Planning an herb garden

Sadye Matula

Since the COVID-19 virus has affected our lives, more and more people are putting in vegetable and herb gardens. Gardens will reduce the food we have to buy from the market, thus helping us benefit our pocketbook and exposure to others. Most home gardeners don’t have the garden space to […]

Since the COVID-19 virus has affected our lives, more and more people are putting in vegetable and herb gardens. Gardens will reduce the food we have to buy from the market, thus helping us benefit our pocketbook and exposure to others. Most home gardeners don’t have the garden space to grow infinite varieties of produce so we must choose the plants we will use that fit in the space we have.

With the garden asleep right now, the ground frozen and covered with snow this is the perfect time to start planning your spring gardens. The seed catalogs have started to arrive, so this is a good time to get out your graph paper and start designing your herb and/or vegetable garden. This information is specifically for herbs but some of the same questions can be asked when planning a vegetable garden.


Will you use your herbs for:  

Ornamental: Landscape, wreaths, dried arrangements, pressed flowers, or stationery.                                    

Dyes: Yarn, fabric, baskets or pottery

Medicinal: Health and beauty

Fragrances: Perfumes, oils, potpourri, pomanders, soaps or candles

Culinary: Single herb, herbal blends, herbal mixes, herbal Vinegar and wines, herbal tea, herb jellies, herb butters, herbal honey, candied herbs and flowers or garnishing.

Look at what you will use the herbs for and choose the herbs that best suit your needs and make a list.

#2 LOOK AT THE PLANTS’ NEEDS to see what growing conditions they like best. For example: do they like full sun or partial shade, what are their moisture requirements and what kind of soil do they grow best in. On the whole herbs like full sun (minimum six hours a day), well drained soil with a pH between 6 and 7, they like to dry out between watering and need very little fertilizer. Another consideration is how much space each plant needs to grow properly. Can you supply those requirements in a garden plot or in a pot.

#3 DRAW OUT YOUR GARDEN. After you have investigated each of the above requirements, it is time to get out graph paper and a pencil and draw out your garden and plug the herbs into the appropriate spots. The reasons I like to use graph paper and a pencil is you can draw everything to scale and it is easier to erase a plant and draw it into another spot, than it is to dig it up and relocate it in the garden.

#4 WAYS TO GET YOUR HERB PLANTS. There are several ways to get herb plants.

  1. SEEDS – Start seeds indoors or seed them directly in the designated spot in the garden. The advantage of starting seeds indoors is you can start them earlier and put established plants in the garden when no more frost is expected, which will reduce the wait for that first harvest. You also have more control over light (if you use a grow light) and moisture. Herbs that can be successfully seeded direct in the garden are: Dill, borage, and coriander (cilantro). Check out seed catalogs for they will carry a wide variety of herb seeds. Stores that carry seeds will have some of the more popular herbs, but not the variety of catalogs.
  2. PRE-STARTED PLANTS – Buy plants from a local grower and plant directly in your planned spot. This is the easiest but most expensive way to get plants. The advantage is you get a head start from seeding them directly in the garden and you can pick out healthy, vigorous plants. This is a good way to get any perennial. Some seed companies also carry pre-started bare root plants. I have a bay tree (bay leaves) that I got over 35 years ago and is still going strong.
  3. STEM CUTTINGS – Cut a 4-inch tip section off an established plant and put it in damp sand to root. A little rooting hormone on the cut end will help establish healthy roots sooner. Herbs well suited to this method are: Rosemary, Lavender, and Scented Geraniums. So, if you brought in some herb plants last fall and they are growing now, this method can be used on those plants to increase the number of plants you will have to put into the ground after the last frost date has been reached.
  4. LAYERING – Lay a long stem across the soil while it is still attached to the mother plant and weigh it down with a small rock, some soil, or a hair pin shaped wire. The spot on the stem that meets the soil will develop a root ball and then can be cut from the mother plant and planted in a new location you have designated on your paper pattern. This is best done with perennials like oregano, mint and rosemary when they are actively growing during the regular growing season, or your plants that are in a greenhouse. Some plants do this all on their own.
  5. ROOT DIVISION – Dig up a large clump of herbs in early spring, gently pull it apart into several sections and replant newly divided herb clumps. This is a good way to share with a friend. Good herbs to use this method on are: Chives, garlic chives, oregano, and tarragon.


  1. LIGHT AND WATER REQUIREMENTS – should be met for each herb plant. Check with a reliable source as to what the needs are for the plants you choose.
  2. FERTILIZE – once in the spring. If done too much, you get a lot of growth without much flavor.
  3. PINCH BACK – As your plant grows pinch off some of the new growth so your plant will be full and nicely shaped.
  4. KEEP CLEAN – remove all yellow, dried, or damaged parts so when you are harvesting all the cuttings are usable. You don’t want to have to pick through what you’ve cut before you can use it.

Below is a list of plants, their potential height, planting distance and cultural notes.

BASIL (annual): Grows 12-8 inches. Plant them 12-15 inches apart. Plant in full sun. Pinch back for fuller plants and basil is sensitive to frost.

CHIVES (perennial): Grows 12 inches high. Plant them 12 inches apart. Divide clumps every 2-3 years. Cut back to the ground several times a year.

CORIANDER/CILANTRO (annual): Grows 18-4 inches high. Plant them 9-12 inches apart. For continual harvest plant seeds every three weeks. The leaves are called cilantro, the seeds coriander.

DILL (annual): Grows 36 inches tall. Plant them 12 inches apart. For nice dillweed, plant three times a season.

LAVENDER (perennial): Grows 18-36 inches tall. Plant them 18-24 inches apart. Late fall or early spring, cut woody stem to six inches from ground. Best variety for our climate is Munstead or Hidcote.

MINT (perennial): Grows to 24-36 inches tall. Plant them 24 inches apart. Plant in a pot and sink it in the ground to prevent spreading. Lavender likes partial shade and moist areas.

PARSLEY (annual): Grows 12-15 inches high. Plant 12 inches apart. It is a biennial but treat it as an annual. Harvest from the outer-most leaves first.

ROSEMARY (tender perennial): Grows 24-36 inches tall. Plant 24 inches apart or in pots. Treat as an annual for it dies at 20° F.

SAGE (perennial): Grows 18-24 inches high. Plant 12 inches apart. Harvest to make plant fuller. In late fall or early spring, cut back to 6 to 10 inches to eliminate woody stems.

THYME (perennial): Grows 6-12 inches depending on the variety. Plant 9-12 inches apart. Divide every 3-4 years to eliminate woody stems.


Here are some recipes to try for the Super Bowl game, Feb. 13. If you aren’t into football, it will be a good day to plan your garden.


1 can each of black eyed peas, pinto beans, black beans and shoe peg corn

1 small jar chopped pimento

1 medium diced red onion

1 cup chopped celery

1 cup diced green pepper


1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

1 tablespoon water

3/4 cup cider vinegar

1/2 cup vegetable oil

3/4 cup sugar

In a saucepan, combine all ingredients. Bring to a boil. Cool and combine with bean mixture. Chill overnight. Serve with scoop tortilla chips or lime tortilla chips.


CRUST: 1 Tablespoon sugar                       

1 package dry yeast

1/4 cup warm water                      

7 Tablespoon butter, softened

2 eggs                                

2 cups all-purpose flour, 

2 teaspoons dry mustard               

1 teaspoon dried minced onion

1/2 teaspoon salt                           

Vegetable cooking spray

FILLING: 1 pound Italian sausage    

1 green pepper, chopped

1/2 cup chopped onion    

1 egg yolk

1 jar (2 ounces) stuffed green olives, drained, sliced

1 cup (4 ounces) shredded Mozzarella cheese                

1 Tablespoon whipping cream or milk              

For crust: dissolve sugar and yeast in warm water in a small bowl. In a large bowl, beat butter until fluffy. Add eggs, 1 cup flour, dry mustard, onion, salt, and yeast mixture; beat until well blended. Add remaining 1 cup flour; stir until a soft dough forms. Turn onto a lightly floured surface and knead 5 minutes or until dough becomes smooth and elastic. Place in a large bowl sprayed with cooking spray, turning once to coat top of dough. Cover and let rise in a warm place (80 to 85 degrees) 2 to 3 hours or until doubled in size.

Punch down dough in bowl and turn over. Cover and let rise in a warm place 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Turn dough onto a very lightly floured surface and punch down. Shape dough into a ball and wrap in plastic wrap. Chill 1 hour.

For filling:  Cook sausage in a large skillet over medium-high heat until meat is browned; drain. Add pepper and onion; cook until vegetables are tender. Remove from heat; drain and set aside.

Divide dough in half. Roll out half of dough into a 10-inch square. Cut a 2-inch strip of dough from 1 side of square: reserve strip for decoration. Spread half of sausage mixture over dough to within 1 inch of edges. Sprinkle half of olives and half of cheese over sausage mixture. Beginning at 1 long edge, roll up jellyroll style: seal edge with water. Fold ends under and seal. Place sausage roll, seam side down, on a baking sheet. Roll reserved strip of dough into four 6-inch-long pencil-thin ropes. Cross 2 ropes over top of sausage roll near each end; seal with water. Repeat with remaining dough, sausage mixture, olives, and cheese. Cover and chill overnight.

Remove from refrigerator and allow rolls to stand at room temperature 1 hour. Preheat oven to 400° F. Beat egg yolk and whipping cream in a small bowl until well blended. Brush over dough. Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until crust is golden brown. If crust browns too quickly, cover with aluminum foil. Cool 10 minutes on pan. Cut into ½-inch slices. Serve warm. About 14 servings each roll. (You can use any filling, even brush inside with pizza sauce before adding filling. Customize to your family’s preferences.

COCKTAIL MEATBALLS (Adapted from Betty Crocker)

1 pound ground beef              

1 tablespoon snipped parsley

1/3 cup minced onion            

1/8 teaspoon pepper

1 egg                                      

1 tablespoon fresh chopped or 1 teaspoon dried rosemary

1 teaspoon salt                          

1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce   

1/2 cup dry breadcrumbs       

1/4 cup milk                              

1 – 12-ounce bottle chili sauce

1 – 10-ounce jar grape jelly (about 1 cup)

2 sprigs rosemary

Mix ingredients together except chili sauce and grape jelly, and shape into 1-inch balls. I put them 25 of them in a glass pie pan, cover them with waxed paper and cook them in the microwave, on high for 5 minutes (time might vary with your microwave). After they are cooked they can be put in a freezer container and frozen until needed. When ready to serve, heat chili sauce, jelly, and rosemary in a skillet, stirring constantly, until jelly is melted. Add meatballs (thawed if they were frozen) and stir until thoroughly coated. Simmer uncovered 30 minutes or heat and serve in a Crockpot.

Makes 60 meatballs.


This recipe doesn’t have herbs in it but is so good! I got this from a student back in the 70’s and have been making it ever since.

2 cups brown sugar

2 sticks butter (1 cup)

1/2 cup corn syrup

1 1/2 cups un-popped popcorn (when popped, remove un-popped kernels)

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon butter flavoring

1 to 2 cups nuts, optional

Boil brown sugar, butter, syrup, and salt for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and add baking soda and butter flavoring. Stir well over popped corn and nuts. Spread on 2 jelly roll pans.

Place in 200° oven for 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes. Remove from oven and cool.  Store in covered container.

Donna Frawley is the owner of Frawley’s Fine Herbary and author of “The Herbal Breads Cookbook,” “Our Favorite Recipes.” and “Edible Flowers Book.” She also has her own DVD “Cooking with Herbs” and a weekly newsletter. She can be reached at 989-488-0170, [email protected] or

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