How to create a cook’s herb garden you’ll actually use

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  • After all, an edible garden is all about eating.

    There is nothing more satisfying than snipping off some homegrown mint leaves or picking a sprig of thyme to add some fresh garden flavours to a roast chicken or summer salad.

    Whether you’ve got acres of land, a small balcony or just a kitchen windowsill, here’s how to create a herb garden for all of your cooking needs …

    Choose wisely
    While rosemary, mint, sage, basil and coriander are a good starting point, you really want to plant the herbs you like to cook with on a regular basis. Don’t get carried away, there is no point planting vast quantities of herbs that you’re never going to use.

    Location location location
    Herbs grow best in a sunny, light spot with well-drained, moisture-retentive soil. Pot up herbs such as chives, mint and parsley and keep them by the door for easy picking. Remember to bring the pots indoors for winter, placing them on a south-facing windowsill.

    Sun and shade
    Herbs can be separated into two categories: those that like sun and those that like partial shade. Thyme, sage, rosemary, French tarragon and oregano are the sun-goers, while parsley, chervil and sorrel take the shade.

    Avoid invasion
    Spearmint and peppermint are the classic mints that are great for cooking and using in teas but they can take over the garden. Gain control by growing them in containers and in part-shade.

    But don’t overcrowd …
    Coriander, basil and dil can be quick to bolt so remember to make regular sowings.

    Cut back
    Herbs such as mint and chives will need a cutback after flowering. Picking from them regularly and removing flower stalks will encourage fresh leaves to grow and, if you pick from the tips of the plants, will stimulate bushy new growth. For the woodier herbs (sage, rosemary, thyme), they’ll need a light prune to keep their shape.

    Let’s take this inside
    If you have a small garden or no outdoor space at all, no problem, all you need is one big pot, some soil and a few plants to make a container herb garden.

    First of all, choose your container and how many herbs you are going to plant – if you’ve bought lots of herbs from the garden centre, split the clumps and space them out in the pot.

    Add a layer of compost and arrange your plants, making sure the lower growing plants are placed around the edges, and then fill in the gaps with compost. Water well and pop in a sunny spot.

    Get creativePlacing herb and plants in baskets or quirky vintage tins means they can be easily moved and rearranged for interesting and adaptable herb gardens.


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