Thursday 22 August 2013


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Herbs are easy to grow and look fantastic, so why not create your own container herb garden. Whether it’s a window box, pots along the kitchen window sill or a few pots by the back door you will soon discover that herbs can be grown successfully in containers. You will be able to pick your own fresh herbs to add to your dishes, which far surpasses the flavour that pre-packed dried herbs offer.

You can use almost any container for growing herbs as long as it provides drainage, so punch out drainage holes if it has none. Plastic or glazed pots are best for indoor herbs as they retain the moisture in the soil better.

Make sure the containers are clean.  Place a layer of gravel at the base of your pots to improve drainage and fill with seed and cutting potting compost. You can add some horticultural sand to the compost to improve drainage even further. Fill your containers with either herbs grown from seed, propagated from cuttings or bought from a garden centre. 

Selecting herbs 

So which herbs should you grow? It sounds obvious but if growing herbs for culinary purposes then select the herbs that you will want to use to flavour your dishes. Alternatively you can select herb varieties for their decorative foliage or scent.

There are three types of herbs; annuals, biennials and perennials. Annuals live only for one year and will flower and develop seeds from which new plants will grow the following year and include basil, borage, chamomile, chervil, coriander, dill, fennel and summer savory .Some herbs (caraway and parsley) are biennials; flowering and developing seeds in their second year. Perennial herbs such as bay, chives, lavender, lemon grass, lovage, marjoram, mint, oregano, rosemary, sage, tarragon, thyme and winter savoury last for several years.

The most common herbs that are grown are basil, chives, coriander, dill, marjoram, mint, parsley, rosemary and sage. However there are many more varieties to grow.  You may decide to group some herbs together in a single container, but select complimentary varieties that will not outgrow their positions or compete with each other.  Some woody herbs such as rosemary or lavender can become thugs to the detriment of surrounding plants. Perennial herbs such as lemon balm or mint are often grown alone in containers as they need to be controlled to prevent them from taking over your garden border. 

Propagating herbs 

You can sow most herbs from seed  in spring from March - April.  Alternatively you can propagate herbs by taking cuttings. You can propagate your herbs by taking cuttings of bay, marjoram, mint, rosemary, sage, tarragon and thyme from late summer to early autumn. Herbs such as sweet marjoram, oregano, mint and thyme can be divided in the spring or after flowering in late summer. At the end of the season pot up herbs such as chives, mint, parsley, or tarragon and bring them in to a south facing windowsill for the winter.   Gradually acclimatise them to more shady conditions for a few weeks before you bring them inside to avoid shock as conditions inside will be much less bright.


Many herbs originate in the Mediterranean so they like warm and light conditions.  However some, such as parsley, basil or chervil, will appreciate a little shade in the hottest part of the day.  Water your herbs sparingly, only when the soil is dry. Feed herbs with a general purpose fertiliser weekly during the growing season. You may need to control the pests and treat with a spray insecticide or insecticidal soap weekly.

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