Guide to growing herbs
The easiest way to add a special touch to your food and make it look and taste amazing is to add fresh herbs. If you grow herbs at home, whether in your garden or simply in small pots on a windowsill, you will always have them fresh to hand to impart extra vibrancy and flavour to your meals.
The basic of growing herbs
Even if your gardening skills are minimal, you should be able to grow herbs without any trouble. Herbs can be planted inside or out, in pots, raised beds, flower borders, vegetable plots or in dedicated herb gardens. Like other plants, herbs come as annuals, which means they die off after blooming once; as biennials, which have a two-year life cycle; and as perennials, which will flower repeatedly and keep growing.
Start with your basic culinary herbs – basil, chives, coriander, dill, mint, parsley, rosemary, sage, tarragon and thyme. Most of these prefer a light, sunny spot with moist but well-drained soil, so don’t let the soil get too soggy or dry out. Herbs like to be fed, so mulch generously with organic matter. Short-lived herbs such as dill and coriander should be sown every couple of weeks through spring and summer to avoid a glut. Bring your herbs inside for the winter – most herbs don’t like the cold but will be happy on a sunny, south-facing windowsill. Mint and sage can both grow quite large and mint can become quite aggressive – it will take over the garden if you let it, so it is best to keep it planted in a container.
How to start growing herbs
The cheapest way to grow herbs is from seed. Sew in pots and keep inside or in a conservatory or greenhouse until the danger of frost has passed. Dill and coriander are relatively hardy and can go straight into the ground from March. You can also try taking cuttings of herbs such as rosemary, mint, sage, tarragon and thyme at the end of summer. Strong-growing, hardy herbs such as mint, thyme and oregano can be divided in late summer after flowering.
Harden off young plants once the weather improves, keeping the soil moist. Plant in loose soil, making sure the root ball is completely underground. Firm in and water well. You will find that some herbs, such as rocket, cress and coriander, grow quickly and will be ready for cutting within a few weeks. Cutting herbs to use in the kitchen and pinching them out will encourage bushy growth and stop them running to seed too quickly.