Growing your own produce is increasingly popular these days. If you’re keen to give it a go but are a bit apprehensive about your gardening skills, herbs are a good way to get started and they’re instantly rewarding. You can buy a small pot at the nursery, plant it and harvest (just a little bit) immediately. And if that’s not enough to convince you, the other big pluses of herbs are that they’ll grow just about anywhere and thrive with hot weather and sunshine.
You don’t need a purpose-built herb garden. You can plant your herbs in a pot, trough or window-box, or pop some in among other plants in the garden.
10 Popular Herbs to Start With
- Parsley (full sun, grow as an annual)
- Basil (full sun, grow as an annual over summer)
- Mint (part shade, perennial)
- Thyme (sun, perennial)
- Lemon balm (sun, perennial)
- Chives (sun, perennial)
- Rocket (sun, annual)
- Rosemary (sun, permanent shrub, can be grown in a pot)
- Bay (sun to part shade, small tree, can be grown in a pot)
- Sage (sun, perennial)
Herbs need sunlight, good drainage and regular water during dry weather. Most prefer good soil, but don’t be tempted to add too much compost or manure, as you’ll get rapid growth at the expense of flavour. (A good rule of thumb is to add one bag of compost or manure for every square metre.) Some Mediterranean herbs, such as rosemary and sage, prefer poorer, lime-rich soils. Mulch the soil around the herbs, taking care not to build the mulch up against their stems — about 5cm of sugarcane mulch is adequate.
When planting herbs in containers, use a good-quality potting mix and add water crystals to help the plants survive the summer heat. Instead of feeding herbs with chemical fertilisers, use a light mulch of cow manure and a weak watering of seaweed solution. That way, you can enjoy the leaves and flowers you’re eating, knowing they’re free of nasty residues.
Continually harvest herbs to keep them trim and shapely. When it comes to thyme, mint, sage and lemon balm, regular pruning — by shortening the stems by more than half — will rejuvenate your herbs when they’re looking tired. Most herbs planted in the garden will last the summer well, but potted herbs will need watering every day, and sometimes twice a day, when the weather is really hot. Take cuttings of herbs such as rosemary, thyme and lavender throughout the summer.
When the weather becomes cooler, annual herbs, such as basil, coriander and dill, will begin to flower and set seed. Never fear, once mature, these seeds can be collected by hand, then stored in paper bags in a cool, dry spot until next spring, when you can sow them and start the cycle all over again.