Growing Herbs

People have been growing their own herbs for centuries. They are commonly used for medicinal, culinary and ornamental purposes and are essential ingredients in many dishes. Herbs can be grown in the smallest of locations e.g. windowsill pots. Herbs range from those grown annually from seed such as basil; to more permanent perennials such as mint and tarragon; and shrubs such as rosemary, lavender and bay.

They have a multitude of uses - infusions from the leaves or flowers can help relieve a range of ailments; leaves, stems, seeds or flowers can be used fresh, dried or frozen to flavour sweet and savoury dishes; dried herbs can be added to pot pourri; and some work as insect repellents. From a small pot on the kitchen windowsill to outdoor pots, a vegetable plot or even intertwined with flowering plants, read on and enjoy our advice on growing herbs and their many benefits.

Getting Started

A wide range of leafy crops can be grown to eat in salads and they are quick and easy to grow. Even in the winter months varieties like rocket and spinach can be grown and harvested.

To have a continuous supply, sow fortnightly in succession. Choose several varieties with different maturing times to ensure you have a continuous supply.


Annual herbs should be sown in springtime straight into the container or beds.

Perennials, including chives and marjoram should be planted in spring and summer; shrubby herbs such as sage can be planted all year round. Vigorous growers such as mint or lemon balm should be planted in pots to curtail their spread.

They all need well prepared soil with added organic material to conserve moisture, aid drainage and supply plant foods. Gravel mulch helps prevent rotting.

Suitable containers include growbags, pots or troughs. Use a soilbased compost and feed monthly during growing season with a high-potassium feed.

For best results plant in a sunny spot. This shelters them from winter cold, and sunshine encourages the production of their aromatic oils for maximum scent and flavour.

Chives, marjoram, mint, parsley or tarragon grown outdoors can be potted up and overwintered on a sunny windowsill or in a greenhouse/conservatory.

When to Grow

Indoors (Feb-Sept): this can be useful if no outdoor protection is available for young seedlings.

Outdoors (Mar-Sep): early and late sowings benefit from being protected by cloches or fleece.

Varieties of Herbs to Try:
- Annual herbs: Basil, Chervil, Coriander, Dill, Marjoram and Parsley.
- Perennial herbs: Chives, Fennel, Mint, Oregano, Sage, Tarragon, and Thyme.
- Shrub herbs: Bay and Rosemary.

Use for Herbs

Herbs are very useful for the following:

- Flavouring drinks: Bay, mint, lemon balm and bergamot sprigs are good placed in summer fruit and alcoholic cocktails.

- Vinegars: Add leaves of bay, tarragon or thyme to a bottle of white wine vinegar and seal. Leave it on a sunny windowsill and shake it daily. When it is to your liking, remove the leaves.

- Freezing: Mints and chives can be frozen. Wash first and seal in bags, expelling the air, and place in freezer.

- Candied flowers: For edible garnishes or cake decorations,candy rose petals, violet or cowslip flowers by brushing a little egg white over each flower then dip it in powdered sugar. Let the sugar dry into a clear coating and store in an airtight container.

- Honey: Mix rosemary, sage or thyme leaves with honey. Warm over a low heat for 20 mins, then remove the herbs and pour into labelled jars.


Cut herbs at their peak on a dry day and discard any poor quality leaves. Hang stems in bunches of 6 to 8 stems in an airy room, away from direct heat or sun. Once they are crisp, but still retain some of the original colour, store in an airtight dark glass jar or tin.

Top tip

Put a large stone or a few pieces of croc in a pot before adding compost to keep soil moist.

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