When I do some cooking at home, there is nothing nicer than going into the garden and selecting the fresh herbs I want to include in my meal. And the beauty of it all is, growing herbs doesn’t have to be complicated.
Today, I want to give you some tips on how to start a wonderful herb garden. How and where to start your garden and how to look after your herbs. Don’t worry, you will find that growing herbs will soon become second nature.
Possibly the best thing you can do is to take it slowly. You don’t have to grow everything at once. Start with the popular ones, basil, oregano, and parsley. As you progress, then you will discover that rosemary, sage, and thyme would do nicely as well. Then, a little mint and dill (careful, they’re toxic for cats) and some coriander too? By now, you should become addicted and can’t imagine life without chervil and borage.
One question we often get asked during our coffee and chat sessions is where to plant them, indoors or outdoors? Kitchen windowsills are great (I do that too) but it only really works out if your kitchen has at least six hours of sunshine every day. If that doesn’t work, you could try another room or you will have to plant them outside somewhere.
Herbs tend to grow faster outdoors, and they have a better aroma. But the downside is of course, that herbs really like moderate temperatures, and these can’t be guaranteed. Which is why we recommend growing them in portable containers – you can move them around according to the weather.
You will most likely find growing herbs from seed easier indoors. Basil, dill, oregano and coriander are easy to grow from seed. Parsley, sage, rosemary, mint and thyme are a little more difficult, so you may want to buy them in pots.
Here’s what we advise when you want to start growing from seed. You will need some flower pots, seed trays or any other containers. If necessary, drill some drainage holes on the bottom. Then, fill the containers with good quality potting soil. Next, add water, but only so that the soil is well moistened but not “dripping wet”. Sow the seeds according to the instructions on the packaging. Place the planting containers in a warm place where they will get plenty of sun.
If we’re not too busy, then bring your containers and we’ll start you off.
Don’t transplant the herbs outdoors until after the last frost. But we do advise hardening them off beforehand. All you have to do is leave the pots outside for an hour or two. Doing this will acclimatise them to the outdoor temperatures. As the days get longer and warmer, you can gradually extend this time span until you are ready to plant them outdoors.
Pamper your herbs and do a garden workout as well. Ideally, you should dig your patch to a depth of about 30 cm. Keep turning the soil as you dig, break it up, and remove all large stones and roots. Then mix in some nutrient-rich compost from the garden centre or compost heap.
Luckily, most herbs are low maintenance and quite resistant to pests and diseases once they are fully grown. Your seedlings will need to be protected from slugs and snails. However, you can avoid this problem by not planting your herbs outdoors until they have reached a certain height.
Herbs really need good drainage and the right amount of water. It varies greatly between herbs, with some – like parsley – preferring moist soil and others – like rosemary and thyme – doing better with less moisture. Therefore, it helps if you plant all your plants with the same watering needs in the same container or piece of soil.
As with most plants, if you water herbs too much, it can lead to root rot. This can be fatal. What we do is make a small hole in the soil with your finger to check the soil moisture 1-2 cm below the surface. If the surface is dry, it doesn’t mean the soil underneath is dry. If you use containers, you can simply lift the containers – dry soil is much lighter than soil with a lot of moisture.
Last but not least, don’t hesitate to harvest your herbs. After all, that’s what they’re there for. Some of the herbs – like basil, oregano and parsley – benefit from regular harvesting, but you will need to leave some leaves to keep them growing. Most herbs should be harvested before flowering because they become bitter afterwards. Some plants, such as coriander and dill, develop seeds very quickly, so you should grow new plants at intervals of a few weeks so that you always have enough supply.
No matter what you want to start with, there are few things easier than growing herbs. To get started as easily as possible, simply buy one or two plants and familiarise yourself with their watering needs. All we can say is don’t wait any longer to start this delicious and rewarding part of gardening.
And if you have any questions, some time and are in the mood for a cup of coffee, you know where to find us.