Planting a herb garden or planter needn't be daunting
Growing herbs in your garden is a great way to bring colour and fragrance, as well as keeping your kitchen well stocked and it can even be a great way of saving money. A thriving herb garden can be a worthwhile and satisfying addition to any garden, no matter what the size – and the good news is it’s not too difficult to get started!
Planting in the garden
The first thing to do is identify the perfect spot in your garden to start planting. Most herbs grow well with a little sunlight and regular watering – though it pays to check that the space you’re using receives at least 4 hours of sunlight a day. If the temperature where you are regularly rises above 30°, it’s best to choose a spot that will be shaded for some of the day so the plants don’t become scorched (though those of us lucky enough to live in the UK probably needn’t worry too much about that!).
Once you’ve identified your spot, it’s important to wait until the frosts have passed. Most herbs aren’t that hardy, and won’t survive a freeze, so bide your time to save wasting plants. When the weather starts improving, make sure your chosen location has well-drained soil – existing vegetable or flower beds are ideal for planting herbs in, as the conditions are the same as what most herbs need to thrive. If you’re giving the herbs their own area, try to allow about a foot in diameter for each plant, to allow them to spread as they grow and mature. More rigorous herbs like mint, marjoram and oregano may even need up to three feet, but this is just a guide and has to depend on the space you have available.
Next, loosen up the soil with a garden fork. Herbs really need good water drainage, and plenty of space for their roots to reach and spread, so don’t skip this step – Mediterranean herbs like oregano and sage prefer poor, almost sandy soil. You could also add some compost to the top layer of soil to add a bit of nourishment. Scoop holes in the soil, and place your herbs into the hole, patting the soil around to hold in place.
When planting, place taller growing plants at the back, and shorter plants in front so you can see them all clearly, and for easy access when it comes to harvesting. Once the plants are bedded in, water them as soon as the soil feels dry to the touch – it’s important not to over-water as herbs are susceptible to diseases and stunted growth.
When it’s time to harvest, just cut off about a third of the leaves when the plant reaches around 8 inches tall. Most herbs regrow really quickly, but you can spur this on by cutting close to where the leaf grows from the stem.
Growing in a planter
If you’re short on space in the garden, or perhaps fancy making the most of a balcony or window planter, herbs can be grown very well in pots – plus, you save yourself the bother of digging the soil etc.
Start with a clay or plastic pot of at least 8 inches in diameter, and fill with moistened potting soil – then follow the same steps, placing your plants into hollows in the soil. Place a plate or stand underneath the pot if you’re concerned about the surface getting damp, and remember to simply water when the soil feels dry and ensure your potted herbs get at least four hours of sunshine a day. With time, the plants may outgrow their pots, so be prepared to re-pot if needed.
With a bit of TLC, your herbs can thrive and provide colour, greenery and amazing fragrance for years to come!