Create your own herb garden with our expert tips and advice
Growing your own herbs is easy gardening fun that anyone can do. Whatever space you have to work with - whether it’s a sunny windowsill, a container, raised beds, or a border - delicious and fragrant herbs can be grown in the smallest of spaces. All you need is a pot, some compost and seeds to get growing herbs that will help add incredible flavour to your home cooking.
Let us show you how to get started.
Tools & materials required
How to choose your herbs
There are plenty of delicious herbs to choose from. Here are some of our favourites:
Tender and full of warmth, basil is available in several varieties suitable for eating, each with its own distinctive taste. Even the flowers are edible and, depending on the type, can be bright white, pale pink or a delicate lavender. The flavour of basil flowers is similar to the leaves but slightly milder. Keep your basil plants handy – much of its flavour is lost in cooking so pick leaves at the last moment. For a fresh, regular supply, basil is best grown from seed.
A deeply aromatic perennial, rosemary is delicious cooked with meats such as lamb or brewed as a tea to stimulate the mind. The leaves make attractive foliage for winter flower arrangements.
You'll probably only need one bush, so buy as a grown plant or grow from seed.
A dainty annual with delicately perfumed seeds and tasty flat leaves, coriander can be used as an exotic alternative to parsley.
Coriander is best sown from seed, as you quite often use the whole plant in one go. For a continuous supply, sow little and often throughout spring.
A mild and aromatic perennial, often used in stuffings and sausages, sage has striking flowers. It eventually turns woody so will need renewing every three to four years – it can be grown from hardwood cuttings once leggy. There are a few varieties available, from the classic green to variegated purple that adds a striking burst of colour to borders. Sage can be grown from seed, however we recommend buying as a plant.
Refreshing and stimulating perennial, mint tastes delicious in teas, cold drinks and sweets. There are several different varieties, including pennyroyal, peppermint, spearmint and apple mint.
Mint is best grown in a pot on its own as it can quickly overwhelm other plants.
A leafy perennial with citrus overtones, sorrel with smaller leaves adds a lemony zest which suits salads.
Sorrel plants with larger leaves are better for cooking – try them in omelettes.
An excellent perennial cooked with poultry and meat, thyme has small, pretty flowers in late summer and should last three to four years before turning woody. Lemon thyme adds zest to dishes and makes a tasty tea.
A common garnish, the biennial parsley is good in soups and stews. And if new to growing herbs, why not start with curled parsley as it's easier to grow than the more flavourful flat-leaf or Italian parsley?
A delicately flavoured annual, dill has leaves with a feathery texture and complements salads, fish dishes and some sauces. The seeds can be used in pickles.
Where to grow your herbs
Different herbs can be grown in beds, pots, hanging baskets or window boxes, as well as among vegetables and flowers. The below table features our recommendations on where to plant certain herbs.
|Locations / Herbs||Windowsill||Container||Sunny bed or border|
|Sage||Yes - large||Yes|
A pot with multiple openings, herb planters are great if you have limited space as they allow you to grow several herbs at once.
Pots and containers
For easy access to herbs on your patio, why not plant up your own container? Fill the container with compost leaving about 15cm at the top. Place your chosen herbs on top of the compost until they're laid out in an arrangement that you’re happy with. Then, remove each herb from its pot and place in the container drawing up the compost around the root ball. Do this with each of the herbs, adding in more compost as required, until all are planted. Water well.
If keeping your herb in the plant pot as purchased, you don’t really need to consider the ultimate height and spread of your shrub. Just treat it as a ‘cut and come’ type, and replace every few weeks or months as necessary.
To grow herbs in a hanging basket, head to our how to guide on planting a hanging basket.
Herb gardens and borders
If you’re planning a herb garden or border, consider how the herbs will be arranged first before planting. We recommend a mix of annuals (those that grow for one season), perennials (plants that come back each year) and shrubs (whose structure will remain throughout winter and add interest when everything else has gone over). Growing a combination of all in one place will give you the best of all worlds: the convenience of trusty favourites that grow year after year, with the flexibility of choosing interesting new varieties to fill any gaps.
Most herbs can be grown together in the same container or bed, just always keep in mind how big they will grow. Only mint, which grows invasively with its roots and can quickly overwhelm a planting area, is best kept on its own.
Create 'structure' with shrubs such as lavender, rosemary, bay and sage. Plant herbs that will grow very tall and will eventually spread out, such as fennel and dill, at the back of the herb garden and shorter herbs at the front. Use all other herbs to fill the remaining gaps, bearing in mind their eventual height and spread.
And ensure you can access all of your herbs easily, so that you don’t have to trample across the soil every time you want to get to them.
How to grow herbs from seed
Most herbs can be grown from seed and doing this will ensure that your plants are strong, sturdy and full of flavour. April is the best time to sow and regularly watered modules in a cold frame or greenhouse will encourage seeds to grow better.
Herbs love full sun and by late May can be planted outdoors into a container or bed.
If you’re new to gardening, check out our article on how to sow seeds for more tips and advice.
You will need:
Fill the modules of your seed tray with compost and sow two seeds in each section – the weaker seedling of any pair can be removed later.
Keep the module tray somewhere sheltered, such as a greenhouse, cold frame or windowsill.
Regularly water, and then after about three weeks most of the seedlings will be well established.
Transfer the plants to a container, hanging basket or bed after another three weeks.
Pick your herbs regularly to ensure new growth and keep them well watered.
Some herbs such as coriander, should be sown little and often to keep a fresh supply going – it’s quite normal to use an entire plant in one go.