For sheer versatility and growing satisfaction, it’s hard to surpass herbs. Indulge in their rich aromas, fresh flavors and good looks. Herbs are very undemanding, giving plenty of pickings to liven up mealtimes with minimal fuss. Here’s our advice on where to grow herbs and how to look after them.
Grow your herbs wherever you have space: within your veggie garden, on their own as a traditional herb garden, in containers, raised beds or even among the flowers. Many herbs are every bit as pretty as ornamental plants, with flowers that attract a range of beneficial bugs such as bees and plant-pest predators.
Herbs can be classified into two broad types: soft, fleshy-leaved herbs such as parsley and cilantro, and more aromatic, woody herbs like rosemary, sage, and thyme.
Fleshy herbs grow quickly to produce masses of leaves for regular clipping. Many of these herbs happily grow in partial shade. In hot climates, shadier areas of the garden will keep the likes of mint and lemon balm cooler so the foliage is less likely to wilt.
Many aromatic herbs originate from warmer regions like the Mediterranean. These herbs like to sunbathe! Give them somewhere that’s in full sun, which will intensify the fragrance and flavor of these easy-to-grow favorites.
Most herbs prefer soil that retains moisture but is also free draining. Woody herbs especially need free-draining conditions and hate it when their roots sit in wet, cold soil.
Dig organic matter like compost into the garden soil before planting. This improves the soil’s fertility and structure – with a knock-on effect on the health of your plants.
Herbs that prefer the same conditions should be planted together. Choosing a range of varieties means there’s more to pick, so don’t be shy – be adventurous! Just try not to overcrowd herbs; they may be small now but will quickly fill out.
Make cutting your herbs as easy as possible. Grow a few herbs in containers located close to the kitchen for convenience. If they are readily accessible like this, you’ll be more inclined to use them.
All herbs – even the sun lovers – need watering to encourage fresh growth for harvesting. In the height of summer, you may need to water container herbs every day. Fleshy herbs can be placed onto saucers into which you can pour water for the potting soil to soak up. Avoid cold, wet potting soil in winter by lifting containers up onto pot feet so any excess water can easily drain away.
Pick herbs regularly to encourage new shoots. Frequent clipping also delays the moment plants flower and leaf production slows. Pick herbs destined for freezing or drying early in the day. Herbs to enjoy fresh should be picked as close to using them as possible.
Fleshy herbs like mint can be cut back once they have flowered to stimulate new foliage. Woody herbs are best trimmed lightly after flowering to stop them turning too dry and woody.
Most importantly of all, enjoy your herbs. Experiment with them in the kitchen. Let them brighten up your world with their character and charm.