Instead of having to choose between spending a lot of money on herbs at the store or losing the flavor from your home-cooked meals, try growing your own. Eventually, you'll have a homegrown, customized herb selection for your kitchen.

Planting for the Season

couple tending herb garden outdoorsSummer Herbs: Oregano, rosemary, and thyme are all very heat-tolerant plants. Since they are native to the Mediterranean, they are used to hot climates and relatively small amounts of water. They can all be used in cooking or as pleasant visual and olfactory accents.

Spring and Fall Herbs: Cilantro, chervil, chives, dill, and parsley can all be planted in late summer, or early fall in warmer climates. If you would rather plant in the spring, be sure to check when in the season it is best to plant your herbs. The time span ranges from a week or two to about a month before the last frost of spring, depending on the plant.

Winter Herbs: Most herbs are not suited to grow in wintry conditions, but that doesn't mean you can't grow them inside. Most of the herbs above will flourish inside as long as the temperature stays relatively temperate (between 55 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit).

Where to Plant Herbs

Where you plant your herbs will depend on the time of year and the kinds you grow. If it's too cold outside, you'll have better luck planting inside. If it's warm, then outside in a garden or in a pot is a great place to plant, or you can keep the herbs on a sunny windowsill. The planting location will also depend on how much you want to grow. If you just want to start with small amounts of a couple of varieties, there are many ideas for growing herbs inside, like labeled pots or small terrariums. If you find that you want a greater quantity of your plant, you can always replant them outside or in a larger pot.

How to Take Care of and Harvest Your Herbs

 herbs on table for cooking prepMost herbs are fairly low maintenance, so you don't need to have the greenest thumb in the neighborhood. Don't fall into the trap of overwatering your herbs. Some only require watering once a week, while others need water every two or three days. The best way to measure if the plant needs water is if the soil is dry. Herbs will thrive in a healthy dose of sunshine and a tiny bit of shade, which cloud cover can provide.

Plants are harvested at different times, but most have similar instructions to collect the fruits of your work once the plant has reached maturity. To harvest without damaging the plant, cut the stems near the bottom of the plant but above the lowest two sets of leaves. Letting the lower layers of leaves stay on the plant ensures that it will continue to grow. You should only start harvesting after the plant gets to be at least six inches tall.

Growing herbs can be fun for you and your cooking, and there are plenty to choose from. Whether you want to grow inside or outside, remember to account for the season, the amount of space you want to use, and the appropriate techniques for each individual plant.