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Gardening 101

Growing Herbs: Easy Beginners Guide

If you’re just starting out on your journey towards growing your own edibles, growing herbs is an excellent place to begin. Whether you plan on growing herbs indoors or outside in a herb garden, herbs look beautiful and smell amazing! In this article, I’m going to cover all you need to know about how to plant a herb garden and planting herbs in pots. I will also include some bonus tips on how to care for herbs and 3 plants that actually thrive on neglect (yep you heard me right)!

My top advice when it comes to growing herbs is to choose herbs you’ll use, and grow them close to your kitchen so they’re easily accessible – whether it be on the windowsill, growing herbs in pots or in a potager garden.

If you’re not limited by space, herbs are wonderful in pots as well as interplanted in your main veggie garden. Reason being, when herbs flower, bees and other beneficial pollinators love them. They also have pest resistant qualities which makes them good companion plants; read on to find a list of whom to pair with whom!

growing herbs in pots on a sunny deck

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Where to Plant Herbs

What I love most about growing herbs is how versatile they are – you can grow them more or less wherever you like in whatever vessel you choose!

Herbs like quality, well-draining soil so it is important to prepare the soil in whichever place you choose to plant. If the soil is sandy or clay-heavy then work through a generous amount of compost to keep your herbs happy. 

Almost all herbs like full sun, with coriander and parsley being the exception (shade or partial shade is best for them) so bear this in mind when choosing the location for your pots or herb garden.

Garden Tower Project

Growing Herbs Indoors

If your outdoor space is limited, then an indoor herb garden is a great option. You also have the added benefit of your herbs being more accessible whilst cooking. 

Place your herb pots in an area that receives a generous amount of sunlight, such as on a windowsill or bench. If you don’t have any sunny options, then you might want to consider a setup with grow lights like an Aerogarden or Click and Grow Smart Garden.

It’s even more important with pots to ensure you start with good soil (seeing as there is less of it than in a garden bed) so choose the best quality compost you can afford.

Herbs don’t like getting their feet wet so drainage is another important consideration. In large containers, it’s a good idea to line the base with stones, and choose containers or herb pots that have drainage holes in the base (don’t forget to put a saucer underneath – you’ll only need to learn this lesson once!)

Space Saving Planters

If you’re stuck for space, a quick Google search yields many creative ways to grow herbs; from vertical planters, pallet gardens, hanging baskets, planting in cans, bottles – you name it! There are so many fun ways to incorporate herbs into your space (this also demonstrates just how resilient and easy herbs are to plant!)

Garden Tower 2

A great invention when space is at a premium is a Garden Tower. This genius invention enables you to grow 50 plant is just 4 square feet! Perfect for gardening in an apartment or small backyard.

Kitchen waste is added in the top of the system so your food scraps create organic fertilizer that in turn grows organic herbs and vegetables – genius right?

garden tower project outdoor herb and vegetable planter

Indoor Smart Gardens

If you feel like every plant you touch dies, then this may be the solution for you…introducing mess-free, self-watering, set-and-forget smart gardens!

It really is as easy as making a Nespresso – you pop in the pre-seeded pods, fill the reservoir with water, plug it into the wall and voila! Within a matter of weeks you will have grown fresh herbs and veggies with next to no effort!

click and grow smart garden 3

Growing Herbs Outdoors

It’s important when growing herbs to choose a spot that’s easily accessible to the kitchen, otherwise, you’ll be less inclined to use them. So if you have a balcony or deck, herbs are great in outdoor pots.

Equally, a dedicated herb garden or herb spiral is a lovely way to grow herbs. As with all edibles, it’s important to choose a spot that gets a good 6 hrs of sunlight a day to ensure your herbs really thrive. 

If your main vegetable garden is further away from the kitchen, I would still recommend interplanting herbs with your other vegetables for the benefit of companion planting. Further in this article, I cover some of the best companion planting combinations.

What to Plant

When choosing which herbs to plant, the most important question is – what herbs do you use in cooking? To me, there’s not much point taking up space in your garden or pots if you’re not going to use them. So my advice is to think about your favourite dishes and plant accordingly. 

The best time to plant herbs is springtime, but most herbs can be grown all year round. There are a few exceptions though so it’s best to check the tags or seed packets when making your decision. 

growing herbs in a potager garden with lavender blooming, sage and other herbs
Interplanting herbs in your vegetable garden looks beautiful and attracts beneficial insects and resists pests

Annuals vs Perennials 

There are two types of plants – annuals and perennials.

Annuals are plants that need to be replanted each year. These include the likes of basil and coriander.

Perennials are herbs that keep growing back every year such as rosemary, chives, thyme and mint. They will still likely come to a point where they no longer flourish (generally after 2-3 yrs they reach their peak) so you may need to replant them at this point. 

Seeds or Seedlings

A few herbs like coriander are best grown from seed, while most can be grown from seedlings. If you’re looking for bang for your buck, then seeds are definitely the most cost-effective way to go. For beginners though, I always recommend seedlings as you can see your results straight away and sometimes start harvesting immediately!

When sowing seeds, the most important thing to remember is to keep the soil moist but not sodden – you don’t want your seeds drying out! Spring is the best time to plant, once the chance of frost has passed. 

Herbs in pots at a garden centre

Gardening Tip: Cover seeds with a layer of rich black compost to keep the soil warm and fertile to help seeds germinate.

Growing Herbs From Seed

If you’re wanting to have a go at growing from seed, go for it! The following are some easy herbs to begin with that can be raised in trays or planted straight in the ground when the weather is warm enough: 

Herbs as Microgreens

A mixture of herbs is also great grown on a windowsill as microgreens. Prepare a tray of potting mix and generously sprinkle a mixture of coriander, basil, rocket, chives, kale and mustard seeds. Cover and keep the soil moist. They will be ready to trim and eat within a couple of weeks!

Planting Culinary Herbs from the Supermarket

If you buy a herb plant from the produce section of the supermarket, it’s a gamble as to whether or not it will take off in the ‘real world’. This is because these herb plants have been grown hydroponically in a greenhouse (a very pampered environment). However, it goes against the grain to throw a plant away! So if I bought one of these herbs, I’d still plant it in my garden and try my luck!

When looking for herb plants, it’s best to shop for seed and seedlings at a garden centre where seedlings have been weathered outside. 

Choosing your Herbs

3 Herbs that Thrive on Neglect! 

Yep, you heard me right, these herbs actually want you to forget about them! Perfect for people who claim they kill every plant they touch! All you have to do is plant, then leave them alone. Don’t overwater or fertilise them and they will reward you – sound too good to be true? Give it a go!


Due to its sprawling nature, thyme is a great herb to grow in a pot (or plant near the edge of your garden bed so it can hang). The little white flowers attract pollinators and this is actually when thyme has its best flavour.

Sow thyme seed in spring when the soil has warmed slightly. 


If your rosemary plant is looking a bit yellow then you are looking after it too much! Super hardy, rosemary can be grown as hedge or ground cover depending on the variety you choose. It’s both ornamental and versatile, with deep blue flowers in summer that bees love. 


Should always be grown in a pot whether on a balcony or a pot sunken into a garden bed. Reason being, mint is very invasive and will take over your garden, so a pot keeps the roots contained.

Mint prefers a moist, semi-shaded area but it is so hardy it will grow anywhere. If you remember to pick the tips, this will help to keep the plant compact.

Be mindful of where you plant mint as there are detrimental mint companion plant options.

Mint growing in a pot sitting in a raised garden bed
Prevent mint from taking over your garden by always growing it in a pot

Best Herbs to Grow in Pots

As I mentioned earlier, the best herbs to plant are herbs you will use. The following list is are some of the herbs you’ll find in my pots and veggie garden. If you’re not sure where to begin, this article on growing vegetables in pots might help get you started. 

Remember, to ensure success – whether in a pot or garden,  ensure your herbs are in a sunny position with free-draining soil. 

Here are the best herbs to grow in pots:
  • Thyme – I use thyme a lot in cooking so I like to have it in a pot close to my kitchen.
  • Mint – To ensure it doesn’t take over my garden and because I love the smell when it’s nearby (I like to pick off the odd leaf and add fresh to my water).
  • Chives – This is an attractive herb with pretty pink flowers. Part of the onion family it has a mild, onion-like flavour and its flowers and stems can be used in various dishes.
  • Parsley – A very useful herb, I grow mine in pots simply because I want to have it close at hand whilst cooking. Curly types have a milder taste than flat-leaf varieties. Parsley is a great companion plant in the garden too!
These herbs can also be grown in pots if you wish, but I love interplanting them in my garden:
  • Sage – I love the purple variety as it is both ornamental and edible. Great added to stuffing or fry off and use in Italian dishes.
  • Coriander – Another popular herb to use in cooking. Plant the seeds straight in your garden or pots to avoid the shock of transplanting, and keep it in a shady spot in the heat of summer (read on for more coriander growing tips).
  • Basil – Nothing smells like summer than the smell of growing basil! You can sow seeds directly in the ground in the spring. As the plant becomes more established, pluck the top sprouts from the plant regularly to encourage the plant to bush out. Great planted alongside your tomato plants as it makes an excellent companion- deterring pests and attracting pollinators. Some say it even improves the flavour of the tomatoes.  
  • Oregano – Grows all year round (perennial) so plant oregano where you intend it to stay. An excellent herb to dry or use fresh in your favourite Italian dishes.

Tips for Growing Coriander (aka Cilantro) 

Over the years, I always found coriander to be the hardest herb to grow. No matter what or when I planted my seedlings, it would always go to seed within a week or two! It wasn’t until I learnt that coriander hates to be transplanted that I finally mastered it!

For this reason, I thought I would include a special section on how to grow coriander so you can avoid making the same mistakes as I did. 

  • Coriander doesn’t like intense heat so it lasts longer in spring, winter and late autumn. 
  • In the summertime, plant in a shaded spot (such as the shade of taller or leafier plants like zucchini or tomatoes. 
  • In winter, plant coriander in full sun
  • Coriander hates being transplanted and responds by going to seed. For this reason, it’s best to grow from seed and plant it directly in beds or pots. 
  • Coriander is naturally short-lived (about 6 -8 weeks) so for a continuous supply over summer, plant new seeds every few weeks. 

By the way, in case you’ve ever wondered why coriander has two names…’Cilantro’ is the Spanish name for the coriander leaves and stem, while the dried seeds are what’s officially referred to as coriander. 

a vegetable and herb garden. growing herbs alongside vegetable plants
Interplanting herbs in your vegetable garden has many benefits when companion planting

Bonus Tips for Growing Herbs

  • If you’re not ready for your herbs to go to seed, pick flowers as soon as you see them. Leaving the flowers on parsley, coriander etc will make the plant woody and change the flavour. When a plant goes to seed it’s essentially saying “that’s me done, time to focus on passing the job to my heir”.
  • Remember to water your herbs regularly to ensure they don’t dry out. A good idea is to cover the soil with a layer of mulch to retain moisture and deter weeds. 
  • If you have more than one of the same plant growing, it’s nice to let some plants flower and go to seed. This will attract beneficial bees and insects to your garden that will help neighbouring vegetables. You can also collect dry seed heads and store in a paper bag to plant next season. 
  • If you have an abundance of herbs, try chopping some up and freezing them in ice cube trays. They can then be used in drinks or meals later (my favourite is to do this with mint).

Herbs make excellent companion plants. Here’s a guide to some popular pairings you can make use of in your vegetable garden. For a full list of companion planting pairs, see my vegetable companion planting chart.

Herb Companion Planting

BASILTomatoes, Capsicum, Lettuce, Oregano.
NOT good alongside Sage
CHIVESCarrots, Parsley, Tomatoes, Berries, Apples & Roses (enhances their fragrance)
DILLCauliflower, Broccoli, Cabbage, Corn, Lettuces, Cucumber. 
NOT good alongside carrots. 
CORIANDERSpinach, Dill
PARSLEYTomatoes, Beans, Carrots & Roses
OREGANOA good neighbour for all (deters many pests and insects) but especially brassicas such as Broccoli, Cabbage & Cauliflower
ROSEMARYBroccoli (repels slugs) 
NOT good alongside Carrots or Pumpkin
SAGECelery, Rosemary, Cabbage, Carrots. 
NOT good alongside Cucumber
MINTTomatoes, Carrots, Squash, Marigolds
NOT good alongside Strawberries, Parsley or Rosemary
THYMEA good neighbour for most crops (deters moths) especially Cabbage

FAQS on Growing Herbs

What herbs should not be planted together?

There are some herbs that should not be planted together due to their aggressive growth, potential to attract pests and chemical interactions. The main ones are mint, fennel, dill, basil, and rue.

It’s important to keep these herbs away from each other to promote healthier growth.

For a full break down on which herbs play well with who, check out my vegetable companion planting chart.

Variety of herbs in this Guide to growing herbs

What are the best tips for growing herbs?

My top 3 tips for growing herbs are:

  1. Ensure proper drainage: This is probably the most important thing as herbs do not like wet feet! Too much water and soil can become waterlogged and lead to root rot.
  2. Use good quality soil and be careful not to over-fertilize: Use slow release fertilizer sparingly as over-fertilized herbs are less flavorful and herbs don’t need overly fertile soil to thrive.
  3. Prune or harvest regularly: To encourage bushier growth and prevent herbs from becoming ‘leggy’. When harvesting, harvest from the top of the plant in order to encourage new growth, and avoid removing more than a third of the plant in one go.

Can you put multiple herbs in one planter?

Absolutely! Planting multiple herbs in a single planter is also known as companion planting. This is a great idea for saving space and aesthetics, but also planting the right companions together can have the benefit of pest control and better growth!

It’s important to group herbs with similar care requirements together to ensure they thrive. This includes factors like sunlight, water, and soil preferences. Additionally, consider the size of the planter to avoid overcrowding, which can lead to competition for resources.

What herbs need to be planted every year?

Certain herbs are considered annuals, which means they complete their life cycle within a single year and need to be replanted each growing season. These herbs do not survive the winter in colder climates and typically die off after producing seeds. Examples of annual herbs include basil, cilantro and dill. These herbs are best planted from seeds or young seedlings each year to ensure a fresh supply.

Conversely, there are perennial herbs that can live for several years, regrowing each spring without the need for replanting. These herbs establish strong root systems that allow them to survive through winter and come back in the warmer months. Some common perennial herbs include rosemary, thyme, oregano, and mint. These herbs offer the advantage of consistent growth year after year, provided they are given proper care and maintenance.

Final Words on Growing Herbs

When first starting out in your vegetable gardening journey, growing herbs is a great place to start as they are incredibly versatile and you’re likely to use them in your cooking. If you’re really looking for a fail proof option, try thyme, rosemary or mint as these three herbs can take a little neglect. I look forward to hearing how you get on with growing herbs at your place!

profile picture of Gabrielle

About the Author

Elle Reed is a passionate gardener and advocate for teaching beginner gardeners how to grow their own food. Elle’s mission is to inspire and empower people to get back to basics, grow their own produce, and embrace a sustainable lifestyle. “Whether it’s a few herb pots in an apartment, a potager or a full garden plot, we can all ‘start somewhere’ to grow our own food, and in doing so, provide healthier food for ourselves and those we love”.

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Growing herbs is a great place to start for beginner vegetable gardeners. This simple guide covers all you need to know about how to grow herbs indoors, outdoors and growing herbs in pots. Plus I reveal 3 herbs that actually thrive on neglect!