How to Make & Care for a Herb Garden
Starting a herb garden is an easy way to add flavour and freshness to your cooking as well as colour and fragrance to your garden. Add to this their attractiveness to pollinators and you can see why growing herbs is an easy win.
Where to grow your herbs
Herb plants are easy to grow in borders, raised beds, containers or grow bags.
Outdoor herb plants will do best in well drained soil with a low nitrogen content, so if your soil is sand or clay, dig in plenty of compost. Plant your herbs in a position with full sun (six hours of sunlight every day) - a sunny patio or border is ideal. It’s also a good idea to grow your herbs within easy reach of the kitchen door to make them easier to harvest when you need them. Vigorous herbs like rosemary and mint are best planted in pots as they tend to take over borders!
A South or West facing balcony is an ideal place for a herb garden.
You can use pots of different sizes, window boxes and hanging baskets to create an edible garden which will also give fragrance and visual appeal to your seating area.
Indoors, grow your herbs on the kitchen windowsill in rectangular planters or traditional terracotta pots. Grow the herbs you use the most and snip off a few fresh leaves whenever you need them.
What herbs should I grow?
Which herbs you grow will depend largely on what you like to eat.
If you cook a lot of Italian food, choose basil, oregano and thyme. For South Asian cuisine, choose coriander and lemongrass. Every cuisine needs bay leaves, chives and parsley, so keep some handy. For making herbal teas, go for mint, chamomile or fennel.
Herbs are also a must for a scented garden - think lemon balm and bergamot - and flowering herbs are great for attracting bees and butterflies to your patch. Herbs can also be grown as companion plants to keep pests off your vegetable crops - try comfrey, fennel and chives.
How to care for my herb plants
Herbs can be grown from seed, but it is easier and usually more successful to grow from plug plants.
Pot up plugs and keep on a warm windowsill until their roots have filled the pot - plant them outside when the last frosts have passed in late spring or early summer.
Your herb plants will benefit from a feed of general purpose fertiliser or liquid seaweed, but be careful not to use nitrogen rich fertilisers (including manure) as they may reduce the flavour of the herbs. Keep herb plants well watered, especially in dry spells.
Many popular herbs are perennials; these include chives, fennel, marjoram, mint, sage, tarragon and thyme. They will keep growing year after year and require little care. Annual herbs like basil, coriander and dill will need to be regrown each year.
How to harvest my herb plants
Harvest your herbs by snipping off fresh leaves or stems on the day you need them.
Don’t worry about damaging your plants by picking too much - the opposite is generally true, and frequent picking will encourage the plant to produce more foliage. You can dry or freeze any spare herbs for use throughout the year.