Growing a herb garden is one of the simplest things you can do in your garden and provides you with a home-grown and easily accessible way to upgrade your home cooking.
Herb gardens can be created either within a designated spot in your garden or in containers. Herbs do prefer to be planted in the soil, however they are also able to be grown in containers as long as they are properly looked after and given regular plant feeds to ensure that they are getting nutrients that they may be missing out from in the soil.
Many herbs can be grown from seeds for a more cost-effective solution, however ready-grown herb plants can save time when setting up your garden.
Planting herbs in your garden
Herbs must be planted in an area that gets at least 4 hours of sunlight a day. They must also be in well-drained soil, so it is important to work over the area you are planning to plant in with either a fork or a hoe to ensure that the soil is in no way compacted to allow for adequate drainage. If you soil is clay- or sand-heavy, it is important to add plenty of compost so your herbs will get the nutrients they need to thrive. It is preferable not to use manure based composts on your herb garden is this type of manure is heavy in nitrogen, and while this will make your herbs grow quicker, it will reduce the flavour of your crop. Once your herbs are planted, ensure that your herb garden gets 2 inches of water a week. Many herbs can be frost-sensitive, so if you are starting your garden in spring, it is advisable to keep your herbs in their containers until the cold weather starts. An ideal way to ensure that they are protected from the frost, but still manage to get the sunlight that they need to thrive is to keep these containers in a greenhouse – check out our range here!
Planting herbs in a container garden
After deciding how many plants you would like to grow, you need to pick a container for them. A 30cm (12”) container should be able to comfortably accommodate 6 plants. The drainage holes in the bottom of the container should be covered before adding compost to it. The plants should be arranged in the container so that the lower growing plants are arranged around the outside of the container. Fill the gaps between the plants firmly with compost, ensuring there is a 2cm (1”) gap between the compost and the rim of the container. Place your container in a spot where it will get plenty of sunlight – a sunny shelf in your kitchen is an ideal spot as your herbs will also be within reach to grab some when you’re cooking.
It is important to ensure that your plants are getting enough sunlight to make sure that they thrive! They must also be watered regularly. Container gardens should be given a plant food treatment once a week as well, and garden herbs should also be given this once the nutrients from the compost are starting to run low. Most gardeners are afraid to harvest their herbs regularly, however this will actually help your herbs to grow. Frequently harvesting your herbs will increase the amount of foliage they produce, increasing the volume of herbs that you will be able to harvest from your garden. At the end of the season, you can also dry or freeze your herbs so you can enjoy them all year round – try freezing oil and herbs in an ice cube tray for a quick and easy way to add flavour to any dish.
Top 5 herbs to plant in your garden
Rosemary is an evergreen shrub that will release an aroma whenever anyone brushes past it. It doesn’t thrive well in cold temperatures so this is an ideal herb to have in a container garden as it can be moved to warmer areas as needed. The aroma of rosemary is a natural deterrent and can help keep pests such as mosquitoes and insects at bay. It is also used in natural remedies to help relieve pain and indigestion. Rosemary compliments fish, lamb and chicken.
Basil can be grown from either seeds or clippings. This herb is extremely frost sensitive so once it is planted in early spring, it is recommended to keep it indoors or in a greenhouse until 2 weeks after the last frost to ensure that it will survive the outside. Basil is a key ingredient in many dishes, including summer salads and one of the main components of pesto.
Chives are extremely easy to grow as they are a hardy, perennial plant. They are also extremely versatile as the entire chive plant is edible. They are a common choice for border plants due to their purple blossoms, which can be used as garnishes. Their light onion flavour makes them a beloved addition to potato salads, omelettes and soups, however once upon a time, bunches of this herb were hung around the house to protect the household from evil spirits!
Mint is a very popular herb due to its many uses and its perennial nature, meaning you can harvest this herb year after year. The roots of this herb have a tendency to be invasive, so if planting in a garden with other herbs, it is advisable to grow in a bottomless bucket to hinder its roots from invading the space of your other plants. This herb is often used to add flavour to salads and sauces, with mint sauce being an excellent accompaniment to lamb. The leaves can also be dried and used in herbal tea infusions.
Parsley is a biennial plant, which means that it takes two years to complete its lifespan. In the first year, it will produce rosettes and a taproot that it will use as food stores for the winter. Along with thyme, bay leaves and sage, parsley is typically one of the herbs used in a bouquet garni – a bundle of herbs used to add an in-depth flavour to stews, casseroles and soups. This herb comes in two main varieties – flat leaf (pictured) and curly leaf. The curly leaf version is mainly used as a garnish, whereas the flat leaf variety is used in a variety of ways, including being the main ingredient in Italian salsa Verde and used within a roux sauce to accompany fish and gammon dishes.