Perennial Herb Garden Growing Guide

Growing a perennial herb garden is fun, easy, and provides many learning opportunities for students. These gardens can incorporate any number of herbs or flowers that are commonly used in cooking. Planting herbs that will last in your garden for years will allow you to simplify garden work and ensure confidence around having a full interactive garden. Consider that some herbs that are not listed here may be perennial in warmer climates and others (like dill and cilantro) are always annual but you may still want to plant them as well. In this guide you will find a Perennial Herb Planting Map, information about different types of herbs and their uses, and a few sensory activities.

Start your Perennial Herb Garden in one small bed, and if you want to expand, take a look at our full list of herbs for more ideas. Here is a Perennial Herb Garden planting plan:

Once you have decided to grow a Perennial Herb Garden, here is what you need to do!

  1. Choose a lesson, activity, or a way you will involve your students in planting, growing, and tasting the herbs.
  2. Determine planting dates and activity dates
  3. Plan your planting map
  4. Plant with students
  5. Monitor growth and care for herbs with students.
  6. Pick the herbs with your students to use for classroom activities.

Recommended Herbs, Uses, Care and Fun Facts

Basil: annual, 1 plants per square foot, a hot season crop, basil is traditionally used in Southeast Asian and Italian cuisines. It is delicious paired with garden tomatoes and students enjoy using it to make fresh pesto. Basil is used extensively in Ayurveda and other traditional medicinal systems throughout the world.

Chives: Perennial. 4 plants per square foot. Chives are the smallest type of onion. They are mild tasting and used in many dishes such as soups, fish, and salads. The edible flowers are light purple and attract pollinators.

Cilantro (coriander): Annual. 4 plants per square foot. Used in many cuisines including Mexican, Indian, Chinese, and Southeast Asian. Try it as a garnish, in a salad, or a fresh salsa.

*Dill: Perennial or annual. 1 plant per square foot. Used in European, Middle-Eastern, Russian, and Central Asian cuisines, dill is the eponymous ingredient in dill pickles. It is a delicious accompaniment to salmon and other fish dishes, and can be used in soups and salads.

*Epazote: Annual or short-lived perennial. 1 plant per square foot. Very strong when raw, used in black beans for its carminative properties (less gas!), and also cooked in quesadillas, sopes, and other dishes for flavor.

Fennel (Florence or bulb): Annual. 2 plants per square foot. The base of the leaves form a tight bulb-like head at the base of the stem. It can be eaten raw or cooked and has a mild licorice flavor. The feathery leaves can be eaten similarly to dill and the seeds are also used for flavor foods.

Lavender: Perennial. 1 plant per two square feet. This lovely smelling purple flower lends a floral, slightly sweet flavor to cakes or lemonade and is commonly used as an essential oil for fragrance. It can be used to treat insect bites, burns, and headaches, and is used to aid sleep and relaxation.

Marjoram: Perennial. 1 plant per square foot. It is similar to oregano and has piney, citric characteristics. Marjoram is used for seasoning soups, stews, salad dressings and sauces. It is indigenous to Cyprus and southern Turkey, and was known to the Greeks and Romans as a symbol of happiness.

*Mint: Perennial. 1 plant per 4 square feet. This plant is fast-growing and thrives near a water source. Be careful planting close to other plants because the mint can take over. Try planting 2 varieties of mint in one A bed. Mint is used in teas and beverages, Middle Eastern cuisine, and in jellies and ice cream. It was originally used medicinally to alleviate stomach pain. The strong sharp scent is invigorating and can be used to help students focus, or as a decongestant.

Oregano: Perennial. 1 plant per square foot. Oregano has an aromatic, warm, slightly spicy taste. It is an important culinary herb used dried and fresh in Italian and Mexican food among other cuisines. Hippocrates used oregano as an antiseptic as well as a cure for stomach and respiratory ailments. It is a good herb to dry with students.

Parsley: Biennial. 1 plant per square foot. Used in European, Middle- Eastern, and American cooking, parsley is good on meat and in salads. It is full of antioxidants and vitamin A and C. Curly parsley is often seen as a garnish. Try making a Tabouleh or Chimichurri with students.

Rosemary: Perennial. 1 plant per two square feet. This is a woody, evergreen, cold-hardy herb with dainty edible blue flowers, rosemary is often used to season meats. Rosemary has a reputation for improving memory and has been used as a symbol of remembrance at funerals and weddings. In mythology and religion, rosemary was draped around the Greek goddess Aphrodite when she rose from the sea. The Virgin Mary is said to have spread her blue cloak over a white-blossomed rosemary bush while resting and the flowers turned blue.

Sage: Perennial. 1 plant per two square feet. It has a savory slightly peppery flavor and is used for flavoring meats. It has been used since ancient times for warding off evil, curing snake bites, and increasing women’s fertility among other things. Dried sage is decorative and aromatic.

*Tarragon: Perennial. 1 plant per square foot. Tarragon is used in French cuisine on chicken, fish, and egg dishes. It is also the flavoring in a popular green eastern European soft drink.

Thyme: Perennial. 1 plant per square foot. It is a delicious seasoning for salad dressings, soups and main dishes and comes in many different varieties such as lemon, orange, lime, summer, winter, wild, French and English thyme. It can be dried for preservation.

*Indicates plant can spread aggressively by seed or runner and should be thinned, or not allowed to produce seed.

Tasting Activities in Your Sensory Garden

Activity # 1: Herbs de Provence
In this lesson from The Edible Schoolyard, an organization committed to building and sharing a sustainable food curriculum for schools, students identify a variety of herbs and spices as well as taste and harvest their own herbs. Students work with ratios to create a customized herbs de Provence blend.

Activity # 2: Choose Your Own Herb-Infused Tea
This is a fun way to for students to explore the smells and taste of different herbs. It’s easy to make a big batch for many students to try, but make sure to leave some time for the tea to cool before serving.

Alternatively, allow students to choose their own herbs to add to the green tea, lemon, and honey base.

Ingredients:

  • decaffeinated green tea bags, 5
  • boiling water
  • lemon, 1, cut into 8 rounds (optional)
  • honey to taste (optional)

Directions:
In a large pitcher, combine the tea bags and boiling water, let steep for 8 minutes. While steeping, have students pick and rinse herbs of their choice from the garden and put in the bottom of their cups. Remove the tea bags from pitcher and add lemon slices and honey. Evenly distribute over students’ cups of herbs. Enjoy!