Providing long-lasting displays, wonderful scents and fabulous flavours to use in our kitchens, herbs are great all-rounders and a truly worthwhile addition to any garden. And you’ll always be able to find space for them, because herbs are at home in beds and borders, in pots or containers or in a dedicated herb garden.
Check out a few of our top tips, and then make your own plan for heavenly herbs!
Location, location, location…
Where you choose to plant your herbs can have a big impact on their success, and how much you use them – our guide is as follows…
- Many herbs originate from the Mediterranean, so they’ll relish a site where they can bake in full sun during the Summer.
- Soil should be free-draining, as wet and waterlogged ground will lead to root damage and, ultimately, plant loss.
- In beds and borders… include flowering chives and shrubs such as rosemary and sage, they work well with other border plants, and quite literally become an edible part of your garden scenery. And if you need to improve drainage, then simply add grit when planting.
- Hard path edging can be softened by planting thyme, which can also be used to fill gaps between paving, and will release wonderful aromas when you nudge it with your feet as you brush past. Plus you can choose lovely green, silver or gold foliage, and benefit from colourful flowers too!
- Dedicated herb gardens… can be as informal as you like, but successful designs often include the use of brick pavers for containing the area, and using them to divide it – creating small paths which offer easy access for picking.
- In pots and containers… herbs can be planted either individually or in groups to create bold combinations – and they have the added benefit of being a movable feast!
- Finally, a really important point is to make sure you have at least some herbs reasonably close to the house, so that it’s easy to pop out to the garden for fresh pickings while you’re busy cooking up a culinary storm!
There are lots of herbs to choose from, but we’ve picked our favourites below:
Mint – added to salads, cooked with new potatoes or used in herb teas, mint is an incredibly versatile herb. Flavours vary too, offering a huge range from powerful peppermints and spearmints, through to those with delicate underlying tastes of apple, banana, and even chocolate! Just one word of caution… mint can be a little invasive, so wherever you choose to plant it, it’s a good idea to use a large pot or bottomless bucket.
Basil – one of the most well-known and well-used herbs in the UK, basil is a key ingredient in Italian dishes including pizza, pasta and pesto. As it doesn’t survive Winter in the UK your basil should be grown from seed each year.
Sow in pots and place on a warm windowsill indoors, potting on your seedlings as they grow – once the final risk of frost has passed you can either choose to plant them outside, or leave them inside for easy access, picking off leaves as you need them.
Coriander – another incredibly versatile herb, and popular in curries, Chinese and Thai dishes, both the seeds and leaves of coriander plants can be used to offer two distinct flavours. Seeds have a slight lemon flavour and are often ground and used as a spice, while the leaves are chopped and added to give a real flavour injection to a wide variety of dishes and breads.
Best grown from seed directly where required (they don’t take kindly to transplanting), they like the sun but appreciate shade during the hottest part of the day. Re-sow every three weeks to ensure a continual supply during the Summer.
Sage – used to make stuffing, flavour meat dishes, and introduce a taste of the Mediterranean to a multitude of dishes, sage is an easy to grow hardy perennial. There are plenty of varieties to try, including those with purple and variegated foliage, and a range of differently coloured flowers which are irresistible to bees!
Leaves can simply be snipped or pinched off as required and, like most herbs, these are best used fresh (although they can also be dried and frozen too).
Tolerant of most conditions, sage requires little maintenance, although once plants are more than three years old, you may find the leaves lose some of their flavour – at which point you can simply take some cuttings and grow new plants!
Rosemary – is a hardy shrub with a long flowering season and highly aromatic leaves. Upright forms are great for the border or herb garden, and those with a weeping habit look graceful in containers.
Pruning isn’t required to keep plants healthy, but is beneficial for creating bushy productive plants and can be carried out during the Spring or Summer.
Chives – are a low maintenance perennial herb with wonderfully pungent leaves which are delicious chopped and mixed into salad, or added to other dishes – and they go particularly well with potatoes and egg.
Primarily grown for their tasty leaves, chives also produce edible pink flowers which make an attractive garnish – and as a perennial, you can be confident they’ll be back next year too!
Plus, of course, we’ve already mentioned tremendous thyme!
Top tips for growing herbs…
- Although many herbs are of Mediterranean origin and relish hot, dry conditions, those planted in pots do require regular watering to prevent them drying out – so stand pots in saucers of water to ensure that moisture can be taken up as required – and you’ll keep potted herbs at their most productive!
- Add fertiliser to watering once a week to feed plants and keep them growing strongly, or mix slow-release fertiliser granules into the compost at planting time.
- Regular picking of herbs such as basil encourages side shoots to form, which keeps plants bushy with a constant supply of fresh, young growth.
- Remember to also pick and dry the leaves of herbs such as thyme, sage and bay to store and use when cooking.
- Use colourful herb flowers – from herbs such as chives, basil, coriander and thyme – as a decorative garnish for Summer salads.
The herbs we’ve chosen are just the tip of the herb iceberg – there are so many more to choose from with which you can create your own wonderfully vibrant herb garden.
We have a great selection of plants and seeds in-store now, so pop in make your selections to create your own herb heaven!