How To Start Your Own Herb Garden

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Everyone would love to be able to grab a handful of fresh herbs from the garden whenever they need some. But how easy is it to start your own herb garden? Let me help you out!

I’ve always been a bit of a foodie, and nothing quite compares to the satisfaction of using herbs straight from your own little garden. Plus, most herbs are pretty forgiving and can thrive in a variety of conditions, making them ideal for any level of gardener.

Where Should you Site your Herb Garden?

Deciding where to plant my herb garden is one of the more important steps you will take. The big one for me is to place it near your kitchen if this is a home garden. That way, you will be much more incentivised to go and pick some fresh herbs while you are cooking up a treat!

Next comes light; most herbs are pretty eager for sunlight, needing about 6 hours of direct light each day. Pick one of the sunnier spots in your garden, which, hopefully, hasn’t already been taken by overly ambitious tomato plants!

Another important thing is shelter. A spot that’s shielded from harsh winds and doesn’t turn into a mini lake every time it rains is perfect. A herb garden close to a south-facing wall is a great idea. The wall acts as a great windbreak and keeps herbs from getting too chilly during colder nights.

For those of us struggling with garden space, or if you’re like me and can’t commit to just one layout, pots and containers are brilliant. They’re not just space-savers; they make it easier to manage soil drainage and move your plants around following the sun’s mood swings.

Plus, setting up a modern living wall with hanging pots can turn a bland fence into a stunning, fragrant display. I’m seriously considering this for my creeping thyme and chamomile.

Growing Conditions

When diving into herb gardening, understanding the essentials about growing conditions catapults you from a newbie to someone having green-fingered prowess. The fundamental conditions are finding the perfect mix of sun, soil, and water. These elements are crucial for your herbs, and getting them right can significantly impact your garden’s health and productivity.

Sun

Here’s the deal with herbs: they love hanging out in the sun. Most of them hail from sunny regions and are naturally sun worshippers. Full sun is what they crave, but I’ve found that this doesn’t mean they need to be in direct sunlight every moment of the day.

A good rule of thumb is about 4 to 5 hours of sunlight as a minimum. However, aiming for around 7 to 8 hours would be perfect for most herbs. Mediterranean favourites like lavender, rosemary, and thyme are particularly fond of more sun.

On the flip side, some herbs such as parsley, lemon balm, and mint can manage with a bit less. They’re the ones that’ll be okay with a spot that’s a tad more shaded. Just remember, without enough sunlight, herbs tend to get a bit leggy and lose some of their potent flavours.

Soil

Soil might just be ground to some, but for herbs, it’s their home, their bed and breakfast, if you will. Getting the soil mix right can either make or break your herb garden. Herbs adore well-draining soil. They fancy themselves a bit of luxury, and soggy beds just won’t do. Again, think back to their Mediterranean roots; not many will be used to a soggy Lancashire winter!

I’ve found that for clay soil, adding well-rotted manure or compost works wonders. This breaks up the soil, allowing for better drainage. If your soil is particularly bad draining then add some perlite or small gravel to really improve the drainage situation.

Water

Herbs, much like us, enjoy a drink now and then. However, they’re not into overindulgence. Overwatering is one of the quickest ways to upset your herb garden. Watering needs vary among herb types, but generally, they prefer the soil to be slightly dry before getting another drink.

Pots and containers require vigilant watering since they dry out faster, especially the porous ones like terracotta. I’ve found grouping pots together provides them with a bit of a buffer against extreme temperatures, both hot and cold. This togetherness also helps in maintaining consistent moisture levels.

Remember, it’s all about balance. Too much water can lead to root rot, and too little leaves your herbs high and dry.

Herbs to Include

When I started my herb garden, I spent a fair bit of time figuring out which herbs would make the cut. After all, it’s not just about what looks good but what I’ll actually use in my kitchen. Here’s a rundown of the popular herbs.

Sync Up Your Herb Garden With Your Cooking

Before I dive into the specifics, it’s worth mentioning that my selection heavily leans toward what I frequently use in my cooking. If you’re a budding chef or simply love infusing your meals with fresh flavours, tailoring your herb garden to match your culinary preferences is a game changer.

Basil

Basil is a no-brainer for me. Its versatility in Italian cuisine and beyond makes it one of my go-tos. From pesto to caprese salads, basil adds a fresh, peppery taste that lifts any dish.

Here in the UK I find a lot of success by growing my Basil in the greenhouse. I like to plant it under my tomato plants, and it seems to thrive in this position without taking up vital growing room in the greenhouse.

Bay Laurel

Bay leaves are another staple. I didn’t appreciate the depth they added to soups and stews until I started throwing fresh leaves into the pot. It’s subtle, but it makes all the difference.

Bay trees themselves can survive outdoors all year round in the UK, but they don’t love it. For this reason growing your Bay in a container and bringing it into a greenhouse or shed over winter is a great idea.

Chamomile

For a touch of calm, Chamomile found its way into my garden. Brewing my own chamomile tea from the flowers I’ve grown is unbelievably satisfying.

Chives

Chives add a mild onion flavour without overpowering dishes. I often sprinkle them over soups and salads for an extra bite.

Coriander

Coriander can be a bit divisive due to its distinct flavour, but it’s a must for me. Both the leaves and seeds find their way into my cooking, offering a citrusy punch to Asian and Mexican dishes.

Dill

The feathery fronds of Dill add a unique aroma and flavour that I adore in fish dishes and pickles.

Lavender

Not just for its beauty, Lavender brings a floral note to desserts and even some savoury dishes.

Mint

Mint is a great choice as it is so simple to grow. Just be warned; it’s a vigorous grower, so I keep it in check by planting it in pots.

Parsley

Parsley is a heavy lifter in my garden. This versatile herb enhances flavours without taking over, perfect in salads, stews, and as a garnish.

Rosemary

My roast dishes wouldn’t be the same without Rosemary. Its aromatic, piney flavour is a match made in heaven for potatoes and meats.

Thyme

Another favourite, Thyme, brings depth to soups, stews, and roasts. It’s particularly lovely with chicken.

Sage

I use Sage sparingly due to its strong flavour, but it truly shines in dishes like butternut squash risotto and with pork.

Sorrel

Sorrel is somewhat of my wild card. Its lemony tang is brilliant in salads and offers a refreshing twist when cooked down.

Tarragon

Tarragon with its slight anise flavour is a star in French cuisine. I particularly enjoy it in sauces and with chicken.

Chervil

Often overlooked, Chervil lends a gentle hint of anise and parsley. It’s delicate, making it perfect for finesse in dishes.

Growing these herbs has not only elevated my cooking but also brought me immense joy. Watching them flourish and incorporating them into my meals is a reminder of the simple pleasures in life. Whether you’re a seasoned gardener or just starting, consider what flavours you love and let that guide your selection.

Growing Herbs in Pots

Growing herbs in pots has got to be one of the easiest and most enjoyable aspects of gardening. I’ve tried a whole bunch of containers, from classic terra cotta pots and quirky rain gutter planters to hanging pots that dangle beautifully on my porch. Trust me, whether it’s a sprawling backyard garden or a small windowsill in the kitchen, container gardening is the way to go for herbs.

What I love most is the versatility. You can really get creative with the types of containers you use. A half wine barrel, a gleaming galvanized metal tub, or even an oversized pot can house a variety of herbs together.

For those with a bit less space or who prefer a more minimalist approach, keeping each herb in its smaller, individual pot works wonders, especially when growing herbs indoors.

Ensuring these pots have drainage holes is crucial. Herbs do not like to sit in waterlogged soil. Poor drainage can lead to all sorts of problems, including root rot and fungal diseases. So, whatever container catches your eye, make sure it’s got a way for excess water to escape.

One thing’s for sure, growing herbs in pots has transformed my gardening game. It’s flexible, fun, and allows for so much creativity. Whether you’re planning to cultivate a collection of culinary herbs like basil and thyme or something more exotic, container gardening opens up a world of possibilities.

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