Growing Herbs & Vegetables

General Tips

Originally on

Location and Soil Preparation | Sowing Seeds | Hardening Off |Container Growing 

 Growing Herbs - details | Growing Vegetables - details

Location and Soil Preparation

If possible, locate your vegetable garden or pots/containers in full sun.

In the autumn or early spring before planting/sowing, dig in plenty of compost or manure, which not only helps feed the growing plants through the season, but also improves the soil structure and drainage.  Gradually break down large clods of earth then rake to a medium/fine tilth. Once you've prepared the soil, avoid walking on it. 

If much time is to elapse before planting/sowing, cover the prepared plot with a layer of perforated black-plastic sheeting which will not only heat the soil but also prevent weeds from growing. 

The age-old method of growing vegetables is in rows which are wide enough apart to allow the gardener to walk between. However, this requires more space and with many modern gardens being quite small, a better method is to grow in blocks or groups (see broadcasting below). 

Raised beds have also become popular. This is where individual beds are made (about 90cm/3ft wide by however long) and edged with  planks of wood thus raising the level of the soil in the beds by a minimum of 6 inches. 

Even the smallest container can grow certain herbs and vegetables. Details are found under the individual herbs and vegetables. We give plant heights which will enable you to grow many vegetables and herbs amongst your flower displays without fear of of spoiling your display. And don't forget hanging baskets! Many herbs and some of the dwaf veggies such as container tomatoes can be used.


Sowing Seeds

The Seed Bed

This is a small plot of land which is used to sow seeds which are going to be transplanted to their permanent position later on. It should be well prepared as above and raked to a very fine crumbly tilth before firming gently.


This is a good method when growing plants in blocks/groups and in raised beds. Seed is scattered thinly over the whole surface where the crop is to grow, then covered with the appropriate amount of soil. The emerging seedlings are then thinned to the relevant spacing on all sides of the plants thus producing a solid area of crops rather than rows. With many crops, a larger yield per area can be achieved.


If you have a large area or allotment, you may find it easier to sow in rows. However, don't forget that rows don't have to be many feet long....even if you have a small area (say 60cm/2ft square) you can sow your seeds in rows.

Detailed sowing and aftercare information is given under the sections  "Growing Herbs" and "Growing Vegetables" below.


Hardening off

If sowing seed in pots or trays indoors, it is recommended that you "harden them off"  before moving them permanently outdoors. 

This is done by placing the pots outside in a sheltered position during the day once the daytime outside temperature is no less than 16C/61F, and then bringing them back indoors. This should be done over a period of a few weeks,  gradually lengthening the amount of time the plants remain outside from 2-3 hours when you first start, to all day after 3 weeks or so. The plants can then be moved outdoors permanently so long as night frosts are no longer a threat.

You can try shortening the above process, however growth may be severely checked resulting in much delayed cropping....and if you get it very wrong DEATH.


Container Growing


Many herbs will grow in pots which are just 7.5cm/3" in diameter and pots as small as  15cm/6"in diameter  can be used to grow small crops of some vegetables such as radish,  salad leaves (including  Rocket), Spring Onions and baby Carrots.

The easiest containers to use are plastic ones because they are light and durable and come in many shapes and sizes. Particularly useful are 20cm/8"-deep troughs, which are excellent for growing vegetables such as spinach, baby beetroot and turnips, dwarf beans and carrots.

Growbags are recommended for trailing plants such as cucumber, courgettes and squash as well as peppers and tomatoes, although the latter may need support if cordon varieties are grown. Special growbag supports are available at many garden centres.

Terracotta containers are also suitable and often more decorative as are wooden containers.  

Use compost or a compost/soil mix for containers to keep them as light as possible. Ensure all containers have drainage holes in the bottom so that the compost/soil doesn't get waterlogged.

If space is at a premium, why not grow a few vegetables or herbs amongst your flowers. Many have quite pretty foliage which won't look out of place amongst flowering plants.

Don't forget hanging baskets - there are now some tomato varieties which have been specially bred for hanging baskets.


UK gardening help and assistance

gardening books