Spending 2 or 3 bucks on a pack of fresh herbs at the grocery store every time you need a sprig of thyme or a few mint leaves can add up fast! Luckily, growing them yourself couldn’t be any easier. If you’ve been pondering the idea of starting your own edible garden this is honestly the perfect way to start (read: it’s hard to mess up!).
Obviously everyone’s cooking habits are different, but here are some estimates for comparison sake (not including tax just to keep things simple) that show just how much you can save.
Cost of Grocery Store Herb Packs
- 2X/Month = $52.56/year
- 3X/Month = $78.84/year
- 4X/Month = $105.12/year
- 5X/Month = $131.40/year
- 6X/Month = $157.68/year
Cost of Herb Plants*
*These are worst case scenario estimates if you had to replant each year.
- 5 plants = $18.40/year
- 6 plants = $22.08/year
- 7 plants = $25.76/year
Cost of Herb Seed Packets
Many, but not all, can easily be grown from seed.
- 5 packs = $7.50/year
- 6 packs = $9.00/year
- 7 packs = $10.50/year
Since some herbs only have to be planted once and others will die back (or die all together) at the end of the season, it’s hard to completely eliminate the need to ever buy fresh herbs from the grocery store again. But as you can see, the savings can really add up no matter how often you use them!
When To Grow Fresh Herbs
I love plants, but by no means have a green thumb. So I can tell you from experience that herbs are one of the easiest things I’ve ever attempted to grow. They are thankfully hard to mess up! Here’s some of what I’ve learned during my attempts here in Charlotte, NC…
Year Round Herbs
You only have to plant these once; they’re usually hardy enough to last through the winter!
- Oregano (depends on the winter if they’ll hold up)
Warm Weather Herbs (plant in the spring, some may come back for another season)
This is just a partial list of my personal favorites, and most can be planted from seed.
- Mint (recommended in a pot – see below)
- Flat Leaf Parsley
Cool Weather Herbs
This one can be a little tricky …not so great in super cold or super hot so more early spring or late fall is best.
- Cilantro (the seed is called coriander)
General Growing Tips
- Most herbs will bolt.
Bolt, flower, go to seed – all basically the same thing. When your basil starts to sprout little tiny leaves at the top that turn into flowers (where the seeds live) simply pinch those little stalks off at the top to keep the plant thriving. Some warm weather herbs may last more than one season if you’re trimming as needed, but the the basic rule of thumb is this – when the herb no longer tastes good it’s done.
- Plant mint in a pot!
I learned this lesson the hard way, so hopefully I can prevent you from making the same mistake. Many MANY years ago when I was home from college for the summer I asked my parents if I could try my hand at planting a few fresh herbs in their yard. They said yes, and before I knew it (much to their dismay) …my mint had completely. taken. over! No matter how much I tried to keep it from spreading (more than it already had) the plant clearly had it’s mind made up about procreating. This one will go wild – literally – so keep it at bay in a pot.
- Give most a chance to last through the winter.
With the exception of basil, here in NC many of the warm weather herbs could very well come back for another season or two. So before you pull it up and toss it in the trash (or compost) at the end of the summer, just let it be and give it a chance to come back the next year.
- Outdoors is best.
Herbs might survive for a short time inside, but to really thrive the outdoor, unfiltered sun is what they need. If you must plant inside, make sure to place herbs near a sunny window.
- Don’t forget the TLC.
As with any sun-loving plant, herbs of course need to be planted in good soil, in a sunny spot, and watered as needed (every 2 to 3 days or when they start to look droopy and the soil feels dry). You can also add a little organic fertilizer (I like PlantTone) if you really want to give them an extra good chance. That’s the same stuff I use in my vegetable garden, but I don’t find it necessary when it comes to growing herbs.
It’s currently the perfect time of year to plant all those warm weather (and year round) herbs listed above so I hope you’re feeling inspired to get started. There really is not a lot to lose here, I promise! I’d love to hear your tips for growing fresh herbs in the comments.