There's nothing like the fragrance of fresh-cut herbs in your kitchen—except maybe growing your very own. As long as you have a sunny windowsill, you can harvest your very own herbs any time you need them to flavor your recipes, from crisp salads to savory pestos to refreshing iced tea.
Here are some of our favorite ideas for adding a vibrant, aromatic herb garden to your kitchen, deck, patio, balcony, or fire escape (just be sure to check your city's fire codes before using the fire escape).
Grow Your Own Aromatherapy
Who needs essential oils when you have the real thing in your very own kitchen? Plant herbs like lavender, peppermint, rosemary, and sweet basil for their aromatherapy—as well as culinary—uses. Simply pinch off a leaf or blossom, rub it between your fingers, and take in the heady aroma. Or fill your home with their fragrance by simmering fresh leaves in a pot of water on the stove.
Upgrade Your Baking
Fresh herbs have as much a place in the world of desserts as they do in savory cooking. Plants like peppermint, spearmint, basil, rosemary, lavender, thyme, tarragon, bay, and sage can all play well with sweet recipes like cookies, cakes, sorbet, and ice cream, just to name a few.
Get Creative With Planters
With a little creativity, just about anything can be a planter. An antique cabinet, like this up-cycled card catalog, makes a creative vertical garden, while vessels from teacups to enameled bowls to galvanized metal tubs make charming containers for a single plant—or your whole collection. For best results, drill or punch a hole in the bottom of your repurposed planter for drainage.
Mount Herbs on Railings
This trick lets you turn even the smallest outdoor space into your very own kitchen garden. Beautify your balcony, roof deck, or fire escape by mounting colorful planters filled with your favorite herbs on its railing. They get all the sun and rain they need, while you've got enough room for a cute set of patio furniture.
Transform a Bistro Table
If you've got several smaller containers of herbs, consider keeping them all together rather than spreading them out. Rescuing an old bistro table and arranging your pots there is a great way to create a beautiful and impactful display. Plus, grouping plants together makes watering that much easier in the heat of summer.
Bring in Mood-Boosting Plants
We all know that the heady aroma of certain herbs can affect mood, like calming lavender and refreshing mint—but some common culinary herbs are said to offer mood-boosting properties when prepared in food and drinks. Adaptogenic herbs like tulsi, also known as holy basil, may help relieve stress (and with a spicy, bubblegum-like flavor, it tastes great, too). And subtle mood-enhancing effects are often ascribed to cheery, citrus-y lemon balm.
Fill Your Sills
No outdoor space? No problem. As long as you have a sunny windowsill, you can grow your own herbs. Simply place your plants in the brightest window you have, ideally with full sun. A window with a southern exposure is ideal, but a west-facing window with bright afternoon light works well, too.
Bring in Hanging Baskets
If you're low on space—or simply want to switch things up—skip the petunias and stuff your hanging baskets with your favorite herbs. Trailing and spreading herbs like thyme and rosemary work well, or you can plant several different seedlings in one basket for more variety. Then, simply hang it in a sunny spot and harvest as needed.
Turn a blank, boring wall into a charming, space-saving vertical herb garden. You can use shelving or brackets to display individual pots of your favorite culinary and medicinal herbs. You can also purchase fabric planters, or repurposed wood pallets that have been outfitted with pockets of landscape fabric in which to plant that will give your wall of herbs an even fuller look. This setup is ideal for an outdoor space, like a roof deck or patio wall.
Try an LED Herb Garden Kit
If your windowsills are already full of sun-loving houseplants, you can still have fresh, flavorful herbs at your fingertips. Just pick up a compact, all-in-one hydroponic herb garden kit like the Aerogarden Sprout, the Smart Garden, or the Modern Sprout Smart Growhouse. An LED light above the plants supplies the light, while a vessel below holds water and nutrients for your plants to soak up—no soil needed.
Plant Herbs for Your Cocktails
Ready for the best at-home happy hour drinks you've ever made? Simply plant and harvest your own herbs—like basil, rosemary, thyme, lavender, and sage—for the freshest flavor in your cocktails. Infuse leaves or flowers into simple syrups to mix into recipes, muddle fresh leaves into drinks, and use sprigs as colorful, aromatic garnish.
Mix up your tea routine for summer with a garden of herbs that make a refreshing, flavorful cup. Add herbs like chamomile, mint, lavender, or lemon verbena to your next batch of black or green tea, iced or hot—or skip the caffeine and brew your own blend for a cool, customized summer sip.
Preserve Your Herbs
To get the most out of your herb garden, harvest every few weeks during the summer to encourage full, bushy growth. When you've got a bumper crop, don't let it go to waste—preserve it! It's best to dry hardy herbs like rosemary, thyme, sage, oregano, mint, and lavender: Simply bunch and hang them in a dry, well-ventilated spot, then store them in airtight containers once they're completely dry and crispy. Soft herbs like cilantro, basil, and parsley keep best when pureed with a little water or olive oil and frozen for later use.
Jamshidi N, Cohen M. The Clinical Efficacy and Safety of Tulsi in Humans: A Systematic Review of the Literature. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine. 2017;2017:1-13. doi:10.1155/2017/9217567
Scholey A, Gibbs A, Neale C, et al. Anti-Stress Effects of Lemon Balm-Containing Foods. Nutrients. 2014;6(11):4805-4821. doi:10.3390/nu6114805