How to Plant an Herb Garden

various herbs bunches displayed on a wooden table

You want fresh herbs, but you don’t want just pots on your patio. An herb garden could be your best choice. Walking out into your garden and snipping a little rosemary to go with your chicken or a little tarragon for your potato salad is a truly satisfying experience.

But, how do you go about making an herb garden that will thrive in Oklahoma? When to plant, what to plant, and where to plant your herbs are all good questions.

We’ve got a few tips that should help you answer these questions and help you make the most of an herb garden in your overall landscape design.

These are the best herbs to plant

Lavender in the backyard garden terrace

Most herbs aren’t fussy about growing conditions, but Oklahoma’s heavy clay soil can be a challenge. Because of its loosely packed, dense particles, heavy clay prevents good drainage, which is required for a healthy herb garden. You may need to amend the soil with composted cotton burrs or a similar substance. It’s also recommended that you enrich the soil with a vegetable and herb fertilizer every two months.

Experts recommend these 10 herbs as best for growing in Oklahoma:

1. Basil comes in a variety of strains, each with a slightly different taste and growing habit.

2. Chives, both onion chives and garlic chives, do well in properly prepared Oklahoma soil.

3. Oregano is a kitchen staple for Italian cooking, and fresh oregano adds an extra special flavor compared to dried oregano.

4. Parsley is more than just a garnish. It’s full of vitamins and minerals, and it’s a great host plant for caterpillars, which can add butterflies to your garden.

5. Tarragon, an under-utilized herb, is like a mild blend of rosemary and oregano with a hint of licorice.

6. Rosemary is maybe the most versatile herb and comes in several varieties, including upright and spreading plants.

7. Mint does extremely well in Oklahoma conditions – sometimes too well. Mint is a very vigorous spreader that will root in as it grows and continue spreading.

8. Sage is not only versatile in the kitchen, but it also comes in several varieties with beautiful foliage.

9. Thyme, another creeping ground cover, comes in a variety of fragrances, most notably lemon thyme with strong hints of citrus.

10. Lavender does especially well in Oklahoma because of its drought-tolerant nature.

When to plant your herbs

hand cutting a green fresh rosemary branch in seasoning garden

Herbs can generally be classified as annuals or perennials. Rosemary, mint, chives, tarragon, oregano, thyme, and lavender are perennials. Basil, parsley, and sage are annuals. Basil loves warm weather. Plant it in the spring – when soil temperature is about 70 F – and enjoy it until frost.

Parsley is a slow starter, but it can handle cold weather. Plant parsley seeds three to four weeks before the last spring frost. It will take up to three weeks for parsley to sprout. You can plant sage seeds up to two weeks before the last frost. For the best results, soil temperature should be at least 60 F.

For all the perennial herbs, but especially rosemary, it is recommended that soil temperature be at least 70 F before planting. Mint is hardy and can be started anytime until two months before the first fall frost. Chives can be sown as soon as the soil is workable in the spring. Tarragon does best if the seeds are started indoors and planted well after the final spring frost.

Oregano can be easily started from seeds, but you can also use cuttings from an existing plant. It’s hard to grow thyme from seeds because of slow, uneven germination, but the best time to plant is two to three weeks before the last spring frost.  While lavender can be planted anytime from early spring to late fall, it has a better chance of thriving if it goes through a full growing season before winter.

Where should you plant herbs

Choose a location for your herbs that gets full sunlight six to eight hours a day. A few herbs will tolerate partial shade, but most require full sun to thrive. Most herbs that do not receive full sun will become spindly and will not produce.

Some herbs, such as parsley and mint, do just fine with three to four hours of sunlight. Check the plant tag for sunlight requirements. If your yard offers rich, well-draining soil in a sunny space free from competing trees and shrubs, planting an herb garden in the ground should work beautifully.

Herbs grow much the same as vegetables, in a soil of average fertility with a pH between 5.5 and 7.0, enriched and loosened with plenty of organic matter. Look at each plant information tag to see how much space to leave between plants for best growth and good airflow. You’ll also want to have a water source nearby.

Integrating herbs into your landscape

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An herb garden can be planted on its own or integrated with your flower or vegetable garden.  Herbs can add color and fragrance to your landscape whether in their own spot or integrated with other gardens. There are the striking red flowers of pineapple sage, the round lavender blooms of chives, and the tiny white flowers on creeping thyme.

Herbs can be used as ground covers, fillers, additions to ornamental flower gardens, and along walkways and pathways for their fragrance. The herbs can add ornamental beauty to your landscape and still be harvested for their culinary benefits.

Parsley makes a nice front-of-the border green plant for flower gardens, as do chives with their grass-like looks and cheery flowers. In your perennial garden, you can add basil during the summer as a filler.

Contact us today for expert advice on integrating your herb garden into your overall landscape design.