When was the last time you checked the prices of fresh herbs at the supermarket? I looked recently and I was shocked at how much money other people make just from growing and packing herbs – fresh herbs are so expensive! If you enjoy cooking like me then you’ll always want some fresh herbs on-hand to throw into your favourite dish. To cut down my grocery bills, I decided to grow my own in a small herb garden on my flat’s sunny balcony.
Where I live in tropical Northern Australia, it’s well suited to herbs as long as you keep them well watered on the sunny hot days. In return for your tender love and care, a well tended herb garden can provide you with some healthy, nutritious and tasty herbs – like Coriander, Vietnamese Mint and Basil – perfect for summer salads, pastas and Asian stir-fry dishes.
The nice part about herbs is that you can collect their seeds when they start to flower, which gives you a nearly endless supply of new seed to grow more herbs. They will grow prolifically under the right conditions! You just need to start with the right source of seeds to be begin with.
1. Find a source of seeds
To build up your herb garden from nothing, try your local Seed Saver community as a start. You may find some interesting varieties there. For those who are more interested in online shopping, try Eden Seeds who have a website offering certified organic herb seed stocks.
2. Find the optimum location
Depending on whether you live in a house with a yard, an apartment with a balcony or a flat with a windowsill, you need to find a good location for your new herb garden to grow. Herb Pots are great on your windowsill indoors and also a good way to cultivate your herbs indoors in those colder climate areas. Basically what all herbs want is a a bright sunny spot with good light that warms the soil and causes the plants to germinate quickly.
3. Choose from seeds or seedlings
Hardy herbs like Basil, Chives and Dill are the easiest to grow and are great for beginners. Coriander is better seeded directly into pots for this reason. Parsley and Oregano are slow developers taking up to 4 weeks to germinate, while Sage can take up to three weeks to get moving.
If you want to grow woody herbs like Thyme, Rosemary, and Bay Laurel (the herb that gives you Bay leaves) you are better to grow these directly from cuttings or small plants.
4. Germinate your herbs from seed, in small pots
By using small pots you can germinate many different types of herbs and then transplant them into the garden. This will give you the best use of space especially if you are planting on a windowsill or small balcony.
By using small seeding containers you can also regulate the light and watering required for each different type of seed.
Cover your pots with plastic wrap with some small holes poked into it until they have germinated. Use plant labels to identify your different herbs so you know what’s planted where. You can make plant labels yourself from paddle-pop sticks or buy a stylish set of Seedling Labels online.
5. Water your growing seedlings, thinning as required
Your herbs – whether planted indoors or out – require regular even watering to keep the soil moist. The only exception to this is Basil which appreciates less water; wait until the pot is nearly dry before the next watering.
Over time your herb seedlings will need thinning and transplanting at the proper time. To avoid damage to your seedlings use a pair of scissors to halve the seedlings that you don’t want in your garden, cutting them at the stem at the soil line. Doing this will ensure that your herb garden doesn’t get overcrowded, let the sunlight in, and regulate the soil moisture.
6. Fertilise your herbs once a month
Fertilize your herbs every month using an all-purpose fertiliser. This is particularly important if you are growing your herbs in pots, because the nutrients in the soil will require a regular topping-up. If you compost then your bokashi tea could be a good option – just make sure it is well diluted. If you want a commercial soluion you can try Osmocote All Purpose or Osmocote Plus Organics from your local nursery. Either are perfect for use in your herb garden.
See the results within weeks
It’s fair to say that you will get better results growing your herbs outdoors than in a windowsill. The windowsill will produce great tasting plants but they will be more compact than their outdoor family members.
The key to growing a successful herb garden is to start with easy herbs like Basil and Parsley which will give you quick results. Basil, for example will give you usable stalks within five to six weeks and a full harvest within in 2-3 months. Once you have successfully sown your first few pots, then try some more challenging varieties.
Have fun growing your herb garden, whether it’s by seed or from a seedling. Feel free to share your best herb garden photos with your fellow gardeners on the Green Home and Garden Facebook page.
Got a question, or something we missed, leave your comments below.