates and may not survive summers in hotter climates.

Chives

This essential herb is an easy to grow perennial because the first time you plant it, if it gets established it will keep coming back year after year, and it will spread. 

chives herb

Chives are extra neat because in the spring time they have a beautiful purple blossom and the pollinators love them. You don’t need to use a lot of them to get the flavor, so use fresh chives sparingly, which doesn’t justify the expense of buying them fresh from the store.

I like to use chives for some of my ranch dressing and dip recipes and also I’m trying a new recipe of making chive blossom vinegar. 

Sage

Finally, our last essential herb is sage. I use sage sparingly, but when I do need it, I like to have it fresh because the herb is much more intense and flavorful than buying it from the store. Sage has a very short shelf-life, especially if you get it from the store.

sage essential herb

It starts to turn brown quickly, which is why I recommend growing it yourself and having it on hand whenever you need it. 

My favorite recipes I use sage for are a sweet potato gnocchi, or I’ll use it dry in Thanksgiving dressing. You can also use it for cold care tea when you are sick and you can even suck on a leaf when you have a sore throat. 

Medicinal Herbs

I’ve been asked a lot about medicinal herbs, but please understand that I’m not an expert at all. However, I have grown a lot of these herbs and know a few of their potential medicinal properties. Make sure to do your own research. 

Echinacea

Also know as a Coneflower, echinacea is an absolutely beautiful flower in your garden, but it also has a powerful antiviral property.

echinacea

You can make echinacea into a tincture and it can help boost the immune system when a cold threatens. It doesn’t taste very well at all, but if you use at the first sign of a cold, you can lessen the severity of it. 

To make the tincture, you can use all parts of the plant – leaves, stem flower, but the root is actually where most of the medicinal qualities live. This means you don’t want to harvest it until the second or third year. 

You can look up online for how to make the tincture, but I can tell you that I like it so much that I make sure I always have some on hand.

Lemon Balm

I like lemon balm for the scent and also because it makes an excellent hot tea.  You can also just add lemon balm leaves to your water. Fresh lemon balm is great to help treat cold sores – all you need to do is crush just a little bit between your fingers to release the natural essential oils and then lay that leaf on your sore. Lemon balm is also great to use dry in teas; it’s excellent for stress and anxiety.

Yarrow

Yarrow is another medicinal herb that has a beautiful flower. It comes back easily year after year and is great for treating minor wounds. It will stop the bleeding fairly rapidly in a minor cut. I dry the flowers and leaves and keep it on hand for that purpose. It also has other medicinal qualities.

Yarrow comes back year after year in my garden and is just very easy to grow.

yarrow herb

Spilanthes

This medicinal herb is known as the toothache plant. The flower is very good at numbing aches and pains, but it’s very strong so be careful with how much you use. You can chew on the flower for mouth sores or toothaches, or you can brew some for a tea to treat your sore throat. Remember to do your own research first and use this sparingly; it’s surprisingly powerful!

spilanthes herb

Key Tips for Successful Herb Gardening

As you embark on your journey to grow kitchen and medicinal herbs, remember that each herb brings unique flavors, aromas, and health benefits to your garden and kitchen.

Whether you’re looking to spice up your meals or explore natural remedies, growing these herbs can be a rewarding and cost-effective endeavor. Don’t forget to grab my Herb Planting Cheat Sheet. 

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