A Beginner’s Guide To Starting A Herb Garden

Would you love a fragrant herb garden outside your back door but are not sure where to start?

Never fear!

 

Starting a herb garden is one of the easiest ways to introduce yourself and your family into gardening and growing your own food.

So, Where To Start?

Growing a herb garden is super easy! You need 2 main things,

  • Lots of sunshine
  • Very well-drained soil.

So, when planning out your herb garden, make sure you choose a site that has at least 6 hours of sunshine each day.

If you find garden space is tight, you can plant herbs in containers. They do really well in pots as this helps the drainage stay really sharp and it’s also easier position them in a sunny area.

A very modern way to grow herbs is part of a living wall. Hang planting pockets all over a vertical fence or wall, and you can easily cover an ugly area with beautiful plants. Creeping thyme, and camomile are fantastic for this idea.

Ideally, when planning your herb garden, remember it is something you want near to the kitchen, so you can nip out in your slippers and snip a few springs off when your cooking dinner.

Having your herb garden close by is also a good way to encourage your kids to take on some responsibility. Let them water your herb garden, care for it, then pick leaves to eat and bring into the kitchen for cooking.

Starting a herb garden is one of the easiest ways to introduce yourself and your family into gardening and growing your own food.

Preparing the Soil Before You Plant a Herb Garden

Once you have decided between growing your herbs in pots or growing them in the ground, the next thing you need to do is prepare the soil.

Herbs like to grow in free draining soil, they hate sitting in soggy damp soil so if the soil is sand or clay heavy, the preparation is the same. Start by adding lots of sand or grit to open the soil and let the water run through.

Then add plenty of garden compost. Even if your soil is in pretty good condition, working some compost into the soil will help provide nutrients to the herbs while they are growing.

However, when growing herbs, do not use manure in the herb garden.To much feed can reduce the plant’s growth as they prefer poor soil.

Need more help starting a vegetable garden? Check out our ‘How to grow a vegetable garden’ course for all the help you need.

 

How To Grow Your Own  Herbs

 

You can start simply by sowing herbs from seeds. Herbs such as basil, coriander and parsley in pots on a windowsill from January to early April.
 
Then as the outdoor temperatures rise, and soil conditions allow, you can sow seeds of chives and dill, directly into your pots of soil or directly in the grounds outdoors.
 
Another super easy way to multiply
your herbs is to take cuttings of some herbs such as bay, oregano, mint, rosemary, tarragon and thyme. These can be taken from late summer.
 
Also, if you already have existing clumps of herbs such as, oregano, mint and thyme can be divided into smaller clumps in spring.
The easiest way to fill your herb garden quickly is obviously to visit your local garden centre or plant nursery that offers a range of young plants in pots or plugs.
 
 
When you get your new plants home, they need to be removed from their packaging and potted up into bigger pots so they can grow a little bigger on a sunny windowsill until the roots have filled the pot. Then they are ready to get used to the big outdoors
 

Planting Your Herbs Outdoors.

Plant out young herbs after getting them used to the outdoors more and more each day.
You can do this by sitting the pots outdoors in a sheltered area for an hour or 2 on a mild day. Bring them in after the time is up and extend the time more each day until they are out all day and night.
 
This is called hardening off and prepares the plant for the change of atmosphere and temperature so it doesn’t get a shock.
 
 Before planting them outdoors, make sure the soil in the plant pots and the soil or compost in the ground or pot is moist before you start.

Harvesting Herbs Is So Easy!

Some herbs and salads leaves such as coriander, wild rocket and cress may be ready to harvest within a few days of sowing, while others may take a few weeks. They can be picked easily by pinching the tops off  or snipping with scissors.
 
For a continuous supply:
  • Some herbs go to seed very quickly, so for herbs like coriander, sow just a few seeds at a time but do it more often. Once a week for example, this way as one set of seeds is finishing the next is almost at its best.
  • So more than one type of each seed to stretch out the growing season. Some may be best harvested august and september but you may find an early variety that is good to go for a few weeks before it too.
  • Pot up herbs such as chives, mint, parsley, or tarragon grown outdoors and bring them inside for the winter. Just standing them on a south-facing windowsill.
  • Contain stronger-growing herbs such as mint, lemon balm and sage to stop them spreading all over the place.
  • Start early in the spring by sowing herbs under cloches and frames. Another trick to extend the season.

So,What Herbs Should You Try?

All of the commonly used culinary herbs can easily be grown in traditional herb or vegetable gardens, raised beds, containers or the mixed border. Some of these include;
  • Popular annuals like basil, coriander and parsley.
  • Biennials: caraway, chervil and parsley
  • Perennials: borage, chives, fennel, marjoram, mint, sage, tarragon and thyme

Basil

A tender annual in the uk as it is unable to withstand our wet, cold weather which means basil can only be grown here outdoors in the summer. However it grows really well on a south-facing windowsill.
Basil loves fertile soil, and as much warmth and sun light as possible.
 

Chives.

A perennial clump forming relative of the onion family. Chives is one of my favourites for its onion flavour in potato salad and other dishes and for its beautiful pinky edible flowers.
This is a great herb to have in your garden to help attract pollinators too as bees and butterflies love it.
Easy to grow, chives love cool weather, fertile soil and a good drink.
.The only problem with chives can be that they self seed, so remove the spent flowers and seeds if you’d rather it didn’t.
 

Mint

Mint is a fast growing perennial with delicious smelling pointed leaves and tiny purple, pink, or white flowers.

They like light soil that is watered often. Mint can often be refered to as a thug due to its habit of spreading far and wide using underground runners. So unless your happy for it to spread, it’s a good idea to keep this one in a pot.

There are so many varieties of mint, each with very different smells and tastes, ie apple mint, spearmint, and pineapple mint to name few but you can always tell a member of the mint family as it has a square stem.

Coriander

Coriander likes a sunny position but also appreciates a little shade during the day.

Plants will run to seed quickly in hot weather so this is important for leaf varieties.

To achieve a constant supply of leaves through the Summer, sow small amounts all through the summer.

Coriander is will grow best sown directly rather than grown in seed trays and transplanting. This is because transplanting disturbance will also cause then to run to seed.

 

Dill

Dill is a tall annual or biennial herb with ferny foliage that is topped with yellow flowers in summer.

It has a wonderful smell and flavour from the ferny leaves that can be chopped into salads, soups, or used to flavour rice.

Dill roots hate being disturbed or being transplanted, so sow straight in the garden where you want it to grow.

One big tip is to not allow the soil to dry out. Water plants regularly, especially during hot, summers.

You should also support plants with garden canes or sticks to prevent them toppling over in a gust of wind.

 

Marjoram

When growing marjoram, it’s best to start the seeds indoors during early spring.
 
Marjoram should be grown in areas receiving full sun with light, well-drained soil.
 

Parsley

Parsley is a biennial plant which has bright green, feathery leaves similar to dill.

This popular herb is used in sauces and especially soups, as it lessens the need for salt.

Parsley is incredibly good for you; as it’s rich in iron and vitamins A and C.

Starting a herb garden is one of the easiest ways to introduce yourself and your family into gardening and growing your own food for your family

Thyme and rosemary

I’m putting these two together as they have the same needs and likes and I tend to use them together.

They thrive in hot conditions, and love full-sun.

They don’t need constant watering or attention so they are great to plant them in both containers and within your garden.

 
 

So, To Recap…

The main things to remember when growing herbs

1. That herbs can be grown in any well-drained soil.
2. Good, bright sunlight is vital.
3. Herbs generally need little fertiliser and crop well without much feeding.
4. Most herbs need a neutral to alkaline soil.
 
So, give it a go and see what yummy herbs you can grow.
 
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Starting a herb garden is one of the easiest ways to introduce yourself and your family into gardening and growing your own.
 

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