Herbs, in general, are fun to grow, because they are almost all very hardy and tend to grow quite fast. Young herbs--cut in spring and early summer--have the best flavor. In late summer and fall, herb plants switch to producing flowers, buds and seeds, providing you with new flavors or spices. Plant herbs from seed earlier than you would plant seedlings; they take some time to get started.
Types of Herbs
Not all herbs have the same seasons or rates of growths; however, many common kitchen herbs can be planted at the same time, and cared for the same way. These are probably also the easiest to find at your local nursery: basil, oregano, rosemary, thyme, sage, parsley and chives. Other herbs you might like to grow in similar fashion are comfrey, fennel, coriander, lavender, mint, lemon balm, marjoram or bay leaf. All of these can be planted outdoors or indoors, and some, such as rosemary and basil, will keep bugs away from your other plants with their aromatic qualities. They can be planted in the same beds with other herbs and vegetables and even flowers. A few plants don't get along well with herbs. For instance, sage and cucumber shouldn't be next to each other, or the cucumber won't grow. On the other hand, planting basil at the base of tomatoes gives both plants a boost. (And form the basis for a nice pasta sauce later in the summer.)
Planting From Seedlings
The earlier you can get herb seedlings into the ground, the longer you will have to smell, enjoy and eat them through the summer. When the frost danger is over in your region, you can plant many herbs in your garden beds. Hardier, woody-stemmed herbs, such as rosemary, thyme and lavender, can go in the ground a few weeks before soft-stemmed herbs like basil. A good guideline: woody herbs can be planted outside when you would plant root vegetables in your area, and soft-stemmed herbs can go out at the same time as tomatoes. Check the planting date guidelines and cold hardiness zones on your specific herbs with your local nursery.
Planting From Seeds
Some herbs don't seed but must be cut or divided instead. Those that can be planted from seed include parsley, basil, dill and oregano. However, they grow slowly from seed in northern regions; northern gardeners may consider starting them indoors in February or March in order to have strong seedlings to plant in May or June. Southern gardeners can sow herb seeds outdoors much earlier, as long as there is no frost danger in their area. For cutting and dividing times, consult references on specific herbs, or ask your local agricultural extension office. Oregano can be cut in the spring or the fall, while tarragon, mint and chives should be divided in the fall.
How to Grow Herbs Outdoors
Herbs are tough, undemanding and tolerant plants, perfect for beginners to grow outdoors. Meeting cultural requirements is critical for herb growing.