UK gardening help and assistance


How to grow herbs in a herb garden

If you are limited with the space you can use for growing herbs, decide which herbs you use and just plant those. Don't forget that some herbs can be grown in pots, window boxes or other containers, doing so may free up some 'herb garden' for other herbs. If you've more space, you might try to grow more herbs, but it seems pointless to grow herbs which you won't use unless you plan to experiment.

While most of the herbs below can be grown from seed, some herbs can be propagated by other methods - we try to cover the various options below.

ANGELICA: (biennial/perennial) Sow Angelica seeds in ordinary moist loam in in shady position in late August or early September. Cover the Angelica seeds with a thin layer of fine soil. Transplant the Angelica seedlings when they are about 5cm (2 inches) high to their permanent position in the autumn 45cm (18 inches) apart.

Cut the Angelica stems down to their base in late June or early July.

Do not let the plant seed.

BASIL: (Half hardy annual) Sow the Basil seeds in a hot-bed, or indoors in warm conditions, from mid March onwards for a summer crop. Prick out the Basil seedlings, pot on and harden off as necessary. Plant out the Basil seedlings to a sunny well drained outdoor bed when they are about 5cm (2 inches) high (late June), space them about 20cm (8 inches) apart.

OR Sow Basil seeds underglass late April to May, prick out, pot on and harden off as required and plant out as above.

OR Sow Basil seeds outdoors in a warm, sunny, sheltered spot June/July (when there is no risk of frost) and transplant as above.

If Basil is wanted indoors during winter, lift Basil plants in September and pot up with rich soil.

BAY: (Evergreen) Unlike most herbs grown in private gardens, Bay is a tree which is best grown on its own and not as part of a standard herb garden. The best advice is to buy a Bay plant in the Spring and plant it in a sheltered site - cold winds and cold weather will sear the leaves.

Bay trees can be propagated by taking heel cuttings during August/September; if the cutting takes, it should be ready to plant out the following Spring.

BORAGE: (Hardy annual or perennial) Sow Borage seeds in the permanent position in a sunny patch in late March or early April. When the Borage seedlings are about 5cm (2 inches) high, thin to 30cm (12 inches) apart. If left undisturbed, borage will seed itself and grow year after year in the same location.

If early Borage flowers are wanted, sow in the autumn.

Borage plants can be divided for propagation in the spring.

CHERVIL: (Hardy annual or biennial) Sow Chervil seeds in half cm (one eighth-inch) deep drills, in ordinary soil in a sunny spot from the end of February onwards. Thin out the Chervil seedlings when 5cm (2 inches) high to about 15 to 23cm (6 to 9 inches) apart.

Use the Chervil leaves when they are about 7.5cm (3 inches) high. Curled chervil is the best variety.

If the Chervil leaves are kept cut down to the roots the new leaves will shoot up again, or new seeds can be sown for succession at regular intervals, from the end of February to the beginning of October. During the summer, sow in a shady position.

Chervil can be grown indoors in pots for winter use.

CHIVE: (Perennial) Sow the Chive seeds thinly in drills 30cm (12 inches) apart in March in a sunny or partially shady position. When the Chive seedlings are old enough, thin them to about 7.5cm (3 inches) apart.

If necessary, transplant in early Spring, lift the Chive clumps and divide every 3 or 4 years.

Nip out the Chive flower buds as they appear. If the Chive leaves are not used regularly, occasionally cut them down so that fresh leaves are produced.

Chive will die back during the Winter and regrow in February.

CORIANDER: (Hardy annual) Sow the Coriander seeds thinly in the herb bed in rows about 5cm (2 inches) apart during February to June (to give ongoing supply). No thinning should be required.

OR Sow Coriander seeds in September/October as above for autumn/winter supply - cover with cloches to extend crop into late autumn.

DILL: (Annual) Sow Dill seeds in open ground in shallow drills 30cm (12 inches) apart, at the end of March or beginning of April. When the Dill seedlings are old enough, thin them out to 23 to 25cm (9 or 10 inches) apart.

FENNEL: (Hardy biennial or perennial) Sow Fennel seeds in April in open ground in a dry, sunny spot, cover thinly with fine soil. Thin the Fennel seedlings to 38cm (15 inches) apart or transplant to this distance.

LEMON BALM: (Perennial) Sow Lemon Balm seeds thinly in shallow drills in open ground in full sun, in April or May.

To propagate Lemon Balm plants, divide the roots in spring or autumn, preferably the middle of October - if later the offsets may perish from frost. Allow 3 buds to each offset, and plant firmly about 60cm (2 feet) apart.

Cut down the Lemon Balm stems in the autumn and fork the soil around the roots.

Sweet or Knotted Marjoram
(Perennial but treat as half-hardy in the UK)
Sow Marjoram seeds under glass in March/April, plant out the Marjoram seedlings in May or June 15/23cm (6/9 inches) apart in well drained and sunny position. OR Sow Marjoram seeds in a well drained and sunny position in May in drills about 23cm (9 inches) apart. Thin the Marjoram seedlings to 23cm (9 inches) apart when about 2.5cm (1 inch) high. Keep weed free.

Marjoram can be grown in a pot indoors for winter use.

Wild and Pot Marjoram (Perennial)
Sow Marjoram seeds very thinly in well drained open ground in a sunny position during April/May in drills about 1.2cm (half-inch) deep and 30cm (12 inches) when the weather is dry and mild. Cover evenly with a thin layer of finely sifted soil. Thin the Marjoram plants when they are about 5cm (2 inches) high to 30cm (12 inches) apart in each direction, Marjoram thinnings may be transplanted. Protect with cloches during winter.

Existing Marjoram plants can be propagated by division in Spring, or by taking cuttings in Spring.

MINT: (Hardy perennial) Plant small pieces of Mint root in moist soil in a shady area in the Spring, the roots will run riot so it is best to plant within a bottomless bucket or use another method to contain the roots.

It is best to replace Mint plants every 3 or 4 years, if desired using cuttings from the original plant or sowing fresh seeds - plant in another part of the garden.

PARSLEY: (Biennial best treated as annual) Thinly sow Parsley seeds in a moist, sunny or partly shaded position of open ground in 1.2cm (half an inch) drills 30cm (12 inches) apart during March for a summer supply. Sow Parsley seeds outside in a sheltered position June to August for Winter and Spring use. To aid germination, soak the Parsley seeds in tepid water for several days before sowing. Cover the drills with finely sifted soil only 1.2cm (half an inch) deep. Thin the Parsley seedlings (or transplant then) to 20 or 22cm (8 or 9 inches) apart.

Cutting off flowering shots will prolong the life of Parsley plants.

In cold areas, cover with cloches or fleece when there is risk of frost.

ROSEMARY: (Evergreen) Sow Rosemary seeds in a warm sunny seed bed during April, in 1.2cm (half an inch) deep drills 30cm (12 inches) apart. Transplant the Rosemary seedlings to their permanent position in the autumn, Rosemary likes a sheltered, sunny position with good drainage.

Rosemary can be propagated by taking heel or tip cuttings, about 20cm (8 inches) long, between May and August and planting them into a sheltered border to the depth of 10 to 12cm (4 to 5 inches).

Roots of established Rosemary plants can be divided every 2 or 3 years.

Small Rosemary plants can be potted for indoor usage, replace every year.

SAGE: (Hardy perennial) Sow Sage seeds in light, free draining open ground in a sunny position during April in shallow drills, thin or transplant Sage seedlings to about 30cm (12 inches) apart. Old Sage plants tend to get woody, so replace Sage plants every 3 or 4 years.

Sage can be propagated by taking cuttings or young shoots pulled off three year old plants from the end of April to September. Insert the cuttings 30cm (12 inches) apart in a shady spot, and leave them there until they are well established, then move them to their permanent position.

Summer (Annual) Sow Summer Savory seeds in a sunny position in open ground from April to June in shallow drills about 20cm (8 inches) apart. Thin the Savory seedlings to about 15cm (6 inches) apart when they are large enough. If required, Savory seedlings can he transplanted.

Savory can be potted up in August for indoor use during Winter.

Winter (Evergreen) Sow Winter Savory seeds in a sunny, well drained position in open ground in late Spring or Autumn in shallow drills about 15cm (6 inches) apart - do not cover the seeds with soil. Thin the Savory seedlings or transplant them to about 15cm (6 inches) apart when they are large enough.

Winter Savory can be propagated by taking cuttings or young shoots with a 'heel' of old wood during Spring. Plant out to their permanent position in late Summer after the roots have formed.

Alternatively, divide established Savory plants in the Spring.

Savory can be potted up in August for indoor use during Winter.

TARRAGON: (Perennial) The best way to propagate Tarragon is by division of the roots in March or April. Pull clumps into small portions with your hands and plant 30cm (12 inches) apart in full sunshine in a rather dry spot. Cover the roots with a layer of rotted leaves during the Winter after the stems have been cut off.

THYME: (Evergreen) Sow Thyme seeds in a warm bed in April or May in shallow drills about 30cm (12 inches) apart. Thin or transplant (in the Autumn) the Thyme seedlings to about 30cm (12 inches) apart. Thyme prefers light, well drained, rich or chalky soil.

Thyme can also be propagated by dividing old plants in Spring or Autumn, or by tip or heel cutting during April/May.

Thyme can be grown in pots for indoor use.