Mother Earth News Blogs > Real Food

Real Food

Savor the flavors of everyday real food, fresh from the garden or stored on your pantry shelves.


Which Herbs Grow Best Together

Growing herbs can be such a rewarding experience, it gives you the option to flavor your food with fresh herbs instead of using dried herbs from the store. One of the biggest benefits is that growing herbs requires only a little time, effort and room. Even gardeners living in a small space in the city can enjoy the ‘fruits’ of their labor. However, not all herbs get along - some prefer different living conditions. Figuring out which herbs will grow together happily is the first step towards starting your herb garden.

Why Companion Planting Matters

I know some of you are probably wondering why planting herbs with their proper companions is such a big deal. They’re just herbs, right? They should all be able to live together.

While being able to throw them all in one planter in call it a day certainly has its appeals, herbs are a little more picky than that. Some herbs such as rosemary, thyme and sage prefer a soil that is relatively dry and sandy- while basil and parsley are moisture lovers.

Herbs like mint tend to invade any space near where they are planted. Mint doesn’t like to share, so planting it with other herbs may not bode well for your mint's planter partner. The goods news is, most herbs have at least one thing in common - they love the sun.

The More We Get Together

Now that we’ve gone over why cohabitation is important, let’s start looking into which herbs get along the best. A word of caution; some herbs can impact the flavor of what is planted around them.

For instance, if you try to plant a lemon variety of mint with spearmint they may cross pollinate and deliver some strange and interesting new results. With that warning out of the way, let’s get down to business.

Deep-Container Herbs:

• Slow to start from seed, parsley is a biennial; meaning it only lives for two years — so if planting with other herbs make sure you’re prepared for its departure.
• Even though rosemary generally prefers different conditions, parsley, rosemary and chives can all be grown together in a window box.

Mediterranean herbs:

Herbs from this region are the ones who tend to prefer a dry and sandy soil. Sage, thyme, rosemary, marjoram, oregano and lavender all fall into this category.

Thyme is a small, creeping herb that will do well when planted with rosemary and variegated sage.

Moisture-Loving Herbs:

Herbs like tarragon, cilantro and basil love full sun as much as the Mediterranean herbs but require more moisture to be happy. Tarragon is considered the “King of Herbs” by the French, as it is a staple in many sauces in French cuisine.

If you have your heart set on making pesto, you’ll need way more than a single basil plant. Consider planting several if your goal is mass production of basil pesto!

Mint:

Yes, I’m giving mint its very own section, since it can be so greedy. Mint is a spreading plant that puts out runners and starts to grow sideways. It generally doesn’t survive long in a pot, since the pot prevents it from spreading and the original plant dies. If planting inside, put mint in a long window box that will allow it to spread out to the sides. Trim the leaves that start to spread outside the box and keep away from your other herbs.

Growing herbs together requires some planning beforehand, but after you’ve figured out where everything will go the hard work is pretty much over.

If you mix and match herbs that tend to prefer different conditions, keep an eye on the growth of your plants and look for signs of trouble. With a little bit of time and effort you’ll have fresh herbs year round.

Not only does growing your own herbs look nice but it gives you an edge in the kitchen - using fresh herbs in your cooking will have your dinner guests looking green with envy.

Image by Kaboompics


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.