How to Grow Fresh Herbs (and save loads of money!)

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!).

Read all about How to Use Herbs too!

How to grow fresh herbs on 100 Days of Real Food

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Cost Savings

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!

  • Rosemary
  • Thyme
  • 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.

  • Basil
  • Sage
  • Mint (recommended in a pot – see below)
  • Flat Leaf Parsley
  • Dill
  • Tarragon

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.

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22 thoughts on “How to Grow Fresh Herbs (and save loads of money!)”

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  1. How much sun is too much? I live in Florida and we are in a really hot summer. One side of my house is full on sun all day long. The other has a few hours of sun and then shade for the rest of the day. And how often should they be watered? I know nothing!

  2. Herbs are one of the easiest plants to grow since they are basically “weeds.”

    If you absolutely can’t grow a thing – you will be able to grow herbs. They just need some sun and water and good soil.

    I love cooking with fresh herbs. It is a great way to add a lot of flavor to your meals without adding any extra calories (or ugly “foodlike” substances). :)

  3. I planted oregano a few years ago and it has taken over the side flower bed of my house and even gotten out into the grass. However, I love the plant and it doesn’t bother me. I wintered beautifully–we live in the DC area. Our mint has also taken over, but even though I knew that it would spread, I love the stuff. Mint iced tea is my favorite.

    1. Amy Taylor (comment moderator)

      Just about anything will work as long as it drains well. Also, most herbs do best in a quick draining soil.

  4. How do you harvest the herbs without distorting the plant?

    How do you know how much you need at a time?

    Real inexperienced with herbs.

    1. To harvest just cut a portion of the plant off from the stem. It may make the plant look a little lopsided but just trim from a different area each time to round it out. This will keep the plant healthy and growing!

      In terms of how much to harvest it really just depends on how much you need for your recipe. To avoid over-trimming don’t harvest more than half the plant at one time (general rule of thumb).

  5. Definitely make sure you keep the mint contained, it’s so invasive! We have some chocolate mint that we have planted for a few years, and it smells divine and makes a great garnish for dessert! If you plant now, but have some herbs that you fear might be a little delicate, you can put a mason jar over top of them to protect them a bit more. :-)

  6. I have grown Basil, Rosemary, and Thyme the last few years. Stepping it up this year and have added Mint, Lavender, Sage and Dill. Looking forward to new, fresh tastes.

  7. our chives not only come back year after year, but somehow have found their way into the front garden from our back deck :) (I blame squirrels ;))

    they do have lovely purple flowers! Like tiny aliums which are members of the onion family, so makes sense

  8. I live in a condo, but right outside my front door is a small garden area where I place my herbs that I planted in either cute wooden boxes or cute pots, What a money saver it is to have lots of thriving basil, mint, rosemary and Italian parsley. I buy the plants at Home Depot and use containers my children sent to me for mother’s day or my birthday. Plant in one day and enjoy all summer. Don’t forget to water

  9. I live in a garden apartment and plant an herb garden every spring along the patio fence line. Not only do I have fresh herbs to flavor my meals, but herbs keep those pesky mosquito bugs away from the patio in the evenings which makes enjoying a cool beverage under the stars so enjoyable.

  10. I made the mistake of planting oregano in the ground too. Now I have a weed. Good smelling but still pretty aggressive. Another one that throws seeds all over is lemon balm. Don’t ask me how I know. LOL

  11. I love cilantro. I have a large round planter where I plant cilantro seeds in 1/4 of the planter every 2-3 weeks. After I’ve worked my way around all four quarters, the plants still remaining in the first quarter have already gone to seed or are close to it. Pull those up, plant more seeds. Gives you an almost constant supply of perfect cilantro – not to small, not too big and not-as-tasty.