The Best Herbs to Grow Together in an Herb Garden

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If you’re growing herbs in a container–either on your windowsill or on your balcony or patio–you’ll want to make sure that the herbs you select all work well together since they will be in close proximity to one another. So, how do you know the best herbs to grow together? Generally, herbs that like the same environment can be planted together in the same container.

If you’re anything like the average culinary herb gardener, it can be mind-boggling looking through seed catalogues, trying to choose just a few varieties to plant. There are so many types of herbs to plant – you’re probably tempted to plant almost all of them! But most of us don’t have the space to plant that many at once or the time or energy to care for them all.

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Which varieties of herbs should I choose?

There are three basic types of herbs – herbaceous, evergreen, and annual. The type of herb will depend on how it grows, what type of plant it is, and its habits.

Herbaceous herbs

Herbaceous herbs are perennial.  They die back during the winter but come back again in the spring. This is referred to as overwintering.

Perennial herbs can stay outdoors over the winter in many climates:

  • rosemary
  • sage
  • chives
  • tarragon
  • bee balm
  • sweet fennel
  • winter savory
  • thyme
  • oregano
  • mint

Which herbs spread and take up too much space?

Always be careful when planting mint. Mint spreads quickly and can take over an entire garden if you let it. I would suggest planting both mint and rosemary in their own separate pots or containers if possible. The only herb that you could potentially grow together with rosemary is sage.

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Evergreen herbs

Evergreen herbs are perennial herbs that require pruning if you don’t harvest them regularly. These herbs should be pruned every fall or early in the spring.

Evergreen herbs include:

  • sage
  • rosemary
  • thyme

When you prune, you should only clip those branches that are old and don’t show any signs of new growth. Any that are broken or lying on other branches should also be pruned. Pruning or tending your herbs will allow the plants to direct their efforts to new growth.

When you harvest evergreen herbs, you should be careful to cut only one section of leaves at a time, and only cut it back to where new growth is still showing. You don’t want to cut too much, or you could discourage new growth. The rule-of-thumb is to only cut back 1/3 of the plant at a time so as not to shock the plant and create a traumatic experience.

Annual herbs

They must be planted again every year because they won’t come back after they die.  If you want a continual harvest of annual herbs, you have to keep planting them every four to six weeks during the season.  You should try to snip off any flower buds you see on annual herb plants because, after a plant flowers, it usually won’t continue to produce leaves.  After they flower, they go to seed, at which point they’re not really useful for producing leaves for your kitchen anymore.

Annual herbs include:

  • dill
  • parsley
  • oregano
  • basil
  • chervil

When planning which types of herbs you wish to plant, you should choose only those varieties which you believe you’ll actually use in cooking. It will probably be very tempting to plant at least one of every type of herb you see, but it’s not practical.

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Plant those herbs which you know you’ll really use. And keep in mind that some herbs are considered better when dried. Sage, for example, is an herb that many people prefer the flavour of when dried.

It’s probably better to just plant those herbs which you already know you like to use fresh, as well as perhaps one or two you’ve never tried before just to test out. Be careful not to plant too many types that you can’t take care of them all. 

Although herbs don’t generally require a lot of care and maintenance, they will need a bit of work. Don’t plant twenty different varieties if you really only have time to care for five or ten!

Finally, be sure to check the conditions that various herbs do well in. If your favourite herb doesn’t do well with the amount of sun and average temperatures where you live, you should probably skip it, or at least grow it indoors in a container. There isn’t much use in planting an herb if it will likely die before it’s harvested.

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