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how to start a herb garden

How to Start a Herb Garden

Starting your very own herb garden can seem like a daunting task! We've put together a handy guide to make it an easy, fun and educational experience. We cover everything:which herbs to plant, how to plant them, fertilise them, water them, mulch them - harvesting and using your plants daily, and taking care of them! We want to share our knowledge of doing what we love - growing our health with herbs!


Table of Contents:

1.What Herbs Should I plant? Why?

2.Positioning & Soil: Where should I plant my herbs?

3.Planting: How to Plant my herbs?

4.Watering: How do I water my herbs?

5.Fertilising: How to Fertilise my herbs?

6.Mulching: How to mulch?

7.Harvesting: How do I use my herbs?

8.Conclusion

1. WHAT HERBS SHOULD I PLANT? WHY?

So, where do you begin? Ask yourself “why am I planting herbs”? Is it for food, medicine, or as a hobby? Whatever your reasons, we’ve chosen our Top 6 low maintenance herbs to get started in 3 main categories - Culinary, Medicinal and Cottage.

Top 6 Culinary Herbs

This is generally why people plant herbs. Whether you want to add some spice to a soup, perk up a stew or salad, or create unique and flavourful combos of your own - culinary herbs are here to help you explore your taste buds. 

  • Jekkas Thyme:a hardy thyme with good flavour. It is a low growing perennial and doesn't get woody like the common thyme. Add to mushrooms, salad dressings, vegetable dishes and chicken dishes.
  • Italian Parsley: also known as flat-leaf parsley, this annual can be paired with most herbs and in most dishes.
  • Garlic Chives:the flat garlic flavoured leaves are delicious added to many dishes. Use when you want a garlic flavour and a tasty garnish.
  • Rosemary:a robust flavoured herb, woody, piney with hints of citrus. Add to roast vegetables and meats. Pairs well with citrus for both sweet and savoury dishes.
  • Greek Basil:perennial basil with a pungent flavour. Basils scream summer! add to pestos salads, pizza and pasta dishes or Asian stir-fries and curries.
  • Perennial Coriander:easier to grow than the regular short-lived coriander. The leaves need to be chopped finely before adding to salads or stir-fries. The whole plant can be whizzed up in a food processor with chilli, ginger and garlic, with a bit of sesame oil to make a delicious paste.

Top 6 Medicinal Herbs

Herbs are powerful and have been used for a millenia to treat many different ailments. Simple remedies are easy to make at home from herbs picked fresh from the garden.

  • Lemon balm: delicious as a tea it helps ease anxious tummy upsets.
  • Comfrey:as a poultice or compress it brings relief to bumps, bruises, burns and breaks.
  • Gotu kola: known as the arthritis herb it brings relief to sore painful joints and is great for circulation.
  • Elder: mother of the herb garden the berries and flowers help relieve cold and flu symptoms.
  • Echinacea: the stunning deep pink flowers along with the leaves and roots are great for the immune system, helping the body to fight many different infections.
  • Calendula:soothing and healing to the skin, the sunny flowers can be made into a rich and healing infused oil.

Top 6 Cottage Herbs

All herbs fit well in the cottage garden, offering their scents, flowers and many uses to us. They also encourage pollinating and predatory insects to the garden. A cottage garden is an informal mix of flowers and edibles that allows for many different plants.

  • Clove pink: a great edging perennial plant looking interesting all year with its grey leaves and stunning in summer with pink flowers.
  • Red yarrow: ferny foliage and tight umbels of pink flowers.
  • Catmint: blue flowering perennial that makes a great edge plant.
  • Heliotrope cherry pie: an old fashioned very fragrant purple flower with a long flowering season.
  • Bronze fennel:the bronze ferny foliage adds interest and looks amazing amongst either warm or cold coloured plants.
  • Salvias: are mostly perennials, grow so well and offer many different flower colours.

Types of Plants

Herbaceous Perennials

All aerial parts of the plant die back during winter.

Deciduous Perennials

Woody plants that lose their leaves in winter.


2. POSITIONING: WHERE SHOULD I PLANT MY HERBS?

One of the more important parts of starting your own herb garden is deciding WHERE to plant your herbs.Choose a spot that takes into account the soil type and quality, the sunlight, as well as whether you want to grow your herbs in pots or in a garden bed. Make sure whatever you choose, that your garden bed isn't too wide. Position larger plants further back, with smaller plants towards the front. This will give you easy access to your garden.

Soil

Well-drained soil is preferred for most herbs. Continually wet roots can encourage disease and cause the roots to rot.

  • The health of the soil is really important for the health of the herbs.
  • Most herbs need good drainage and grow best in light crumbly soil.
  • Clay soils need to have compost added to them to help open them up and allow water to run through them and drain away.
  • Sandy soils also need compost added to help hold some moisture and add nutrients.

Sunlight

Generally, herbs need full sun, but some will survive on as little as 2 hours of good sun a day.

  • Mediterranean herbs like lavender, rosemary and thyme require more sun.
  • Softer, green herbs like parsley, lemon balm and mint will take less sun.
  • The flavour and scent of herbs is stronger when they have adequate sun.
  • Herbs can get leggy and weak if they do not get enough sun.

Growing Herbs in Pots

Growing herbs in pots is a great way to garden if you're a balcony gardener, low on space, or prefer the look of pots.

  • Find a pot that has good drainage holes or drill some extra holes
  • Grouping pots together helps to insulate them from both extreme heat or extreme cold
  • Porous pots like terracotta will dry out quicker than ceramic pots. (You could seal them but make sure you use a food-safe sealer).
  • Black pots attract more heat than lighter pots so you may need to place them in a position that gets protection from the hot summer sun in the middle of the day.

Growing Herbs in Raised Garden beds

Raised garden beds are great for people with back problems or who have trouble bending down.

  • Raised garden beds take a lot of soil depending on their height. 
  • You can reduce the amount of soil by filling the bottom half with rocks, gravel and rubble.
  • Branches and sticks can also be used to fill the bottom of raised beds, adding organic matter as they break down, however, the beds will sink and need to be topped up.
  • Use a good quality organic soil mix to top the raised bed up, this can be bought or can be made up from the soil that you have, mixed with homemade compost or mushroom compost.

Using an Existing Garden Bed, or starting a new one

  • Needs to get sun in both winter and summer.
  • Most herbs need good drainage, don’t choose a position that holds water or your herbs will rot.
  • Herbs grow best in light crumbly soil.
  • Clay soils need compost added to them to help open them up. 
  • Sandy soils also need compost added to help hold some moisture and add nutrients. 
  • If you are starting a garden in a position the has grass and weeds you will have to treat the area first.
  • Plastic can be used to cover the area for a few weeks in hot weather to kill off the grass and weeds.
  • You can place a thick covering of cardboard over the area followed by cane mulch.
  • Build up soil by forking over and adding compost/fertiliser.

3. HOW DO I PLANT MY HERBS?

Watch our quick guide below to learn the basics of planting your herbs in either a garden bed or pot.

4. HOW DO I WATER MY HERBS?

It goes without saying - watering your herbs is the most important part of growing your herb garden. Most people don't realise how much you need to water your herbs in the first few weeks of their life. Read the tips below to get your watering right!

Watering Plants in Pots

  • For newly planted herbs in pots - water your herbs every day for the first week, then regularly after that.
  • Herbs in pots will dry out more quickly.
  • Depending on the size of the pot, how much sun they receive, and whether they are exposed to wind, will determine how often you need to water.
  • The best way to determine how much to water your herbs is to stick your finger into the soil to at least 5cm depth. If it feels dry, water well. If it feels moist, hold off on watering. Check daily for the first few weeks.

Watering Plants in Garden Beds

  • For newly planted herbs in garden beds - water your herbs every day for the first week then twice a week.
  • Herbs in the ground need to be watered less often than herbs in pots. 
  • It is better to water the soil around plants more deeply once or twice a week, this encourages the roots of plants to grow down into the soil. 
  • If you are watering small amounts more frequently you will encourage surface roots that dry out more quickly.

5. HOW DO I FERTILISE MY HERBS?

After watering, soil quality, and sunlight, fertiliser is one of the key ingredients to a happy and healthy herb garden. Follow the tips below for the best results!

  • Once planted and watered in, sprinkle fertiliser around the base of the herb but not too close to the stem.
  • Pellet fertiliser - We use organic xtra. Another good one is Searles 5 in 1. Both are certified organic products. 
  • Liquid fertiliser is a great alternative if you have a pet that likes to eat the pellet fertiliser or you want to give your herbs a quick boost. We use Eco Aminogro. Liquid fertiliser needs to be applied more often than pelleted fertiliser - approximately every 2-3 weeks.
  • Although seaweed products like seasol and eco seaweed are useful for your herbs' health (by protecting them from extreme weather conditions and other stressful conditions), they are not complete fertilisers.

6. HOW DO I MULCH MY GARDEN?

Mulching your garden maintains moisture, a stable temperature, and protects the life in our soils.Mulch suppresses weeds and provides organic matter to the soil and the organisms that live there. It also improves the soils structure, and water and nutrient holding capacity.


Sugar Cane Mulch 

  • It is the leaves of the sugar cane plant left after harvesting. 
  • A great option for hot climates, as it reflects sunlight, keeping the soil moist and cool. 
  • It has a low nutrient value but builds soil structure, water and nutrient holding capacity. 
  • It takes around 6 months to break down. 

Straw Mulch 

  • Is made from leftover stalks of harvested crops. 
  • The nutrient value of straw mulch differs depending on its source. 
  • Straw from legumes such as Pea will be higher in nutrients than that from oats. 
  • Breaking down in 3 – 6 months depending on its source, straw mulches build soil structure, water and nutrient holding capacity.

Lucerne Mulch

  • It has a high nutrient value which increases microbial activity. 
  • It takes several months to break down, resulting in improved soil structure, water and nutrient holding capacity.

7. HOW DO I HARVEST MY HERBS?

Now that you know all the key points of planting, watering, fertilising and mulching - don't forget to use and harvest your herbs! Using your herbs is an important part of their growth - in fact, pruning and picking your herbs frequently will help produce strong bushy plants.

  • When picking herbs such as basil, rosemary and mint, never rip leaves from the plant, instead - cut the herb back to above a leaf node with signs of life and the plant will then bush out from this area.
  • Herbs like rocket, parsley and sorrel can be picked from the base of the plant taking the older outside leaves.
  • Never pick all the leaves off the plant. Leave some to sustain future growth.

Need some more inspiration for what to do with your herbs? Check out our range ofYouTube Recipe videos!

8. CONCLUSION

We hope you've enjoyed this guide. Make sure you check out ouronline store for all your herb garden needs, including our fantastic range of fresh herb plants that are safely delivered via Express Post. Explore how you can use your herbs to their full advantage by reading our latest blogs below. We have a passion for herbs, growing our health with herbs, and sharing that passion with fellow herb-lovers. Make sure you follow us on Instagram and Subscribe to our YouTube Channel to make the most of your Herb Journey!

Stay happy, herby and healthy 🌿

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