How to Sow and Plant Culinary Herbs

Essential recipe ingredients, herbs are great for beginners. Many will grow in the tiniest of spaces in hanging baskets, on windowsills and among other crops.

Culinary Herbs Fill Hanging Basket Display

Culinary Herbs Fill Hanging Basket Display

Fill hanging basket with a range of herbs such as basil, marjoram, curry plant and chives to make a bold display of foliage color, texture and taste.

©2012, Dorling Kindersley Limited

2012, Dorling Kindersley Limited

Fill hanging basket with a range of herbs such as basil, marjoram, curry plant and chives to make a bold display of foliage color, texture and taste.

Step 1: Choose Herbs

If you have never grown herbs before, start with a selection of perennials, such as thyme and marjoram. Adapted to hot, dry conditions, these plants need free-draining soil and full sun for strongly scented leaves. Mint and chives are easy to grow, too, and will tolerate moist soil and some shade. Batches of annual herbs, like basil and cilantro, can be sown from spring onward for a continuous supply. Sow parsley in early spring, or buy young plants, for leafy crops throughout the year until the following spring, when the plants will run to seed. 

Aftercare and Harvesting 

Although herbs like good drainage, keep the compost moist, since many will run to seed rapidly if allowed to dry out. Use herbs at every opportunity because regular picking keeps plants bushy and encourages fresh new growth. Place pots on sunny windowsills indoors in fall for fresh winter supplies.

Step 2: Choose Shrubby Herbs

Bay Tree with Twisted Stems is Edible Sculpture

Bay Tree with Twisted Stems is Edible Sculpture

Trained bay trees with braided stems and bushy heads make beautiful edible sculptures. Repot into slightly larger containers every two years to keep them healthy. 

©2012, Dorling Kindersley Limited

2012, Dorling Kindersley Limited

Trained bay trees with braided stems and bushy heads make beautiful edible sculptures. Repot into slightly larger containers every two years to keep them healthy. 

Bay, rosemary and sage all grow into attractive shrubs, and make decorative evergreen container specimens. Sage and rosemary are both fast-growing, so start with small plants and repot as they mature. Bay takes longer to grow, and it is worth investing in larger plants, especially if you want to train one into topiary. Plant shrubby herbs in soil-based compost, and place pots on “feet” to allow good drainage. Set in full sun. 

Aftercare and Harvesting 

Trim rosemary and sage after flowering to keep plants compact and encourage a flush of tender new leaves. Clip the tips of bay shoots to maintain a tidy, bushy form. Water plants regularly and protect bay and rosemary with fleece in cold winters. 

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