How to Herb Garden in the Midwest

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As a wife and mother here in Minnesota I’m always looking for great ways to make things stretch farther. I do a lot of cooking from scratch so keeping my herbs and spices full is a must. Knowing how to herb garden in the midwest can be a bit tricky but I have figured out how to harvest a bounty of beautiful herbs year after year.

I’m a Midwest Mama. I was born and raised in Wisconsin on a small hobby farm on 40 acres of woods. My favorite thing about that lifestyle was making maple syrup every year. It’s something I often take my kids back to enjoy as well.

One of the best parts about growing up “in the sticks” is that you don’t really have many distractions. I learned a lot of my homesteading skills early on from my parents. My folks had the mindset to get all of us involved in processing livestock, peeling Poplar trees, gathering from the woods, processing meat and of course gardening.

One thing that my grandparents and parents never grew was their own herbs, except for dill. Looking back this surprises me. They cooked just as much as I do today and knowing how resourceful they were I don’t understand why they didn’t grow their own herbs as well.

With no background in herbs I decided that I was going to start my beginner’s herb garden. I started with the basics that can work for anyone but a midwest herb garden requires a bit more care when it comes to the winter months.

Herbs in planters.

Growing Herbs in the Midwest

What you grow in your day to day garden is really all about personal preference. I know that the staples have to be there – like beans, peas, squash, zucchini, cucumbers and potatoes but herbs can really bring a dish alive. That’s why I started growing them.

Unlike other areas of our country, Midwest herb gardening takes a bit of finesse. It’s very important to pay attention to when your last frost is so that you know when it’s safe to get plants into the ground.

Where I am in Minnesota, our last expected frost date is May 15th. Believe me it can be so hard to wait but just count down the days instead of planting early. This year we actually got an extremely late frost on May 25th so it’s been an odd year.

If you really feel you have to get your plants in the ground earlier than your last frost date go ahead. Remember to pay close attention to your weather though. Covering your plants when frost or low temperatures are expected is critical to keeping them alive in the spring.

Which Herbs to Choose

Overall the variety of herbs that you choose is based on your families preferences. If you love Oregano, then grow a few plants of it. If you are really into fresh Basil have three. Personal preferences are really the key to deciding what to plant.

My honest opinion when you are just starting out is to simply get one of each type of herb you think you would enjoy and then grab one that you have never tried before but have heard about. This method ensures you have all of your favorites but also helps you branch out to find new items.

If you are new to herb gardening in general I would suggest to first grab my free ebook, A Beginner’s Guide to Herb Gardening. This will help coach you along in determining the location, water source and which plants you will want to choose for your personal Midwest herb garden.

Once you have determined the variety of plants you are going to grow you can start planting.

Which Herbs Would You Recommend?

 

Midwest Herb Gardening Annuals (planted annually):

  • Basil
  • Parsley
  • Lemongrass
  • Savory

Midwest Herb Garden Perennials (should return naturally the next season):

  • Oregano
  • Peppermint
  • Spearmint
  • Chives
  • Thyme
  • Lemon Balm (this is considered a perennial but I have not had success holding it over)
  • Dill (again I have struggled with this returning and I even let it seed out in a small bed where it is planted alone)

There are many other herbs that you can grow and try but as I mentioned earlier, your herb garden plants are your personal preference. I only wanted to give you information based on what I have actually planted and had success with growing and returning year after year.

Midwest Herb Gardening Tips

With these items, it’s also important to remember to watch for when they develop seed pods. Once they do, collect those seeds and start more plants with them or give them to a friend. I do not advise letting them seed out in your herb garden bed. You can let them seed out if you have a designated area for them that you wish they would take over.

Start with Plugs or Started Plants

The one piece of advice that every Midwest herb gardener should follow is to start with pre-started plants. You can find these at any nursery, Home Depot, Lowe’s or even Wal-Mart. You could even have plants shipped to your home via Azure Standard.

What you are looking for are healthy pre-started plants that are well past their germination phase. These plants should be at least 4-6″ tall already. A strong set of leaves and root system should be developed.

Look for plants that are not stressed. More information coming on that soon but basically look for plants that are healthy and vibrant. No wilting or sagging. Be sure they have been watered regularly and that their package is moist.

Why start with these larger plants? The growing season in the Midwest is so much shorter than other areas of the US. With our late frosts in spring and early frosts in fall it really cuts down on the total number of days we have to grow and reach harvest. Pre-started plants speed up that process and get you weeks, sometimes even months, closer to your harvest date.

Get out there and Garden

The key with everything in life is to just get started.

Don’t worry so much about creating a perfect herb garden. Just get started. Starting small is a great way to go about that first step. Choose a few annual plants and one perennial and grow from there.

I would love to see how your herb garden is designed and growing. What is the first plant you are going to put in the ground?

If you are concerned about harvesting your herbs or preserving them be sure to grab my FREE ebook, A Beginner’s Guide to Herb Gardening which will show you several different ways to preserve your harvest.

Herb Gardening Resources:

 

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