Even for those who claim to not have much of a green thumb, starting a herb garden is easy. In fact, herbs are some of the easiest plants to grow, and in some cases the real challenge will be stopping them from taking over.
Getting back into the garden is one of the simplest ways to incorporate free range living into your life. The process of preparing the soil, planting your seeds or seedlings, and nurturing them into fully grown plants is a fun and grounding experience for kids and adults alike. It allows you to reconnect with nature in your own backyard.
Don’t have a backyard? No worries! Small pots and planter boxes can be placed in a small courtyard, on the balcony, or even on the kitchen windowsill.
Having herbs on hand makes adding extra flavour to your cooking a breeze. Just grab a handful from the garden, chop them up, and add them to whichever dish you’re making. Plus, the sense of satisfaction that comes with knowing you’ve grown part of your meal is pretty hard to beat.
Mastering the Basics
If you’re reading this and thinking to yourself “but I managed to kill a cactus” you’re not alone. Many people think gardening is out of reach for them. But once you know the basics, I promise there’ll be no stopping you.
For the most part, herbs want a rich, free draining soil. Choose a spot where they’ll get plenty of morning sunlight, but if you live somewhere that gets particularly hot, try to ensure they’ll get shade during the hottest hours of the day, so that they don’t fry.
If you’re growing your herbs directly into your garden bed, work through a little organic material like manure or compost before planting. Don’t be too heavy handed with it though, or you risk your herbs growing quickly but having little flavour.
If pots are the way you’re going for your herb garden, a good potting mix should be enough for them, but ensure the pot has drainage holes so your herbs don’t get waterlogged.
When to plant: Spring, from seedlings.
Care instructions: Sage is hardy enough to enjoy full sun, but placing some mulch around the base will ensure the roots don’t overheat. Avoid overwatering.
Use in: Skin-on chicken breasts with sage butter is one of the simplest chicken dishes, but also one of my favourites.
When to plant: Spring, from seedlings.
Care instructions: Thyme requires less water than some of the other herbs mentioned here, so water sparingly. It will forgive you if you neglect it for a while.
Use in: Thyme is delicious in stuffing with other ingredients like onion, garlic, and lemon zest.
When to plant: Spring and autumn, from seed
Care instructions: Coriander likes plenty of water, and the leaves should be harvested regularly because this plant won’t stick around for long. You’ll need to be regularly replanting this one every few weeks to enjoy a steady supply.
Use in: This love-it-or-hate-it herb is (in my opinion) delicious in Asian-style dishes.
When to plant: Spring, from seedlings
Care instructions: Mint needs daily watering and might like some shade if the summer is particularly hot, to prevent the soil drying out too quickly. Mint does particularly well in pots because it has a tendency to spread and take over if left to its own devices in the garden.
Use in: I like to combine mint with coriander in a Vietnamese-style chicken slaw, or crush up the leaves and turn it into a fresh mint tea.
When to plant: Spring, from seed. Or summer and autumn, from seedlings.
Care instructions: Choose a sunny position for parsley and keep it well watered.
Use in: The better question is what not to use parsley in. This versatile herb tastes delicious in almost any dish, especially salads and those that are Mediterranean-inspired.
Reece Carter is an Australian naturopath, part of the Lilydale Free Range Tribe and a self-confessed ‘herb nerd’. An advocate of ‘living the way our bodies were meant to be’, Reece is all about getting his hands dirty in the garden, hiking with close friends, or simply enjoying a whole foods feast in the sunshine. This free ranger believes we feel better when we’re outdoors.