5 Garden Herbs to Plant in Early Spring

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What Herbs to Plant in Early Spring?

In early spring, the weather is unstable. One day it is hot and the next day there may be a light layer of snow. Delicate herbs won't survive temperature fluctuations, but there are still plenty of herbs that will grow very well if you have a cold morning or two.

Along with the satisfaction of fooling the seasons, these herbs allow for frugal gardening, as you can start with seeds rather than buy transplants. Here are five recommended herbs, ideal for planting outdoors from seed in early spring.

Cilantro (Coriandrum sativum)

  • USDA Growing Zones: 2 to 11 (normally grown as an annual, but will readily self-seed)
  • Color Varieties: White, pink, pale lavender (not grown for the flowers)
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade
  • Soil Needs: Medium-moisture, well-drained soil

Be sure to place coriander seeds directly into the ground in early spring, about two weeks before the last frost date in your area. The seeds will tolerate even a light coating of snow and will germinate as soon as they are warm enough.

Coriander leaves can be cut and used in soups and meat sauces, sprinkled on the plate when cooked. The seeds can also be used in sauces, stews, cakes, and desserts, but don't use immature seeds as they are bitter.

Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis)

  • USDA Growing Zones: 3 to 7
  • Color Varieties: White to pale yellow
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade
  • Soil Needs: Dry to medium-moisture, well-drained soil

Melissa is a perennial member of the tough mint family. Unsurprisingly, this delicious herb can tolerate the crazy days of early spring. Consider planting it in a container sunk in the ground, as lemon balm can seep and spread quickly if you get the chance.

Plant the seeds indoors 6 to 8 weeks before the last frost, or outdoors just after the last expected frost date, and enjoy the best this lemon has to offer before the summer heat.

The edible leaves can be added to salads, soups, sauces, and vegetables. The leaves can also be used to flavor teas, and the dried leaves are often added to potpourri.

Borage (Borago officinalis)

  • USDA Growing Zones: 2 to 11 (normally grown as an annual, but self-seeds easily)
  • Color Varieties: Blue (not grown for its flowers)
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade
  • Soil Needs: Dry to medium-moisture, well-drained soil.

Plant borage seeds immediately after the danger of frost. This beautiful herb deserves a place of honor in the garden. It will grow quite a bit, so plant it where you want it to stay forever. Borage leaves and resows vigorously if not supervised.

Borage leaves are used in salads, the flowers are still edible, and as soon as the sun begins to burn the earth in late summer, this cold-loving herb will try to sow and die.

Be sure to take a look under the large mother plant to see if there are any small plants to add to your salads all summer long.

Dill (Anethum graveolens)

  • USDA Growing Zones: 2 to 11 (normally grown as an annual)
  • Color Varieties: Yellow
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun
  • Soil Needs: Rich, light, well-drained soil

Who doesn't love dill? It grows quickly in the cool spring soil and brings a bright, sunny flavor to your dishes. Plant it outdoors when the danger of frost has passed.

Dill likes to sow again after pruning several times, so planting in the spring and continuing to sow at weekly intervals will provide plenty of dills.

The leaves are tastiest when harvested and used as soon as the flowers open, but the dill also dries and freezes perfectly, so store while you can.

Basil (Ocimum basilicum)

  • USDA Growing Zones: 2 to 11 (normally grown as an annual)
  • Color Varieties: Magenta (not grown for its flowers)
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun
  • Soil Needs: Moderately rich, well-drained soil

As much as you hear about basil liking heat (which is true), it may surprise you that basil performs best when started as a seed indoors (6-8 weeks before the last frost) and it is then transplanted when the weather permits.

In the fall, you can put down roots and transplant them into indoor pots and continue to grow the grass through the winter. Basil is best used by adding freshly chopped leaves and small stems at the end of cooking, but the herb can also be frozen or dried for winter storage.

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