Wondering what to plant in your kitchen garden this spring? These 8 herbs to plant will liven up your cooking all season long.
Basil is the darling of herbs — flavoring our caprese salads and lending its vibrancy to pestos. But there are many herbs that can be planted in the spring for harvesting all summer long. You can even preserve them for use in the winter by chopping them finely and freezing with water in cubes.
Beyond the culinary joy of herbs, there’s the personal joy of growing something you can cook with. Herbs are flexible enough that they can be grown just about anywhere — on a window sill, in a pot on the porch or in the garden. That makes them ideal for those with less space. And they are easy enough for the beginner gardener to try as well.
Here are 8 herbs to plant in your garden this spring. All are beginner-friendly.
This biennial herb (that means that one plant will grow for two years before dying) can be incorporated into so many different types of dishes. It’s best to give the seeds a head start by sowing them indoors on a sunny windowsill.
Parsley can be slow to germinate, so to speed things up a bit you can soak the seeds in water overnight before planting them. If you plant them immediately in the garden, choose a spot with rich, slightly damp soil in full sun or partial shade.
How to use parsley:
- Make tabbouleh
- Try it in pesto
- Make a lemon parsley sauce
- Mix it into pasta
- Sprinkle it onto chicken
- Freeze it for winter
Oregano plants enjoy warm, sunny spots and light soils. They also display pretty pink flowers that make an ideal ground cover.
It’s best to sow the seeds in spring once the soil has warmed up. Alternatively, you could start them off in pots indoors. To encourage additional leafy side shoots, pinch out the vertical growing tips — that means remove about half the growth — once the plant reaches about 4 inches in height.
How to use oregano:
- Add it to marinara
- Make a pesto
- Use it in a tasty soup
- Season your egg salad
- Add a little to your guacamole
- Season your salt
Sage is a rich herb that pairs nicely with browned butter, winter squash and poultry. When you are planting it, know that sage doesn’t enjoy wet ground so be sure to plant it in a sunny spot with well-drained soil. Harvesting the leaves regularly encourages further growth.
There are also many varieties of sage to choose from — see the fact sheet from the University of Illinois Extension to learn about popular ones.
How to use sage:
- Use it in a gnocchi dish with roasted butternut squash
- Season a glazed pork tenderloin with it
- Make a compound butter
- Use it fried in a fresh pasta recipe
- Season gravy with it
- Make a chicken skillet with sage brown butter
At my childhood home, we grew mint in a small patch. My grandmother would send me out to pluck stalks for drinks from time to time. But it wasn’t until I was much older — when I was buying herbs to plant — that I learned mint can be considered invasive because it loves to spread.
That’s not a big deal if you contain it in a pot — or plant it somewhere where spreading is a non-issue. Make sure to keep the mint in full sun or partial shade and pinch out any flower buds to encourage additional growth.
How to use mint:
- Use it in Mint Chocolate Chip Cookies
- Make mint sugar
- Whip up a refreshing salad dressing
- Put some in your iced tea or lemonade
- Try it in chimichurri sauce
People either love or hate cilantro. Fortunately, my family is firmly set in the love category. This versatile herb grows well in the ground or containers. The seeds take weeks to germinate and the plants are fairly short-lived, so you may want to sow a few seeds every couple of weeks in order to ensure a continuous supply.
Cilantro is also known for producing flowers and seeds instead of tasty leaves when under stress so be sure to keep it fairly well watered and harvest regularly for best results.
How to use cilantro:
- Make a robust quinoa salad
- Top your fish tacos with a tangy slaw
- Stir together a 10 minute soup
- Marinate chicken for a delightful dinner
- Stir it into guacamole
- Mix it into rice with some lime juice
Here’s what I didn’t expect about rosemary: It’s super hardy and can be a perennial. In terms of herbs to plant for the gardening novice, this is a great one to plant. Rosemary loves both the sun and shade and will grow in any soil, provided it is not too wet.
Trim this herb in June or July to keep it in shape and encourage additional growth.
How to use rosemary:
- Flavor your homemade focaccia
- Season a split turkey breast
- Whip up a warm ricotta dip
- Make a zesty white bean dip
- Whisk it into a lemon vinaigrette
- Marinate chicken with it
Basil is delightful — bright in flavor and familiar. It’s lovely with fresh tomatoes and mozzarella. It also makes a wonderful vinaigrette or pesto. But as far as herbs to plant go, growing basil can be challenging. Start your basil by planting the seeds in potting compost on a sunny windowsill from March onwards. It can be transferred to the outdoors once consistently warm weather sets in
When it comes time to pick basil, don’t pick single leaves. They won’t grow back. Instead, cut at the stem. This will encourage the basil to regrow to bushy proportions.
Basil prefers full sun in a sheltered spot.
How to use basil:
- Make a bright pesto
- Swirl it into a flavorful vinaigrette
- Season your stuffed shells
- Roast some tomatoes with it
- Give Brussels sprouts a flavor boost
- Top steamed clams
Relatives of the onion family, these slender herbs produce pink or purple globe flowers. The grass-like stalks can be snipped with scissors for using in variety of dishes.
Chive seeds should be sown directly in the ground before the last frost — usually in March or April, depending on where you live (May is fine in places like Maine). They’ll germinate quickly (within a few weeks). Grow them in either full sun or partial shade areas.