A herb garden is a fantastic, low cost and low maintenance way to begin growing your own produce, no matter how much or little outside space you have. Freshly cut herbs vastly improve the flavour of hundreds of dishes – opening up a whole range of new dishes and flavours especially if you are trying to cook on a budget. And best of all, once you’ve planted them they require very little work. Anyone can have a herb garden; whether you have an acre of land or a tiny window-box, a balcony or a concrete yard, it is easy to make room for a few plants as most herbs will grow just as well in a pot or trough as they would in the ground. Window boxes are ideal for growing herbs especially if you have limited space; try putting one outside your kitchen window so that they are easily accessible when you’re cooking. Another ideal way of growing herbs if you have a garden or plot of land is to place a cartwheel flat on the ground, fill with soil and plant a different herb in each section; this way the herbs will be easily distinguishable and more dominant plants won’t suffocate the other herbs. Listed below are a few of the more popular herb varieties you may wish to consider.
Mint in particular, if left to its own devices, is fast growing and could strangle your other herbs. It has wide-spreading roots and grows all year round, and as it spreads so rapidly it is considered an invasive plant. However, if adequately kept in check mint can prove a worthy addition to your dishes. Mint plants grow best from cuttings rather than seeds in deep barrels or troughs, and though they grow well in most environments they will thrive best in cool, moist, shaded areas. If you want to store your mint leaves, you can freeze them in ice cube trays or plastic bags.
Chives are one of the most common garden herbs. Their mild onion-like scent and flavour make them an ideal condiment for many dishes. They also have great pest-repelling properties; so much so that farmers used to plant them between crops as a natural form of pesticide.
Rosemary is very easy to grow so is ideal if you are just starting out as a gardener! As it is pest and drought resistant – indeed, too much water will have a negative affect on its growth – and can be grown from cuttings, it does not require much maintenance apart from infrequent trimmings.
Basil is a useful herb, especially if you cook a lot of Italian or Asian food. If you are looking for the variety of basil used in Italian cuisine, then choose sweet basil; Thai, holy and lemon basil are more commonly used in Asian cooking. As basil is extremely sensitive to lower temperatures, due to it being native to hot climates, it is best to keep your basil inside but in plenty of sunlight; on a windowsill is ideal. Like rosemary, basil thrives in dryer conditions so you need to make sure that it is well drained; don’t be tempted to over-water it even if the soil appears dry. Look out for yellow, wilted leaves; these are signs that the plant needs more sunlight and water.
Parsley is a popular garden herb with long roots, which should be grown in deep pots and exposed to at least five hours of natural light per day. However, it is notoriously difficult to germinate so it is easier to buy a young plant as germination can take between three and six weeks.