Go ahead! Wander around the garden center, wondering which herbs to plant, and pick up some things that you’ve never heard of. I encourage you to do that. However, if you crave a little more structure and want to try growing herbs that you might actually use in the kitchen, I’ve got a plan for you. Here is a selected list of herbs and edible flowers that will give you a wide range of flavors from both perennials and annuals. This is a great way for a beginner to start out with a variety of both annual and perennial herbs.
Annuals that are easily grown from seed and are fast-growing
- In early spring (a couple of weeks before your last frost date) plant cool-season annuals: chervil, coriander/cilantro, dill, parsley, calendula. Harvest chervil and cilantro before hot weather arrives–they’re strictly cool-weather plants. Re-sow them again in late summer for a fall harvest.
- In late spring (3-4 weeks after your average last frost date) plant seeds of basil and nasturtium. Re-sow basil every two or three weeks, and harvest entire plants before they make flower buds.
Slow-growing perennials from transplants that can be planted after your average last frost date
- Perennials may be grown from seed, but you can gain a season by purchasing plants of sage, lavender, oregano, onion chives, and thyme.
- Some plants only come true from cuttings, such as French tarragon. Find a friend who will give you a division, or shop for a plant that has a great scent and taste. Do not plant seeds of so-called tarragon or Russian tarragon–you’ll get a less desirable species that is neither flavorful nor attractive. Certain varieties of mint are easily grown from cuttings, and you’re sure to get the flavor you want if you select particular plants. Plant mint in a pot–it is very invasive. Rosemary can be grown from seed, but is very slow, and in the humid summers of the Midwest, you’ll have better luck with upright selections of rosemary, such as Hill Hardy, Arp, Gorizia, or Tuscan Blue.