Advice on sowing herb seeds for homegrown food flavours
Growing herbs is easy gardening fun that anyone can do. Delicious and fragrant, they 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.
Before you begin
When’s the best time to grow herbs?
April is the best time to sow many herb seeds. Most herbs can be grown from seed and doing this will ensure that your plants are strong, sturdy and full of flavour.
How to choose which herbs to grow
There are plenty of delicious herbs that can be grown from seed. 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 taste like the leaves but slightly milder. These flowers can be bright white, pale pink or a delicate lavender depending on the type.
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. The needle-like leaves are evergreen and so make attractive foliage for winter flower arrangements. While the pale violet-blue flowers bloom from spring to summer and attract butterflies and bees.
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 garden/ common sage 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.
A hardy perennial, mint is refreshing and stimulating. It tastes delicious in teas, cold drinks and sweets and adds flavour to other homegrown favourites like potatoes and peas. There are several different varieties available, 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 compact perennial, thyme is a popular flavouring for chicken, meat and fish. It has small, aromatic leaves and pretty, edible flowers that bloom in late summer and are just as powerful as the leaves. It should last three to four years before turning woody.
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 tender perennial, marjoram is powerfully aromatic and is available in several varieties. These include sweet marjoram (pictured), common marjoram, and wild marjoram, also known as oregano, which is delicious in Italian dishes, such as pasta and pizza.
Delicious in soups as well as with potatoes and fish, chives are perennial bulbs. They also boast insect-repelling properties, so add them to your garden if you have pests.
A delicately flavoured annual, dill has leaves with a feathery texture. It works well in salads, fish dishes and some sauces, while the seeds can be used in pickles.
How to grow herbs from seed
You might need:
- Herb seeds
- Seed compost – it’s important to use this specific type of compost for best results. For more on different types of compost, check out our buying guide.
- Labels and markers
- Plant food
- Modular seed tray or pots
- Hand trowel
- Dibber - if required
- Watering can with rose
- Scissors – to open the seed packet if necessary
Fill the modules of the seed tray with compost and sow two seeds in each section – the weaker seedling of any pair can be removed later.
Add any further compost as per the seed packet’s instructions.
Water your seeds and continue to do so regularly.
Store the seed tray somewhere warm and sheltered, such as a greenhouse, cold frame or windowsill. After about three weeks, most of the seedlings will be well established.
Transfer the plants to your chosen container, hanging basket or bed after another three weeks. For more on where to keep your herbs, head to the next section.
Where to grow herbs
Once the herbs have grown, there are a variety of suitable places to keep them. The below table features our recommendations on where to keep different herbs.
|Locations / Herbs||Windowsill||Container||Sunny bed or border|
|Sage||Yes - large||Yes|
Outdoor pots and containers
For easy access to herbs on your patio, why not plant up your own outdoor container?
To do so, fill the container with compost leaving about 15centimetres (cm) 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 plant from its pot or tray module 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.
Keep your herbs to hand by hanging near the kitchen door in a stylish hanging basket (Lime, Greek and Sweet Thai basils pictured). To grow herbs in a hanging basket, head to our helpful how to guide for more details.
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 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.
A pot with multiple openings, herb planters (also known as multi-pots) are great if you have limited space as they allow you to grow several herbs at once (pictured ararat, Sweet Genovese, lemon, cinnamon, lime, Greek and Sweet Thai basils).