Grow herbs at home

By Angelo from Deep Green Permaculture

19 October 2021

Types of Herbs

Annuals: these plants only live for one year, they grow and bloom for one season, produce seed, and then die down, (e.g. sweet basil, chervil, coriander, dill, and summer savory).

Biennials: these plants only live for two years, they will produce seed during the second year and then die down, (e.g. parsley).

Perennials: these plants live for more than two years, and may produce seed each year. 

  • If the foliage does not die down in winter, it is an evergreen perennial  (e.g. marjoram, rosemary and thyme)
  • If the foliage dies down in winter while the roots remain alive below the soil, and it then comes back up in spring, it is a deciduous perennial  (e.g. chives, fennel and winter savory)

Growing Herbs in Containers

A garden bed isn’t required to grow herbs, most can be grown in containers, which is ideal way to grow herbs where space is limited if you only have a small courtyard, a balcony, or even just a windowsill. Here are some handy hints for growing herbs in containers:

  • Containers are great as small ‘kitchen gardens’ – a garden bed or container outside your kitchen where you can grow your most often used culinary or kitchen herbs. This is very quick and convenient when you need fresh herbs in a hurry!
  • Containers allow you to move your plants around to change their growing conditions when necessary. You can change the amount of sun, rain and warmth that they get by moving the container to a different place.
  • Any container can be used to grow herbs in as long as it has drain holes at the bottom to prevent water pooling and rotting the plant roots. A large container, such as a half wine-barrel can hold a variety of herbs of various sizes growing altogether. Obviously, small herbs such as mint and chives can be grown in a small pot, but larger herbs will need a much bigger container.
  • As a rough guide, a 20cm wide pot can hold one culinary herb, a large 40cm wide pot can accommodate three to four culinary herbs.
  • Use a high-grade premium potting mix in containers, feed once a year at the very least, and every few weeks if you’re harvesting them often.
  • Repot your herbs every one or two years – giving them fresh potting mix and fertiliser will keep them growing strongly.

Growth Characteristics of Common Herbs

Common nameScientific nameGrowth CategoryLightSoilPropagation
AngelicaAngelica archangelicabienniallight shademoistSF
Basil, sweetOcimum basilicumannualfull sunmoistSS
BayLaurus nobiliswoody perenniallight shadewell drainedC
BorageBorago officinalisannualfull sundrySS
CarawayCarum carvibiennialfull sunwell drainedSS, F
CatnipNepeta catariaperennialfull sun -light shadewell drainedSS, D, C
ChervilAnthriscus cerefoliumannuallight shadewell drainedSS
ChivesAllium schoenoprasumperennialshade – light shadedrySS, D
Cicely, sweetMyrrhis odorataperenniallight shaderichSF
ComfreySymphytum officinaleperennialfull sunrichD
CorianderCoriander sativumannualfull sunrich, well drainedSS
DillAnethum graveolensannualfull sunrich, well drainedSS
Fennel, sweetFoeniculum dulceperennialfull sunwell drainedSS, D
HorehoundMarrubium vulgareperennialfull sundrySS, D, C
HyssopHyssopus officinalisperennialfull sundrySS, D, C
LavenderLavandula angustifoliaperennialfull sundrySF, C
Lemon BalmMelissa officinalisperennialfull sun -light shademoistSS, D, C
Lemon VerbenaAloysia triphyllawoody perennialfull sun -light shadewell drainedSS, C
LovageLevisticum officinaleperennialfull sun -light shaderich, moistSF
Marjoram, sweetOriganum majoranaperennialfull sun -light shaderich, well drainedSS, C
OreganoOriganum vulgareperennialfull sun -light shadewell drainedSS, D, C
ParsleyPetroselinum crispumbiennialfull sun -light shaderich, moistSS
PeppermintMentha piperitaperennialfull sun -light shademoistD, C
RosemaryRosmarinus officinaliswoody perennialfull sundry, well drainedC
SageSalvia officinaliswoody perennialfull sundry, well drainedSS, C
Sage, pineappleSalvia elegansperennialfull sunwell drainedSS, C
Savory, summerSatureja hortensisannualfull sunrichSS
Savory, winterSatureja montanawoody perennialfull sunwell drainedSF, D. C
SpearmintMentha spicataperennialfull sun -light shademoistD, C
TarragonArtemisia dracunculusperennialfull sunrich, dryD, C
ThymeThymus vulgariswoody perennialfull sundrySS, C, D
Woodruff, sweetAsperula odorataperennialshade – light shademoistD, C

Key – Propagation: C = cuttings, D = division, SF = seed, fall, SS = seed, spring

(Adapted from: Growing Herbs at Home – Ray R. Rothenberger and David H. Trinklein, Department of Horticulture, Published By MU Extension, University Of Missouri-Columbia)

For more gardening tips and advice visit Deep Green Permaculture.