Whether you’re an old hand at gardening or a newbie to the scene, it’s hard to go wrong with herbs. They are one of the easiest plants to grow and are just as happy in a container inside as out in the garden. Yet many of the herbs found in our supermarkets have been air freighted over from the other side of the world. Grow your own and you’ll cut your carbon footprint, spice up mealtimes and scent your home with the heady aroma of fresh herbs.
Herbs are pretty special plants. They are tough and can thrive in most conditions. They don’t need full sun and can grow in the shade. They give off wonderful, invigorating scents. They taste delicious and add flavour to any dish. There are tons of herbs to choose from and most are believed to have medicinal properties. And they can be grown both inside and outside – making them perfect for any size home.
Herbs that are suitable for growing at home include basil, coriander, dill, lemongrass, lemon verbena, thyme oregano, bay, rosemary, sage, parsley, tarragon, chives, fennel, and mint. You can get a full list from the Herb Society.
April is the best month to start sowing seeds. The winter frost has gone and the weather is starting to warm up nicely. If you are intending to keep the herbs inside, you just need to sow the seeds directly into a pot with some compost and soil.
If you want to grow the herbs outside, you may wish to start growing the herbs on a windowsill then harden them off before transferring them outside. Hardening off means gradually introducing the baby plants to the outdoors. This is usually done by transferring the plants from a windowsill to a sheltered area outside before moving them into your herb garden.
The best place for a herb garden is a sunny, open but sheltered spot with good drainage. Herbs are hardy plants but will grow better in neutral soils with a PH of between 6-7. It’s easy to test the PH of your soil – find out how to do this here. If the PH of your soil is markedly different, it might be easier to grow the herbs in pots rather than try to alter the PH of the soil.
When planning your herb garden, make sure you take into account the eventual size of the plant and sow seeds accordingly. You can normally get this information from the seed packet or ask at your local garden centre.
Herbs don’t need to be outside or much space to grow. Herbs will happily grow in pots on windowsills and balconies, which makes them really versatile. Most herbs need about five hours of sunlight a day. A sunny window ledge is a good choice, but make sure the reflected heat from the window is not too intense. Herbs fare best at room temperature and don’t like hot and dry places, which is why some kitchens may not be a good choice.
Herbs like water so you’ll need to check the soil moisture daily. If the soil just under the surface is dry, water the plants with room temperature tap water. The herbs will also appreciate having their foliage sprinkled with water to freshen them.
Herbs have been used to cure ailments since 3000BC. As well as providing remedies for specific complaints they also contain vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Different herbs are believed to help with different ailments. Here are some common herbs and their suggested medicinal usage. Click the link at the bottom for a full list.
Basil – use to boost the immune system and treat acne, insect bites and dental problems
Chamomile – relaxes, aids sleep and calms the stomach
Oregano – has an antibacterial punch and is said to have over 42 times more antioxidants than an apple
Rosemary – has antiseptic properties, improves circulation, stimulates the liver into eliminating toxins from the body, improves memory, eases joint and headache pain and relieves cold symptoms.
Thyme – improves the immune system, and eases sore throats and coughs.
Visit the Herb Society to find out which herbs you can grow at home.
Visit the Herb Expert for a month-by-month herb growing calendar
Find out how to test the PH of your soil
Find out more about growing herbs outside
Find out more about growing herbs inside
Get more information about the health benefit of herbs from the Herb Expert
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