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Herbs are the perennial favorite of gardeners, chefs, and homeowners. Yep, the pun was definitely intended. Not only are herb gardens simple to put together but they are incredibly forgiving of beginner gardeners.
If you want to plant a rustic herb garden, you only need a few basic things. I highly recommend doing something like a benchtop herb garden. In other words, you should plant your herbs in a series of containers that you can set on a benchtop. This makes your garden easy to water but also easy to harvest.
Table of Contents
Planting & Caring For Your Benchtop Herb Garden
Soil and Water Needs for Herb Gardens
There are really only a couple of things that you need to know for planting your herb garden. The first is that herbs don’t mind “rough” conditions.
This means that if you don’t have super soft potting soil, it isn’t a problem. Many herbs will grow fine and almost prefer poor, rocky soil.
The second thing that you need to know is that some herbs prefer dry conditions and some herbs prefer more damp soil. For example, thyme really likes to dry out between watering.
Basil on the other hand likes its soil to be damp. If you’re going to combine herbs in your containers, make sure that they all get along. Once you have your containers set up, a microdrip irrigation system is perfect for watering your herbs.
Container Rustic Herb Gardens
When you plan out your rustic benchtop herb garden, your first decision is what container you want to keep your herbs in. Popular choices are worn metal tubs, such as an old washtub or a watering can.
Ceramic containers are popular for a rustic herb garden as well. Especially white ceramics but colorful old ceramics would give a rustic vibe as well. The common favorite are wooden boxes made of cedar or pine. You don’t need anything that is specifically made for the outdoors.
For your rustic herb garden, don’t be afraid to think outside of the box. I’ve seen some beautiful beginner herb gardens planted in bicycle tires, wooden chairs, and even toilets! Your herb garden container can add just as much personality as your herbs.
Sun Needs for Herb Gardens
In terms of the sun requirements for your beginning herb garden, there is some variation there as well. Most herbs prefer full sun.
Don’t misunderstand: herbs don’t like to be hot. They just like sunlight. I found this out the hard way when I planted my herbs in the sunniest part of my yard.
There are some herbs that prefer partial sun. Almost no herbs do well in shade. If you are wondering where to put your new rustic herb garden, choose a sunnier location rather than a shadier location.
If you did plant your herbs in a container herb garden, you can move them though. Keep an eye out for soil that is too dry.
Herbs make excellent additions to most vegetable gardens. I highly recommend that, if you have the space, you consider mixing herbs into your raised garden beds for easier pest control and vegetable flavor.
Patio Herb Gardens
Even the smallest apartment or townhome now typically has a small patio or deck even if they don’t have a yard. For those people without a large yard, patio herb gardens are incredibly popular.
Herbs are especially space saving compared to vegetable gardens or, god forbid, fruit trees. You can plant just about every herb you could possibly want to cook with on a small patio.
Your rustic herb garden doesn’t have to take up a lot of space and sometimes the cutest herb gardens are the small ones.
Vertical Herb Gardens
To fit more in your patio herb garden, make your garden a vertical herb garden. Use the space in all dimensions. There are many ways to make your rustic herb garden vertical too.
When you are selecting containers, make sure to include some that can hang and some smaller ones that can sit on tables.
You can use old metal gutters and hang them from the roofing to plant smaller herbs in. Watering cans or wicker baskets could also be hung from the ceiling to allow for vertical herb gardening space.
To bring your rustic herb garden off the ground, add some antique tables into the patio. Smaller, more sun-loving herbs can go on top of the table while more shade-loving herbs can go underneath.
Popular Herbs for Beginners
Regardless of how you design your herb garden, there are some popular herbs for beginners. For rustic herb gardens, I highly recommend “woodier” herbs such as thyme just for the look. They give more texture to your rustic herb garden.
For benchtop and patio herb gardens, size is a priority. Smaller herbs such as chives and parsley are popular for these applications. But pretty much any herb will remain small if its container is small.
Chives are best planted from a plant rather than from seed. You can purchase a plant start at the local nursery or you can ask a friend for one divided from their yard.
Chives will quickly take over a yard if left unattended so people are always looking to divide them and get rid of some.
Chives can be planted in almost any soil, any container, and any amount of sun. This makes them perfect for rustic herb gardens and patio herb gardens.
You really can’t go wrong with chives. Make sure you plant them where you’ll want them to stay because they are a perennial too.
Chives have a high tolerance for water variation. In other words, if you forget to water them, they won’t die. If you water them too much once, they won’t die. But if you make either a consistent practice, they won’t be very happy and stress could kill them.
They don’t require much in the way of fertilizer or “tending” so they are low maintenance once they’re established. Beyond their first year or two, you really won’t even have to worry much about watering them.
Why It’s Popular
Chives are incredibly popular because they are such easy keepers. They need very little attention so they are great for beginner herb gardens. New homeowners won’t be too stressed trying to keep up with them. And they are incredibly versatile and tasty in many kitchen dishes.
Basil is one of the few herbs that does require more tending than most. It doesn’t need to have any special soil, unless you are planting it in a container herb garden.
If you are planting in containers, like for a benchtop herb garden, make sure to use potting soil so the roots don’t get crushed.
Basil can be successfully planted from seed or from plant starts like you get at the local nursery.
If you are starting it from seed, start it as an indoor seed start and when the plant is established, plant it outdoors.
Basil prefers partial sun or filtered sunlight. It will not tolerate full sun unless it is kept well-watered. On that note, basil likes the soil it is in to be kept moist. Don’t water log the plant, but make sure that it doesn’t dry out either.
Why It’s Popular
Basil is one of the most popular herbs to use in the kitchen. And it gives a beautiful, big plant to accent any rustic herb garden. While it is a bit higher maintenance than most herbs, you’ll find that it is well worth the effort.
Okay, there is one thing that you need to know about mint. It MUST be planted in a container.
Even if you aren’t planning on a benchtop herb garden, mint should not be planted directly into the ground. This is because mint spreads astronomically fast and far.
Mint is almost impossible to kill. It can grow in any soil, with any amount of water, or any amount of sun.
People who find themselves buried under a mountain of spreading mint have tried to kill it in numerous different ways. Trust me, it’s not an easy task.
Why It’s Popular
Mint is a tasty ingredient in most middle eastern cuisines. It can also combine with most ingredients to make for some interesting flavors in other food as well. This, combined with its incredibly hardy nature, make mint a perfect addition to a beginner herb garden.
Thyme is one of the simplest herbs to plant and take care of. Thyme really prefers to be planted in very poor soil.
Like, you know the leftover dirt from a pot you’re repotting already? That’s perfect. Thyme does well in containers or just straight in the ground.
Thyme doesn’t require much in the way of care or maintenance. Every once in a while, it should be pruned to keep its shape but normal use in the kitchen should be enough.
You don’t need to fertilize it or really worry about watering it too much because it takes care of itself.
Why It’s Popular
Thyme is so easy to grow and care for that it is one of the most recommended herbs for beginners. And it’s actually really pretty and it gives a nice pop of green to an area of the garden that most things won’t grow on.
Parsley is an herb that needs to be planted similar to basil. It won’t mind poor soil but it will do better with a little bit of love. And it really prefers a little less sun than a lot of other herbs.
Your parsley plant needs to be kept moist but not overwatered regularly. If you want it to grow bigger, you can definitely give it some fertilizer but it doesn’t really need a lot.
Why It’s Popular
Parsley is one of the most universally likeable herbs. I personally can’t even really taste it. So it makes a great addition to a ton of dishes and a perfect finishing touch on just about everything. Parsley isn’t the easiest herb for beginners but it isn’t super difficult either.
Oregano comes from the same family as mint so it is just as easy to care for. Oregano offers incredible flavor and is integral to numerous international cuisines. It is easy to plant since it will grow in pretty much any medium and any container.
You won’t have to worry about oregano. Even in its first year of being planted, oregano is hearty enough to survive pretty much any abuse.
Why It’s Popular
Oregano is the perfect herb for beginners. Its heartiness and high flavor makes it prized among gardeners and chefs. Oregano comes in several different varieties as well so you can customize your garden to your tastes.
Rosemary absolutely has to be in a spot where it can dry out between watering. It is best planted from a cutting rather than from seed. Ask a friend with a mature plant to give you some. You don’t need to have any special soil for rosemary.
If you are wondering, “should I water the rosemary?” The answer is probably no. It’s better to underwater your rosemary rather than over water your rosemary.
I’ll be honest, there have been summers that I only watered my rosemary a couple of times…the whole summer.
Why It’s Popular
Rosemary is delicious in the kitchen and as easy to care for as a cactus. If you ignore it, the plant will be fine. In my opinion, rosemary is the absolute best herb for beginners to grow. It’s perfect for a rustic herb garden too because its woody stems look so beautiful.
Your rustic herb garden can be absolutely beautiful, useful, and easy to care for. There are so many perfect herbs for beginners that there really is no reason to wait on making a garden for yourself.
My very favorite place to get herb seeds and herb plants is Territorial Seed Company in Oregon.
Not only are herbs perfect for gardeners, but they are also incredibly popular among home cooks and professional chefs. They add such amazing flavor to your food!
Because herbs don’t take up a ton of space, you can make a beautiful benchtop herb garden or patio herb garden if you don’t have a huge yard.
Seriously, why are you still reading this? Go plant a fabulous rustic herb garden…NOW!