Green thumb kitchen: 5 tips to grow your own herb garden

Healthy garnish on tap! Grow your own herbs!

Recipe for Vegetarain Chilli

Growing your own herbs can be an extremely rewarding endeavour. Not only do you have your very own fresh supply of herbs to add to meals, salads and even desserts, but herbs are on the whole easy to grow in a relatively small space. In combination with other money-saving practices, such as switching to cheaper energy providers, growing your own herbs can contribute to welcome reductions to your monthly bills. Follow our five top tips to creating the perfect herb garden.

1. Consider your Environment

The first factor to consider, of course, is how much space you have. Raised beds are fantastic if you have the space and the know-how and enthusiasm to create them. Otherwise, they can be grown easily in the borders amongst other plants or you could devote a corner of the patio to a growing selection of pots and containers. Bear in mind that many popular culinary herbs come from the Mediterranean region and do best in an open, sunny position. They won’t appreciate being planted up against a north-facing wall!

You’ll also need to think about soil and factors such as drainage, but most herbs will do very well in simple potting compost. The addition of organic matter helps to add structure to the soil and improve drainage, as well as adding valuable nutrients. Add some organic matter into the soil in spring, for example bark chips, grass clippings and groundcover plants. You may also want to add some nitrogen fertiliser.

2. Stick to the Basics to Begin With

To start off with, it’s best to invest in the basic kinds of herbs, those that you’ll use on a daily basis and that work well in several different dishes. Think herbs such as thyme, basil, rosemary, sage and mint. A word of warning about mint though – give it the right condition and it will happily spread! Your collection will gradually grow as you experiment with different and more unusual herbs.

3. Buy Seedlings or Small Plants

Many people grow their herbs directly from seed, but some herbs especially can be quite tricky to grow, so if you’re new to gardening you might want to start with plants that are already fairly established. Of course you could always try some seeds at the same time, but small plants will yield results much more quickly. They aren’t much more expensive than a packet of seeds, either.

4. Water a Little and Often

Herbs often thrive on a different kind of watering regime to houseplants. If you’re used to growing houseplants, you’re probably accustomed to giving them a decent watering once a week or so. Herbs can wilt quickly, especially if grown in pots, so don’t forget about them and keep them topped up regularly with enough water, especially during those hot summer months. It’s unlikely that you’ll water them too much, at least not if they have good drainage.

5. Cut Early and Often, From the Top

Herbs are there to be used, so don’t be afraid to get snipping with the scissors once you spot an abundance of fresh young leaves. Cut the herb off at the stem above growing leaves – this way, the plant will start to branch out and take on a nice sturdy, structured shape rather than becoming tall and top-heavy. Take your first snip a few inches off the soil. You want, also, to take the fresh, tender young leaves which have more flavour than the older growth near the base of the plant.

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