Tips for growing herbs at home

A basket of freshly picked herbs from the Kitchen Garden

There's nothing better than having a pot of fresh herbs by your back door and picking a sprig or two for cooking. Whether it's buying a pot from your local supermarket, taking cuttings or growing from seed, most herbs can be grown easily. Mottisfont's Senior Gardener, Gary Underwood, shares his tips for growing herbs at home.

Herbs growing in the garden
Herbs growing in the garden
Herbs growing in the garden

The first thing to check is whether the herbs are hardy or tender, which helps determine how best to look after them. Hardy herbs like sage, thyme or rosemary can be put straight outdoors in the garden, trough or pot. If they're tender like basil, parsley or tarragon, it's best to plant them out when the warmer weather arrives.

If you have a packet of herb seeds try sowing them in a 9cm pot or seed tray. Once established pot them on and make a herb container.

You will need

  • A decent sized pot/container (not too shallow) with drainage holes
  • Crock to place in the pot and help with drainage
  • Peat free compost
  • Horticultural grit 
  • Ready grown herbs (we don't recommend mint as it is quite invasive)
  • Watering can

How to plant your herb container

  1. Take the pot and place crock on the bottom.
  2. Add a mix of 50/50 compost and grit into the container, leaving a 2cm gap between. the potting mixture and the rim of the pot to allow for watering.
  3. Arrange and plant the herbs into the compost.
  4. Using a watering can, water the plants. It's important to water but do not over water them.
  5. Allow herbs to become established before picking, this should take a few weeks.

How to store your cut herbs and cut down on waste

Fresh
To keep herbs fresh for as long as possible, bunch them up, trim the stalks then wrap in damp kitchen paper and pop in the fridge. 

Oil
You can liquidize any herbs in olive oil and freeze in ice cube trays. Once frozen, remove from the trays and store in the freezer to add to soups, stews or sauces.

Butter
Chop up fresh herbs, mash with crushed garlic and add to room temperature butter. Roll up in greaseproof paper like a Christmas cracker and place in the freezer for 30mins to firm up. Once firm you can unwrap and cut into 1cm thick slices and store in the freezer. These can then be used in pasta, risotto or meat and fish dishes.

Dry
Put picked herbs in an airing cupboard or next to a radiator on a rack. Dry for at least 12 hours. Once crisp, store in a jar for use in salads or when cooking.