Growing herbs are essential for every gardener and cook. They are simple to grow in your garden borders, window boxes or decorative container. As well as being pretty, fragrant and endlessly useful in the kitchen, herbs also smell wonderful and attract wildlife to your garden.
Growing herbs isn’t a one size fits all, they all come in different shapes and sizes and have their own style. Potted herbs are especially happy to grow on your patio, courtyard, decking, balcony or porch. Their unique fragrance, colour and texture bring an extra dimension to your outdoor and indoor living spaces too, and it won’t be long until you have your favourite herbs within easy reach when cooking up a storm in the kitchen.
Herbs aren’t only for those who cherish a kitchen garden on their plot, as they are easy to grow regardless of the size of your garden or weather conditions. There are quite a lot of herbs you can choose from, but lavender is used for its aromatic, sleeping and therapeutic qualities. Whereas Culinary herbs such as basil seeds & chives are for grazing and adding to a huge range of dishes. Shrubby herbs like rosemary and thyme, are grown for multiple uses but also add to the structure and character of your garden.
We will be running through the right herbs for you, how to grow from seed, choosing the right pots and containers, harvesting and overwintering your herbs and some final top tips!
Pick the Right Plants
Did you know you can grow as many types of herbs in one container as you want if they share the same sun, water, and soil preferences? This is great because you can grow many different varieties in one place! You can also opt for herb seeds or herb plants.
|Annual & Biennial Herbs||Perennial Herbs|
These Are Some of the Most Familiar Herbs in Allotmenteers Kitchen Gardens!
How to Grow Herbs From Seed
Most types of herbs can be sown in February and March in a heated greenhouse and many annual and perennial herbs can be sown outdoors from April to June. You can grow on in pots until the end of May/early June once the danger of frost has passed. The plants can then be planted outdoors in the garden or grown in pots or large containers on the patio.
Watch out for mint! Mint is invasive and if planted in the garden border it should be planted in an old bucket or large pot with the bottom removed to restrict the root spread.
- Germinate: For the best results, germinate most herbs at the beginning of spring in a seed tray and place in a heated propagator.
- Soil Preparation: Generally, sow herb seeds in peat-free compost, mix with some silver sand for sharp drainage, a covering of vermiculite on the surface may aid even germination. Be sure to label your seeds. Herb seeds can vary so always check the seed packet for growing instructions.
- Pricking Out: Once your seeds have germinated, and your seedlings have produced their first two leaves, prick out, gently holding them by the leaves and levering them out with a dibber.
- Potting On: Pot them into individual pots or cell trays.
- Going Outside: Gradually acclimatise your new herb plants by airing them outside during the day. A cold frame is a perfect place to raise your herb plants as it can be opened during the day and closed at night
Herb Compost Requirements
When potting herbs on it is fundamental that the compost is free draining. Many herbs come from dry, arid environments. Mix peat-free compost with horticultural gravel and a gravel mulch on the surface will aid the herb plants to progress. Feed your herb plants as they start to grow, a good tonic like Seaweed extract will help Mix your herbs among veggies and flowers in a cottage garden style. This varied planting is incredibly effective. Herb Wheels are another popular way to grow these plants as well as troughs and window boxes. To keep herbs healthy clip new growth regularly.
Pick the Right Pots & Containers
Your options are nearly endless, with pots that are available in a variety of styles, colors, sizes and materials.
However, the main consideration is to purchase a pot with adequate drainage. Most pots come with drainage holes, but you can always drill these into plastic or wooden pots if they don’t come with any.
You can use small pots to pot individual herbs, and pop a label in so you know which herb it is.
Alternatively, you can pot multiple pots in a large container to create your very own instant herb garden! Perfect for patios and courtyards.
Caring for Herbs
- Water & Feeding: Herbs are low maintenance so they don’t have a busy or overpowering care regime. If you grow them in containers they will need regular watering and feeding.
- Trimming: If you trim herbs back in spring this will allow new healthy leaves to come through. Also, deadhead the herbs when they are beginning to fade.
- Winter Months: In colder autumn and winter months the dead foliage actually helps protect the plant. However, fallen leaves should be removed from low-growing herbs like thyme and lavender to prevent fungal diseases. It isn’t necessary to mulch your herbs, with the exception of mint which prefers moist growing conditions.
Harvesting herbs your herbs is the best bit and you get to start enjoying them in the kitchen! Do remember that herbs should be harvested when the oils responsible for flavour and aroma are at their peak. Begin harvesting the herb when the plant has enough foliage to maintain growth. Try not to pick more than a third so the plant becomes too bare and gives the plant time to recover. Harvest early in the morning, after the dew dries, but before the heat of the day.
To dry the leaves hang bunches of about ten stems upside down in a warm dark place.
Once dried remove the leaves and store them in an air-tight container.
When freezing herbs, this is one of the easiest ways you get to enjoy their flavour for much longer! This is great for fast-growing herbs like coriander and parsley. You can freeze whole springs or chopped herbs. Place generous pinches of herbs in water-filled ice cube trays and freeze or spread the herbs loosely onto a sheet to freeze, then relocate the herbs into a large plastic bag and seal.
When the winter months come around, there are quite a few herbs that start to die back, such as tarragon and mint. One of the best things to do is to place your outdoor herbs in a place where they cannot be frozen, drenched by rain or become very dry. You could opt to place them in sheltered areas of the garden like along a wall out the way or place them in a cold frame if you have one. You can even relocate your herbs into an open-front shed.
If the weather becomes very cold and frosty, you can protect your containers from freezing and cracking by wrapping them in bubble polythene too. For other herbs like the classic basil leaf, they can only be grown if brought indoors into a warm, greenhouse, conservatory or sunny windowsill over the winter period.
We hope you find some new herbs to grow or have success with your existing herb garden. And whatever you are doing on plot, or indoors, make sure to share your gardening activities on our social media pages!
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