Best planting time for herbs in the garden and on the balcony

A plantlet ready to be planted in the garden
A plantlet ready to be planted in the garden

The cultivation of aromatic herbs is under a good star, when the young plants are placed in the earth just at the right time. In view of the immense diversity of varieties, there is uncertainty among amateur gardeners on precisely this point. Quite rightly, the question arises whether hardy and exotic herbs are planted at different times. No longer grope in the dark, because the following lines inform you comprehensively about the best planting time for herbs in the garden and on the balcony.

This planting time always fits

Regardless of whether the herbs are grown behind glass or purchased in the garden center play it save with the following appointment for planting:

  • The best time to plant herbs begins in the garden and on the balcony at the beginning of May
  • Ideally, put the young plants after the icemen from 15 May in the earth

At the earliest, an appointment for the ‘Cold Sophia’ comes into question for exotic herb varieties, if experience shows that no delayed ground frosts are to be expected any more. Even hardy herbs do not immediately have the frost resistance, as in advanced age. Having just outgrown the seed pots, they are as vulnerable to minus temperatures as their tropical counterparts. Only in the course of a careful care in connection with the outdoor curing, wormwood, chives or rocket develop the robust constitution, which qualifies them for the perennial culture in the field.

Proper planting

The decision for the best planting time alone does not create magnificent herb plants and a rich harvest. To make the young plants quickly take root, it depends on the correct planting at the optimal location. Here’s how to do it:

  • All herbs need a sunny, warm and sheltered location
  • With few exceptions, the soil should be humus, lean and fresh and moist (for more see our advices for every single herb)
  • The crop rotation is to be considered, because most of the herbs are not compatible with themselves or their conspecifics
  • At the chosen location, loosen and weed the soil thoroughly
  • Optimize the soil by adding sieved compost, grained cattle manure and a little sand
  • Planting holes with twice the volume of the root ball
  • Soak young plants in advance with water
  • Take the soaked young plants and place in the soil and water
  • Ensure sufficient planting distance and use sprouting varieties with root barrier

The planting of herbs in the pot on the balcony follows a similar pattern. As a substrate, commercially available herb soil has been proven. Alternatively, a mix of loamy garden soil, compost, sand, horn shavings and perlites are recommended. The few plants with a high demand for nutrients, such as basil, thrive in potting compost, enriched with sand or expanded clay. A drainage on the bottom of the pot above the water outlet is indispensable. Herefor use inorganic material such as pebbles, grit or crushed potsherds. Add a water- and air-permeable fleece between drainage and substrate.

Tip: Exotic, cold-sensitive herb varieties are covered with garden fleece at night until the risk of cold is over at the beginning of June.

Direct sowing possible from March

A variety of resistant, winter hardy herbs can be sown directly in the bed far before the best planting time. This has the advantage that the growing young plants are already well hardened. The following overview gives the dates for the most important herbs in the garden and on the balcony:

  • Savory: from the beginning of April
  • Borage: from mid-March
  • Dill: from the beginning of April
  • Chamomile: from the beginning of March
  • Chervil: from the beginning of March
  • Lovage: mid-March
  • Parsley: frosting from February
  • Sage: from the end of April
  • Sorrel: end of March
  • Chives: from the end of April
  • Ysop: end of April

When sowing seeds, the proper preparation of the bed plays an important role. All weeds are removed as well as stones and roots. After the soil has been loosened deep with the grave fork, work a 2 to 3 centimeter (1 to 1.5 inches) high layer of sieved compost. Before the seed is sown, use the rake to provide for a fine crumbly soil as possible. Ideally sprinkle over the seeds with another layer of compost, sand or vermiculite and moisten everything with a fine shower.

A fine-meshed net protects the bed from voracious pests. Until the seeds germinate, weeding is done every few days. In addition, the seed must not dry out, nor swim in the water. Once the first leaves have developed, the weakest seedlings are sorted out to make room.

Tip: A mobile foil tunnel protects the bed with a direct sowing from the worst weather conditions.

Preculture of herbs in the house
Preculture of herbs in the house

Cultivation behind glass from April

The direct sowing in the bed or the bucket on the balcony is burdened with numerous uncertainties, in particular due to harsh weather conditions, threatening diseases and pests. In contrast, the cultivation in the house creates the best conditions for both tropical and native herbs. Since the vast majority of herbal seeds germinate quickly, a date for sowing comes into consideration from the beginning of April. If you sow at an earlier point in time, there is a risk that the early-matured young plants on the windowsill will develop long, weak shoots. If the best planting time after the icemen, the plantlets have already spent so much that they are difficult to gain a foothold in the open field. According to this manual, sowing succeeds behind glass:

  • Soak the seeds for 6-12 hours in lukewarm chamomile tea
  • Fill a seed bowl or small potty with peat sand, coconut fiber, perlite or seed soil
  • Do not put the seed too narrowly
  • Do not cover light germ with substrate
  • Moisten the seeds with water from a spray bottle
  • Cover the seed containers with glass or cover with plastic wrap

In the partially shaded window area germination starts at temperatures of 20 to 25 degrees Celsius (68 to 77 ºF) on average within 2 to 4 weeks. A possible cover has fulfilled its function and will be removed. Once the seedlings have reached a height of 5 centimeters (2 inches) and develop 2 to 3 pairs of leaves, they are set into individual pots. Until the planting date, the young plants must not dry out.

Special case cold germ

A few types of herbs are among the cold germs, such as wild garlic, rue, angelica or woodruff. Although these seeds have the same deadlines as normal germs, an extra step is required here. In order to put this seed in a germ, they experience a cold. For this purpose, store in moist sand for 4 to 6 weeks in the vegetable compartment of the refrigerator. If this is too time-consuming, direct sowing favors from February, where Mother Nature is responsible for stratification.


With the choice of the best planting time for herbs in the garden and on the balcony, prudent hobby gardeners set the course for the best growth and a rich harvest. You are on the safe side if you plant the self-grown or ready-bought seedlings from mid-May in the bed or the pot. Alternatively, winter hardy herb varieties may be sown directly into the bed from March, which, however, is associated with significant risks. In contrast, growing behind glass scores with vital young plants, unless sowing is started here before the beginning of April.

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