Is there anything better than home grown, fresh herbs to add to your cooking? A window sill full of pots of herbs looks attractive and is also really practical. You could also raise herbs in containers or raised beds, to be harvested as required. You can sow some herbs as early as January, here are a few examples:
Basil / Ocimum basilicum – an annual
Available in a wide range of varieties basil is popular with cooks and gardeners and is a fast growing herb which is easy to grow from seed.
Sow seeds now and you’ll have fresh basil ready to harvest between May to October. They need a temperature of between 15-25*C / 59-77*F for the seeds to germinate, so ideally start them off in a heated propagator.
Sow the seeds thinly on the surface of seed trays or pots, covering them with a shallow layer of vermiculite. Vermiculite is great for covering tiny seeds as it’s lighter than compost, fairly transparent and stops green algae from growing on the surface of the compost. Basil should take between 14-21 days depending on the temperature.
When growing basil indoors it’s important to ensure that it’s in adequate lighting or the plants will grow long and leggy. The Grow Light Garden is ideal as it’s stylish enough to look good sat in your kitchen. It incorporates full spectrum grow lights to ensure healthy plant growth and can be used to house a wide range of herbs or salad leaves allowing you to have fresh produce all year round.
When it comes to cooking, basil is the main ingredient when making pesto (a mixture of basil, pine nuts and parmesan cheese). It’s also used in lots of other dishes – why not visit the BBC website to be inspired by a wide range of recipes.
Parsley / Petroselinum crispum – biennials
Parsley can be grown indoors or outdoors – here we are looking at growing parsley indoors as January is too early for sowing seeds outdoors.
To improve / speed up the germination rate you should soak the parsley seeds in warm water overnight. They are then ready to sow.
For plants which will be kept indoors to grow and harvest, ideally sow the seeds directly into the pots they will remain in once they are fully grown. Ideally fill the pot with a mixture of good quality potting compost and horticultural sand (added to improve drainage) or vermiculite.
Seeds should be sown about ¼” below the surface of the compost – so it’s easier to part fill the pot, sow the seeds, then cover with a layer of compost, or if you prefer a layer of vermiculite.
Parsley seeds will take between 10 to 25 days to germinate. Once the seedlings are large enough to handle, thin them out – leave about ¾” between each plant.
You’ll need to keep parsley well-watered and fed (ideally feed every two weeks) to ensure parsley plants remain healthy. To make watering easy you could sit the pots onto a self watering tray. Or fill a watertight tray with grit or hydroleca, providing water and humidity that way rather than watering the plants from above.
Parsley is a vital ingredient in French, Italian and Middle Eastern cookery, but don’t forget it’s also key to a Great British Favourite Parsley Sauce.
Chives / Allium schoenoprasum –
Chive seeds need a compost temperature of around 21*C / 70*F to germinate so will need to be placed in a heated propagator. You can sow chive seeds into individual cells (such as plug trays or seed success kits) or into pots.
Sow the seeds in a good potting compost and cover with a thin layer of Vermiculite. Seeds will germinate in approx. 14 days.
As the seedlings grow they will need at least six hours of sunlight a day to be healthy – if you’re growing them on a window sill then remember to turn the pots every couple of days as they will tend to grow towards the light. You can raise chives under artificial light – such as that produced by the Grow Light Garden – when the plants should grow evenly. When growing under artificial light the lights should be left on for approx. 14 hours per day – this is the equivalent to 6 hours of sunlight.
Chives will grow 6-12” in height and can be harvested at any time. Harvesting chives is easy and will help to maintain a healthy plant. Simply cut the chives as required using a sharp pair of scissors and snipping close to the base of the plant. Regular harvesting encourages the plant to produce new leaves.
When it comes to cooking, chives can be incorporated into many egg, cheese and potato dishes and can also be used as a topping on soups or salads – the attractive pink flowers are edible and would be an attractive addition to any salads.
Be inspired and try something new using chives – check out the three uses on Nicole Coudal’s blog.
Although chives are best used fresh, chives can be frozen – finely cut the chives and place into an ice cube tray and fill with water. Add to your freezer and when you need chives for a recipe simply pop out the cubes and use as required.
Mint / Lamiaceae - a hardy perennial
Although mint has a reputation for being an aggressive plant in the garden, as it is very invasive and will spread rapidly around your garden, you can overcome this by growing mint in a pot or container.
In this way you are constraining the roots to prevent spreading – so even if you want to plant it in the ground it’s best to bury a large pot into the ground and plant the mint there rather than letting it have access to all of your garden.
Most gardeners prefer to grow mint from root cuttings, as it is so easy to grow that way and speeds up the growing process. However, if you are patient then growing mint from seed is an easy option if you are happy to wait the 10 to 16 days for the seed to germinate and start to grow.
When you sow mint seeds, you will need to achieve a temperature between 22-24*C / 72-75*F for germination and the best way to achieve this is to use a heated propagator. Simply fill seed trays or pots with a slightly moist seed compost and sow the seeds on top – they don’t need to be covered with compost as mint seeds need light to germinate.
Once the mint seedlings have been growing for about 8 to 10 weeks and have developed at least two sets of true leaves, then they should be sturdy enough to be transferred into their own pot. As mint is a vigrous grower you may need to repot after a further 6 to 8 months - you will know when mint has outgrown its space as the roots will start to appear at the edge of the pot or through the drainage holes in the base.
Our blog posts are created from our personal knowledge, information gathered by speaking to other gardeners or manufacturers in the gardening industry, by reading gardening magazines and devouring information from books and the internet. We aim to be as accurate as we can, so if you find a mistake, please remember, we’re only human. if you have any queries you can contact us today!