Cooking with fresh, home-grown ingredients is the dream, right? But it’s not always the reality for those who are not so green-fingered or limited in terms of time and space.
Fear not, a really easy and cost-effective way to inject a little fresh flavour into your dishes (or cocktails if you’re partial to a mojito) is by creating a herb garden.
The what, where, and whys to herb gardening for beginners…
What you need:
- Plant pots or flower beds
- Good potting soil
- Multi-purpose compost
- Herb ‘starter plants’ of choice
- A watering can
A step by step guide to herb gardening:
1. Location, location, location
The majority of home-grown herbs will need two things; well-drained soil and sunlight (at least four hours a day), so choose a sunny spot for your pots or in the flower beds.
Top tip: if feasible, keep your herbs near the house/kitchen if you want easy and quick access when you’re cooking.
2. It’s all in the prep
To get the most out of your herb garden, you’ll need to prepare the soil.
Loosen your soil with a small garden fork or trowel to make space for the plants’ roots and to allow for drainage.
You should also add multi-purpose compost to your soil to make it more fertile and provide nutrients.
Top tip: avoid manure compost – this can help the herbs grow quickly but reduce their flavour; quality over quantity!
3. Choose your herbs
Now for the fun part; choosing the herbs you’d like to grow. Most will grow for at least one season and lots grow year after year. Some popular herbs which are easy to get started with are:
- Basil – fabulous in pasta dishes and even some Thai curries
- Rosemary – use a sprig in an ice-cold G&T or when cooking roast lamb or chicken
- Mint – also delicious with lamb, in couscous or in a mojito
- Sage – scrumptious in stuffing
- Dill – a perfect pairing with salmon
- Chives – ideal for salads
- Parsley – great for sauces and garnishes
Top tip: If you’re using large pots or beds, ensure you give each plant enough room to grow when you’re planting them so they aren’t fighting for sunlight and root space. Mint especially will need a separate pot as it will take over and choke the other plants.
4. The TLC
Looking after your herb garden is key but you’ll be glad to hear it’s also relatively low-maintenance…
Ensure you’re watering the garden regularly, but not too much; water your plants if their soil starts to feel dry to the touch.
You should also be harvesting your herbs regularly – this will actually help with foliage production!
Top tip: if you find your supply of herbs outweighs your demand, you can always cut and freeze them for later use.