Herbs are the ultimate garden “multi-taskers.” Adaptable, affordable, and relatively easy to grow, herbs add significantly to the garden. Herbs can be edible or medicinal, fragrant or repellant, can provide beautiful flowers and foliage, and/or provide habitat and nectar for beneficial pollinators, birds, and butterflies. Almost anyone can grow herbs, too. While most species do grow best out of doors, it is even possible to enjoy herbs on an apartment windowsill. While there is not a specific botanical classification that sets herbs apart from other plants, they are generally considered to be any plant part that has been historically or is currently used for culinary, medicinal or household purposes.
Most common herbs grow well in all parts of Idaho, although some cold-sensitive perennials must be treated like annuals in colder regions. Many popular herbs adapted to Idaho climates originated in the Europe and the Mediterranean, and prefer full sun and well-drained soils. Herbs often require less water and fertilizer than many other garden plants, and some varieties of sage, lavender and thyme make good choices for low maintenance or xeriscape gardens. Most herbs prefer full sun. A few can tolerate partly shady conditions such as catnip, chamomile, cilantro, dill, bee balm, burnet, hyssop, lemon balm and mint.
Excellent Extension publications on general herb culture and selection include the University of Illinois Urban Extension Herb Gardening page and University of Missouri Extension’s Growing Herbs at Home, and Purdue University’s Guide to Medicinal and Aromatic Plants.
For those interested in growing herbs on a larger, market garden or commercial scale, the publication Small Farm Herb Production: Is it for You? may be of help.
Limited on garden space? Learn about growing herbs in containers from this Utah State University publication Herb Container Gardens.