Herbs are aromatic plants used for their medicinal properties and culinary uses. While many herbs can be used in their dried form, the fresh leaves usually have more flavor. Growing herbs in the backyard is an effective way to guarantee a supply of fresh herb leaves and is much cheaper than buying fresh herbs from a store. The best herbs to grow in the backyard are those that are easy to cultivate and have many culinary uses.
Basil - Basil is an easy-to-grow annual herb best used fresh rather than dried or frozen. It is one of the best herbs to grow in the backyard because of its vigour and high yield. Grow basil from seed germinated indoors in the spring. Plant the seeds in all-purpose potting compost half an inch below the surface. Place the pot in a warm location, keep the compost damp and wait up to three weeks for germination. Pinch out the growing tips of seedlings once they are 6 inches tall to encourage bushy growth. Plant potted basil seedlings outdoors in a sunny location in frost-free conditions. If the appear, remove any flower buds to prolong the life of the plants and prevent the leaves from turning bitter. Harvest leaves throughout the summer.
Cilantro - Cilantro, also known as coriander, is a widely used herb in Asia and Latin America, as well as the United States and Europe. It is an excellent herb to have in the backyard because its leaves quickly lose their flavor if stored. Plant cilantro seeds outdoors once the last frosts have passed. It is best to sow them thickly as crowding encourages the seedlings to grow tall and produce more leaves. Leaves can be harvested only 6 weeks after planting. Coriander plants tend to bolt to seed if allowed to dry out, or after a spell of cold weather, so sequential planting every 2 weeks is advisable to guarantee a supply throughout the summer.
Oregano - Oregano is an aromatic herb that is very popular in Italian cooking and is easy to grow. Plant oregano seeds by sprinkling them on the surface of damp all-purpose potting compost; plant the seedlings in a sunny location once the last frost has passed. Oregano plants thrive in dry conditions and lose flavor if they are over watered or grown in the shade. Oregano leaves can be harvested throughout the summer and early fall. You can also grow oregano from cuttings and overwinter in pots, if kept on a sunny windowsill.
Mint - Mint is a rampant herb that can become invasive in a backyard garden unless you confine it in pots or containers. It is easy to grow from seed or by planting out root cuttings taken from an established mint patch. Mint loses it flavor if stored, so it is best to grow your own and use fresh. Mint thrives in fertile soil and grows well in light shade. Harvest leaves throughout the summer and fall; well-established plants will survive throughout the winter and re-grow from the roots the next spring.
Rosemary - While most commonly grown backyard herbs are low-growing plants rosemary is a woody shrub that you can even prune into a hedge. It is an excellent backyard herb as it is an attractive plant in its own right; harvest throughout the year. You can grow it from seed, but it is best to propagate it from cuttings taken from a mature bush. Plant 6-inch cuttings in pots containing all-purpose compost containing 20 percent sharp sand and keep in a warm spot until they root. Rosemary grows best in well-drained soil in a sunny spot; it will survive winter frosts to 5 F.