How to Grow Herbs

herb garden, growing herbs
growing herbs

For centuries, growing herbs have been popular for their culinary and healing properties. And guess what? They remain as popular as ever to date! Herbalists love their healing qualities; the cooks love the unique flavour they lend to all kinds of drinks and food; and gardeners prefer growing their own due to their excellent quality, including their natural resistance to pests and low maintenance. If you want to learn more about how to grow culinary herbs, you are at the right place because today, we will discuss it in more detail. 

Growing Annual and Perennial Herbs

If you plan to start growing herbs soon, you must have probably come across specific terms such as – annual and perennial herbs. So, what exactly does it mean? The answer is as follows:

Annual Herbs

Annual herbs don’t come back, meaning they live for only one year. The mature plants flower and die during one growing season and can be cut and enjoyed during summer. They typically produce across the season until frost, so you’ll still enjoy consistent colour and scent. Some popular annual herbs include basil, dill, German chamomile, summer savoury, and parsley. So if you want to grow annual herbs in the garden you have to sow the seeds every spring.

herb garden

Perennial Herbs

On the other hand, perennials come back for several seasons and live for more years. Their top portion dies in winter, and new growth appears the following spring season from the same root system. For the same reason, planting perennial herbs is easier and helps enhance your herb garden space as well as your cooking year after year. These don’t require much attention, so you can easily plant them indoors or outdoors – even in small pots! The plants do well when planted during fall or spring before the ground freezes. You must provide perennials with the right growing conditions to enjoy the best flavour. Just plant them in full sun, as it will help bring the oils to the leaves’ surface, giving them a much stronger kick.

To keep them healthy and active, pick fresh leaves regularly and enjoy them with salads, drinks, and foods. Some popular perennial herbs include- chicory, caraway, chives, echinacea, lemon grass, mint, lovage, and oregano.

Choose the right location for Herbs

You won’t believe it, but herb plants are one of the easiest to grow at home. All you require is plenty of sunlight, water, and soil. When choosing the best space for your herb garden, there are several factors you need to consider, one of the most important being location. Firstly, you must choose a location because most herbs need plenty of sunshine to grow and reach their full potential. So whether you are interested in growing indoors or outdoor spaces, read through the essential aspects to get better blooms.

Best Location in the Garden to Grow Herbs

Like most sun-loving plants, herbs need a maximum daily allowance of sunlight in the herb garden. If they don’t receive enough sunlight, especially when you grow herbs indoors, they will become unproductive instead of lush and beautiful. Grow indoors only if you have a really sunny windowsill. Of course, there are shade-loving plants, too, but you will find the choice highly limited. If you are looking for the best location in your garden for herbs, you need to consider a few aspects. 

  • Before you start digging, make a note of all the sunny spots in your garden. You can check the spots every few hours to see how long the sun remains at any given location.
  • If your garden has limited sunlight, you may think of container gardening. By growing herbs in a container, you can easily move them to follow the much-needed sunlight.
  • Your herb plants require well-drained soil to be able to do best, so make sure it is light and easy to till. When choosing the right location, don’t forget to look over the soil. 

Location plays an important role, so choose a nearby site that’s most convenient both for the plants and yourself. So take your time, do some research, and ensure you have the place that will deliver the highest-quality herbs. 

herbs growing outside

Best Location for Pots

So the best thing about herbs is that they can easily be grown in pots, too. Almost anything of any size will work; all you need to remember for most varieties is that they prefer fast-draining soil. Your pot should have adequate holes and help the soil drain well. Alternatively you can sow seeds in a raised bed.

Now, coming to the location, most herb varieties require at least 6 hours of sunlight per day for best results. So, if you have herbs indoors in pots, many will do fine on a windowsill directly exposed to the sun. Additionally, the essential oils that give herbs the much-loved flavour and aroma are produced best when they receive plenty of sunlight. If the indoors are not receiving adequate sunlight, you may also use fluorescent lamps, especially during winter. That said, it is easy to provide plants with light, and if the location isn’t getting enough sun, pick up the pot and move to a warmer and brighter spot.

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herbs in kitchen

When to sow herb seeds

The satisfaction and immense joy of sowing seeds are unbeatable. As they are one of the easier edible plants to grow, they are generally suitable for beginners. We therefore recommend taking a moment to understand how to sow the herb seeds to enjoy more extensive, nutritious herb plants.

Sowing In pots or Trays Indoors

When growing your herb garden, consider some sort of seed trays and good quality seed compost. It helps to keep the seeds always hydrated, and the lid can help trap the humidity. You can sow seeds throughout the entire year. However, we recommend you start growing herbs during early spring or March so they can mature by summer when days are longer and they receive maximum sunlight.

You are advised to sow indoors basil seeds only from late spring throughout the summer months as basil hates the cold British nights. It is an easy to grow herb you just have to watch the temperature even in the summer months if you want to grow basil outdoors.

Note: When you have decided to start sowing seeds, just one day before the set-up, soak the herb seeds. Though it is not mandatory, it will help soften the hard outer shell, thereby increasing germination rates. Also make sure that you use good quality seed compost. Few varieties, such as parsley and coriander, benefit when soaked for 12-24 hrs. On the other hand, the different herbs that require little light to encourage germination in the herb garden include thyme, lemon balm, chives, and cilantro.

sowing herbs in pots

Growing Herbs Direct Outside

You can do this by directly sowing them in the soil in the herb garden. We have a range of excellent herb seeds available. It is a great method for both annuals and biennials, in the herb garden, they reach their full size and also require less maintenance.

Generally, most herbs prefer sunny locations, but you can check the seed packet for more information. Also, don’t forget to add organic matter to the soil. When sowing directly in the herb garden, you should select a good site. After sowing, water the herbs regularly. You can place it in the garden, and remember, seedlings don’t need full sun until after germination.

When seedlings begin to deliver a set of true leaves, your plant is ready for transplanting. If you plan to keep your plants outside the herb garden, let seedlings sit outside for a few days before transplanting them. You can move them into bigger containers or raised beds to give the roots room enough to grow.

Growing Herbs in Pots

In addition to the location, choosing the right pot is one of the most important aspects to look for when planting herbs. You can easily move potted herbs around as needed, and accordingly, you can change the arrangement depending on the season. 

Here are the tips on choosing the right pot for your herbs:

Prefer using a pot that has excellent drainage holes.

The pots you choose should have great-sized drainage holes to easily allow draining. Overwatering is a common issue, and since the roots should never be soaked in water, your pots need to let out water.

Choose the right size of the pot.

One of the essential things that gardeners often overlook is the size of the pot. The size you choose contributes to the overall size of the herb plant. So, if you want your herb plant to reach its full potential, select a pot that can easily accommodate mature-size plants.

The right material for the herb pots

As pots are made of different materials, choosing them carefully, depending on their material, is essential. The material used in the pot is typically based on the following factors.

  • Durability for holding the outdoor elements.
  • Moisture retaining ability of the material.
  • Weight of the pot.
pots

Herb Garden Ideas

Do you know there is a huge variety of herbs which you can easily grow together in your garden? Before we discuss, let’s first understand the factors needed to ensure the herbs grow well.

Location

Herbs with similar requirements, such as soil, water, full sun, are generally good companions. 

Growth

If many herbs grow at the same pace, there is no danger of one outgrowing the other. So be assured, as both herbs can thrive side by side without harming each other as they become mature plants.

Several herbs that grow well with each other include rosemary, sage, thyme, camomile, parsley, chives, basil, lemon balm, and borage.

Pick the best planting times for potted herbs

You will be surprised to learn some herbs can easily be grown and harvested all year round. Whether you are growing them indoors or outdoors, it is essential to consider the type of herb, climate, and when to grow them. The annual herbs are best sown in spring for harvesting in summer and into the autumn.

In all cases, spring is the best and most reliable time of the year. During this time, the soil temperature is ideal, and weather conditions are mild, meaning seedlings won’t get damaged by the extreme heat or cold. Some hardy perennial herbs, such as rosemary and thyme, can be harvested throughout the entire year. Also, perennial herbs like sage, rosemary, and thyme can be grown from cuttings in summer. So, these can be brought into the greenhouse during winter to keep a small supply ready for fresh picking. After this, they can be planted into their final position after the frost has passed in late spring.

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So, if we ensure to provide suitable conditions, we can easily grow herbs and watch them thrive!

indoor herb garden

Repotting Herbs

Herbs are low-maintenance plants, but they do require repotting occasionally. When you buy them at the supermarket or garden center, they come in tiny pots with little soil. It is essential to understand that these growing herbs cannot thrive well in these conditions as they are temporary means to accommodate the plant. As potted herbs outgrow containers, they require a larger pot and fresh compost to suit their growing conditions. Well drained soil and larger containers what is needed to grow herbs when it comes to repotting.

Types of pot

Pot size doesn’t really matter as long as it is at least two inches deep. Larger pots allow roots too much space to grow and hold much water, which can result in root rot.

Potting soil

Use quality potting soil from the garden supply to ensure the herb receives good nutrients. Once you have chosen it, fill the pot with no more than half full of potting soil, slightly bringing it up to the sides of the pot.

Root ball preparation

Before repotting any herb to create a kitchen garden, it is essential to consider the root ball’s preparation carefully. Preparing it well encourages the plant to grow properly.

Repotting

Once you are done with root ball preparation, it’s time to repot the plants. You can do it by gently placing the prepared plant in a new container. You need to ensure the plant is not sitting any deeper in the new container and can fill the empty spaces around the plant with potting soil. Gently and firmly press the ground around the root ball as you fill the container. Once you are finished repotting the herb, moisten the roots with water to promote new growth.

Repotting herbs gives them a new life, especially when rootbound in existing pots. By using proper repotting techniques, you can ensure the herbs absorb nutrients effectively and grow freely. Also make sure that you use a well drained soil to grow herbs.

potted herbs

Grow more herbs from potted plants

No matter what size or variety, potted herbs do add an extra dimension of beauty to your patio, deck, or outdoor spaces. You will love their lively colours, fragrances and textures. You can grow more herb plants easily from potted plants. There is no better time to begin filling your indoor or outdoor space with woody herbs, providing a fragrance that sweetly lingers in the air.

Practically, you can grow and regrow any herb in the pot as long as you are providing the right pot and mix. In fact, some of the herbs are particularly suited to growing in pots, especially basil, chives, oregano, parsley, and thyme. Another thing you need to consider is pairing the kind of herbs with the right-sized pot. As a general rule, use pots as small as 10 inches in diameter and larger for a single herb. And pots with a minimum of 18 inches diameter are great for growing multiple herbs. 

When creating multiple plants, pair the herbs with similar water and light requirements. You should allow enough space between plants so they all can grow and thrive well. 

Herbs to Grow Through Propagation

Do you know it is easier to grow herbs through propagation? Yes, you can easily double up their number with little effort, patience, and time. The best part? You may never have to buy from a nursery because there are many herbs that can easily propagate by cuttings!

Propagation can be done easily, but it does require patience. It can often take you a month or more for cuttings to develop a decent root system. Whenever you plan to take cuttings from a plant, it is essential to use sharp tools such as a pair of scissors. Now, cut at least 6″ -10″ long and ensure it has 5-6 leaves on it and at least one node. These little joints contain cells responsible for making new leaves and stems.

When propagating herbs, you can either do it with water propagation or soil propagation. Both are easy processes and will yield good results.

In water propagation, you can place cuttings into small water vessels and wait for the root system to develop. You can also include a bit of organic fertilizer for some extra help! Be sure to monitor the water levels so tiny new roots don’t dry out. Grow herbs this way only if you have a good amount of cuttings as success rate can be low.

propagating rosemary

What Herbs Can I Propagate?

Well, to answer this, you can propagate all kinds of herbs, but it may not make sense to do so, especially annual varieties. Why? By the time the stem cuttings develop the root system and is ready to be planted, the growing season may be ending soon. In such cases, it would be good to purchase more nursery starts or plan your planting more of that specific herb the next year. Growing rosemary this way is the best option to have a quick established rosemary bush.

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When planning to choose herbs for propagating, keep in mind a few things-

  • Whether herb is annual or perennial.
  • Your growing zone.
  • If the herb can be planted outside or indoors.

Looking after your herb plants

Here are helpful tips for looking after your herbs in the garden this season and to have a continuous supply of fresh herbs.

  • Provide adequate drainage system

Make sure that the container or pot you choose has drainage holes and a layer of small stones at the bottom. 

  • Allow repotting Even if the plants already come in a pot, replant them into larger ones with enough room for them to grow and thrive well. 
  • Do not overwater Gardeners often worry they are not watering the plants enough. But just remember, too much water is bad for your plant. You need to just water until the top layer’s soil is moist.
  • Be careful when taking clippings It is a smart idea not to cut all of the leaves of the plant in one go. Instead, you should take a mix of mature and new leaves from it. Just don’t clip leaves off of just the top or the bottom – plants use them to photosynthesize and will die if there aren’t enough of them.
holy basil in pots

Harvesting Fresh Herbs

Once you have lots of herbs and they are well-developed, most require quick harvesting, unlike other edibles that need time to ripen and mature. So, the key to keeping your herbs growing is to harvest them regularly. Moreover, harvesting is equal to pruning, and it is mainly done to encourage growth. This is especially true with fast-growing annual herbs such as basil, dill, and cilantro. The same is true for slow-growing perennial herbs such as rosemary, thyme and sage.

Most herbs are harvested from the top or outside of the plant. Plants such as coriander, parsley, leaves and stems can be harvested from the bottom of the central system. The lower leaves on these plants tend to brown out as they begin to age. So, pitching out the top of the central system can be helpful. Also, harvest herbs when they are dry as they are rich with essential oils and most fragrant during the mid-morning and early afternoon.

Young Leaf Growth Taste

Pinching the herb with young leaves when it is about 3-5 inches tall prevents the leggy growth and makes the plant bushier. So when you begin to notice the first set of leaves on the stem, pinch them with your fingers. Additionally, you can remove the growth of the buds using sharp shears or fingernails because it helps the plant brand out more, resulting in lusher growth.

Flowering Affects the Taste

Do you know flowering can greatly impact the flavour and lifespan of herbs? If your own herbs taste bad and has stopped producing leaves when it flowers, then it’s bolting. 

Therefore, many often demand non-flowering, freshly cut greens, especially for culinary purposes. For gardeners, the flowering of herbs is usually undesirable as its vegetative growth can stop once flower initiation begins. Although basil has brilliant edible flowers and so does thyme.

freezing herbs

Storing Herbs

Herbs are one of the favourite ingredients across the world used in the kitchen for the preparation of pesto, sauces and dishes. But if you are not careful with them, you can spoil them quickly. With that in mind, storing fresh herbs correctly means keeping them fresh for more extended periods. So, to help you, we have listed a few tips to keep them ready for use!

Annual herbs

  • Clean and prep your herb to ensure longevity. 
  • Remove the twist tie or band holding them, and then run them under tap water to remove any dirt. After they are clean, let them dry with a clean towel and remove as much water as possible.
  • Once the herbs are properly cleaned and dry, you can trim them from the bottom, approximately half an inch from the stem. You can place them in an upright container with 1-2 inches of water. But you need to ensure leaves do not touch the water. Keep them together in a bouquet for some time.
  • Once assembled, place it in a clear plastic bag. Using this, you can store herbs such as parsley, mint and coriander in the refrigerator. With this method, your easy to grow herbs will stay fresh for weeks instead of days. 

Hard Herbs

Soft herbs are more delicate compared to hard ones, these include rosemary, sage, thyme, and chives. The hard herbs have more flexibility, do not dry out easily, and can be kept fresh with a glass of water, and sometimes they get growing in the water too. The best way of storing them is by loosely wrapping them in a damp paper towel. You can then keep them tightly sealed in a container or reusable bag in the fridge to prevent oxygen from entering and leaves from wilting. 

Freezing herbs to make them last longer

If you have have a lot of herbs growing and want to keep them for longer, just freeze them. Place them in a labelled resealable freezer bag. You can portion out smaller amounts, wrap these and store them in a freezer bag for further use.

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