Food Garden: Herbs

Last Updated: April 14, 2024

Adding pops of flavour to your food is all about using fresh herbs. And what better way to add fresh flavour to dishes (and save money) than with your own herb garden?

It's not as hard as it sounds. All you need are the right pots, materials and a plan. So whether you're a home cook or a serious foodie -- if you're doubting your green thumbs, take heart. Growing flavorful herbs at home are within your reach.

Growing anything from seed is a bit of an art. It can only really be perfected through trial and error, which can be frustrating. For this reason, it’s best to go easy on yourself and start by planting pre-potted herbs. You can get them in garden centres and most supermarkets, and they’ll save you loads of time and energy.

If, however, you have a burning desire to grow them yourself, it’s best to sow softer herbs in April or early May when there’s no frost.

Picking the Pots

There are a few options when it comes to what to keep your herbs in pots, window boxes and grow bags. Whichever you pick, the most important thing is drainage: if your herbs can’t drain properly, they will drown.

Lots of plastic window boxes have a reservoir at the bottom for drainage. Grow bags are quite useful as well, if less pretty. Pots have the added benefit of being portable so they can be easily moved around the house through the seasons. In the winter, woodier herbs can be left outside but they should be protected from frost with garden fleece.

Terracotta pots are great because they’re heavy and porous, which means they will be stable, won’t suffocate the soil, and they also look great. They do, however, conduct heat and therefore dry up very quickly, so always keep an eye on them.

Sunlight Timing

Almost every plant needs a minimum of four hours of direct sunlight. Make sure you check with the gardening staff about what the sunlight needs are for your specific plant variety. Keep the temperature in mind as well.

If a day is way too hot and dry for people to be outside, it's most likely way too hot and dry for your plant. If possible, move your plant to the shade on super hot days, and periodically check the dryness of the soil. Be sure to water your plants any time the soil is dry to the touch.

Herb Selection

Soft herbs – basil, chives, marjoram, coriander, and so on – are the ones that will have the biggest effect on your cooking when they’re home-grown and used fresh.

Soft herbs are delicate, which affects how they’re grown and used. They need care and attention when growing, and are usually only added to dishes at the end of the cooking process, or simply folded through salads, so as not to ruin their structure and subtle flavours.

Woody herbs – thyme, rosemary, sage – tend to benefit from a hot, dry location. They will generally survive winter well, though flourishing less than they would in the spring and summer. Even though these herbs are resilient, they need water too – the lower, woodier branches can get hard and dry out often.

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