Herb garden ideas – create a cook’s herb garden you’ll actually use

Want to grow your own? These winning herb garden ideas will ensure you grow your favourite herbs with the best results possible.
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  • Looking for some winning herb garden ideas to grow your own with total success?

    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. As a huge garden trend, the benefits of a grow your own garden doesn’t stop at the eating.

    Simon Hudson, Managing Director at Oxley’s explains why growing your own is so eco-friendly: ‘During the pandemic, millions of us discovered the joy of growing our own food. In fact, Google searches for ‘vegetable patch’ rocketed by 75 percent during lockdown, with the trend still showing no sign of going away.’

    ‘Growing fruit, vegetables and herbs in your garden can also have a positive impact on your personal carbon footprint.’

    ‘For maximum results, opt for fruit and vegetables that are usually imported from overseas, as these products have the highest emissions. Home growing your food will also reduce your reliance on products that include plastic packaging.’

    Whether you’ve got acres of land, a small balcony or just a kitchen windowsill, we’ve rounded up herb garden ideas that will help with all of your cooking needs, and create a sustainable garden to boot.

    Herb garden ideas

    a variety of herbs in a container planter in a garden with pots

    Image credit: Tim Young

    1. Choose your herbs 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. When figuring out how to grow your own, don’t get carried away, there is no point planting vast quantities of herbs that you’re never going to use.

    Richard Redman, Garden Buyer at Robert Dyas says, ‘Create your own ‘cut and come again’ kitchen herb garden. Whether on your kitchen windowsill or patio or as a balcony garden idea, herbs are straightforward and vigorous growers that will keep you well stocked throughout summer.’

    ‘Some varieties, including mint, chives, tarragon, and oregano tend to die back over winter to then make a return the following season.’

    Burgon & Ball Verti Planter

    Image credit: Burgon & Ball Verti Planter

    2. Herb garden 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 for the best drenching of sunlight.

    a herb garden in a basket container

    3. Herbs love 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.

    Make sure you group your herbs by needs to make sure they grown with optimum results.

    a garden with herbs and mature foliage with a summer house and yellow bicycle - tim young

    Image credit: Tim Young

    4. Avoid herb 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. Try not to plant them with other herbs that might get choked by these fast-growing varieties.

    Richard Redman, Garden Buyer at Robert Dyas say, ‘Certain herbs, including mint, are vigorous growers and can take over if left to their own devices. It is wise to use a separate small planting container for each herb or a Robert Dyas multi-divisional herb bed. You can also divide an existing flower bed with sleepers or bits of old wood to keep any enthusiastic plants in check.’

    a garden patio with herbs in a border scheme - Colin Poole

    Image credit: Colin Poole

    5. Don’t overcrowd your herb garden

    Coriander, basil and dill can be quick to bolt especially if they’re overcrowded or in dry soil. Bolting signifies the end of the herb’s life cycle and results in a poor taste. So remember to make regular sowings to keep your crop alive and kicking for an easy garden idea.

    lavender border in a garden outside a garden room - claire lloyd davies

    Image credit: Claire Lloyd Davies

    6. Cut back the herbs regularly

    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.

    indoor herb garden with colourful planters and crates

    image credit: Nick Pope

    7. Plant an indoor herb garden

    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 – perfect as a small garden idea or for your kitchen windowsill.

    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.

    8. Make a DIY herb planter

    DIY herb planter 3

    Image credit: Hellan Pearce

    Vertical planters are ideal if you don’t have much outdoor space and this DIY planter made from pallets, makes the perfect space-saving budget garden idea. Here’s how to make a DIY herb planter via avid DIY-er, and grandmother, Hellan Pearce:

    • Take a pallet and fill in the bottom of each row with wood from another pallet to create the trough
    • Line each box with a plant liner and drill holes in the bottom of each box for drainage.
    • Write the name of the herbs on the front in permanent marker.
    • If you aren’t as confident in your calligraphy skills as Hellan you can create a stencil out of paper to help guide your hand.

    9. Sarah Raven’s top herb garden tip

    herbs planted in various pots on a plant stand in a garden patio

    Image credit: cuckooland.com

    Recently in her podcast, Sarah Raven suggested using cardboard loo rolls to train herbs’ roots when planting a herb cutting. And this clever cardboard tube trick has more uses.

    They are also brilliant for sweet peas and beans as they thrive with a long root run. This is because it encourages a new root to grow in the correct way from the start, plus it helps a new root system to grow.

    10. Attract bees to your herb garden

    bee on a lavender stem in a garden - Getty Images

    Image credit: Getty Images

    Greenpeace has declared that around a third of our food relies directly on bees for pollination, sparking a response from the UK government. UK gardeners and homeowners have been encouraged to let their gardens grow wild and incorporate bee garden ideas to create natural ecosystems to help bees thrive and survive.

    Liam Lapping of Flowercard says, ‘Instead of buying packs of fresh herbs from the supermarket try growing your own. Not only will it save you money on your shopping in the long run, but it will also help the bees as the flowers of many herbs such as mint, rosemary and thyme are well-liked by bees.’

    These ten bee-friendly herbs will ensure you won’t go wrong.

    11. Create a built-in herb planter on a table

    a herb planter built on to an outdoor table in a garden patio - Cuprinol

    Image credit: Cuprinol

    Haven’t enough room for a herb garden? You could give your existing garden table a simple update by jazzing it up by adding a built in herb planter. Expert, Marianne Shillingford from Cuprinol showed us how to make a table planter so you’ll always have fresh herbs an arm’s length away for whatever dish is on the menu. This is a fabulous outdoor kitchen idea too.

    What herbs can be planted together?

    Herbs that are commonly planted together are sage, thyme, rosemary, marjoram, lavender, and oregano, among others. Try and avoid planting any mint with other herbs to avoid these invasive herbs from choking your slower growing herbs.

    Many herbs do very well together in containers in their growing season. However, mixing different kinds in a single pot isn’t as clear cut as it sounds.

    Make sure any herbs planted together have the same needs. For example, find out your herbs’ growing requirements and group those that need lots of water and sun or less water and more shade together.

    How do you start a herb garden for beginners?

    Starting a herb garden is a great way for beginner gardeners to get into growing their own food because herbs are pretty easy plants to grow.
    It couldn’t be any simpler than sowing herbs from seeds. Basil, coriander and parsley can be grown in pots on your kitchen windowsill from January to April. Then as summer weather approaches and temperatures start to rise, with soil conditions permitting, you can sow chives and dill seeds, directly into outdoor pots or directly in the ground.

    Richard Redman, Garden Buyer at Robert Dyas says, ‘Pick the herbs you want, sow your seeds in seed trays and wait until seedlings are roughly three inches tall and all risk of frost has passed before planting them out into your garden.’

    ‘Feed every three to four weeks with liquid fertiliser. Wait for them to establish before you start cutting – ideally a stem will have three segments – and then harvest what you need regularly throughout the season.’

    Here’s what you’ll need:

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