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If you have an urban garden you might not have that much space, or perhaps you only have a patio, balcony or window sill. Growing a few pots of lush green herbs can be fitted into the smallest of spaces and can be inspiring not only for cooking, but also due to the wonderful aromas they give off.
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If you want to grow herbs from seed it is best to do so in April and May when it’s warmed up. Alternatively, and an easier option is buying plants direct from garden centres and supermarkets, with most herbs these days being readily available most of the year. This gives you a good start with a healthy plant from the outset.
Image copyright jamieoliver.com
Most herbs are generally available to buy in plastic pots of packs. You could of course keep them in these, however, if you’d like them to grow larger and remain healthy it’s a good idea to pot them up. Terracotta pots are ideal as they are porous and won’t suffocate the soil, however as they conduct heat do keep an eye on them as plants will dry out quickly.
Image copyright drsallyskitchen.com
Recycling plastic pots or using a variety of interesting vessels from around the home for potting up herbs is a good, and using grow bags are also useful. You could also buy strawberry or herb pots which have separate sections for different herbs to grow from. I personally love an eclectic mix of pots, think colour, pattern, texture. You could hang them, have them on steps and ladders or even make a ‘herb bar.’ There are so many creative ways of displaying herbs.
Herb bar – Image copyright gardenanswer.com
Most herbs if being kept indoors will need to be watered almost every day, depending on the ambient temperature of your home. As most herbs are sun lovers and like a lot of light, a sunny windowsill is idea. Just be careful if you have them inside behind glass on a south facing aspect, as they could be scorched by the sun.
The most important thing for herbs is that they have good drainage and room to breathe. When potting up coarse compost aids drainage, and give pots space. Overcrowding can lead to pests and disease. Don’t leave herbs standing in water as they’ll drown – I always water and let them drain in the kitchen sink, or on the patio in good weather.
Different herbs can be potted up together to make an interesting display, or have herbs singly in pots. Some perennial herbs self seed and then die down each winter. I quite like it if they self seed around the patio, always a bonus!
Or of course you could plant herbs in the ground, just make sure they are in a sunny location with free draining soil. The exception to this is mint, which likes partial shade. Mint is invasive and will spread everywhere, so if you don’t want that to happen then plant it in a pot. There are many different varieties of mint to choose from. It’s fun to have a few growing, as they all have very individual scents.
Image copyright jamieoliver.com
At home we like to have Parsley growing inside on the kitchen windowsill throughout most of the year. It is great with fish, but we particularly love to roughly chop it over salads. Coriander is of course great in Asian dishes such as curries, stir fries, soups and salads. Spearmint is the mint you need for mojitos, mint juleps and to use in cooking, whereas Peppermint is perfect for teas and desserts as it has a stronger flavour.
Pomelo and Mint Mojito – image copyright Food and Wine Magazine
Sage and Rosemary can be grown in large pots (make sure they are off the ground as they won’t like sitting in water) or planted in the garden. They are both great with roasted meats, stews and risottos. Thyme and Oregano are favourites of mine due to the scent. At the end of the summer I dry some Oregano for the winter and love sprinkling it into casseroles on cold winter days.
Laurus Nobilis – Bay tree lollipop
Maybe you prefer the idea of having a couple of beautiful Bay tree standards in pots outside your front door? They can be bought as small to keep cost down, and then potted up and clipped as they grow larger. They make a real statement, and smell great as you brush past them after a long day at work.