Fresh, garden-grown herbs are an absolute must for any kitchen gardener. You can prepare and plant up a new herb garden in next to no time, and for a super-low cost too!
Where To Plant Your Herbs
The ideal herb-growing spot gets a good amount of direct sunshine and is near your house, which is important because you want your herbs as close to hand as possible so you will be more inclined to pick them as and when they’re needed.
Most herbs don’t need rich soil, so don’t waste your best compost on them – average garden soil is usually fine so long as it’s free-draining. If you’re growing Mediterranean herbs like lavender or rosemary and your soil is heavy it would be worth including some all-purpose potting mix with added grit to give them the sharp drainage they love.
To keep costs down you can grow herbs using a number of super-easy affordable methods: from grocery store-bought herbs, by taking cuttings, or by dividing existing plants.
Make the Most of Grocery Store Herbs
Let’s start with grocery store herbs. If you look closely you’ll see that they are in fact clusters of very young plants, all crammed together in the one pot.
Living herbs like these are sown, grown and sold on without ever being thinned out. Left extremely crowded like this, the herbs soon give out. But carefully separate and replant them and they’ll last much, much longer.
To separate your herbs, first wash the potting mix off by swishing the rootball back and forth in a tub of water. This makes them much easier to tease apart so they can then be separately potted up and grown on. Carefully pull the plants apart into three or four separate clumps to then pot up and grow on in fresh potting mix. Cut back most of the upper foliage to encourage plenty of fresh, new growth. This method is especially useful for herbs not easily grown from cuttings: parsley and cilantro, for example.
They’ll be ready to transplant a few weeks later.
Propagate Herbs From Cuttings
You can propagate new herbs from cuttings too. Take cuttings from existing garden plants, or using cheap packets of herbs bought from the grocery store. Find out how to take cuttings step-by-step here.
Prepared cuttings of herbs such as basil and mint can simply be placed in water then wait for them to produce roots, which should take around two weeks. The rooted cuttings can then be potted up into pots of fresh potting mix.
Other herbs like thyme and rosemary can be rooted in a very free draining potting mix (for instance all-purpose potting mix with some added perlite), then carefully separated out and planted into their own pots.
Divide Existing Herbs to Make New Plants
In many cases new plants can easily be propagated by lifting up and dividing existing plants. Simply dig the whole clump up with a garden fork, taking as much care as you can not to damage the roots. Then stab two forks back-to-back into the clump and rock them back and forth to prise off pieces. These pieces can now be planted into your new herb bed, and the remainder of the clump replanted where it came from.
This method works well with oregano, chives, creeping varieties of thyme, and lemon balm. Plants should ideally be divided towards the end of the growing season, while the soil’s still warm but top growth has slowed – this will reduce the stress on the plant as it’s lifted and split. Keep the plants well-watered while they establish.
Plant Up Your New Herb Garden
It’s important to make sure that sun-loving herbs are not overshadowed, so make sure to stagger them in order of height, with taller herbs such as rosemary and mint towards the back (furthest away from the sun), then medium-sized herbs such as oregano, parsley, basil and cilantro in the middle, with creeping herbs like thyme at the front.
Take time to lay out your herbs, still in their pots, so you can get an idea of what they’ll look like once planted. This means you can rearrange the layout until you’re happy.
If you’re growing mint, do be aware that it can become invasive. A neat trick to avoid problems with this is to plant them in a deep pot, then plant the whole pot into your garden. That way the roots can move down through the holes in the bottom of the pot to seek moisture and nutrients in the soil, but they are prevented from spreading out sideways.
The plants should be eager to start growing, so water them once planted to settle the soil around the roots, and keep them well-watered while they establish over the next few weeks and months. Herbs like basil and parsley can be trimmed if they start getting too leggy, and this will encourage them to keep bushing out at the base instead and form stocky plants.
Tempted to plant your own herb garden? Let us know how you get on in the comments below.