An easy guide to growing your own herbs this spring

herb garden guide
How to grow a herb gardenmelaics

As we’re all looking for new, mindful ways to spend our time at home, many of us are turning to gardening, whether that's cultivating plants in containers, starting a vegetable patch or growing a herb garden.

From tasty basil to fragrant lavender, growing your own herbs can be incredibly rewarding, not to mention handy when it comes to cooking.

So if you want to get involved, but don't know where to start, read on for our expert guide...

How to grow a herb garden

Why grow your own herbs?

Although they’re loved by seasoned gardeners too, Hollie Newton – author of How to Grow – says herbs are a “beginner gardener’s dream, because they’re pretty much the easiest thing to grow.”

It’s better for your bank balance and the environment too. Growing your own parsley, rosemary or mint will mean you’ll no longer have to buy those cellophane-wrapped fresh herbs from the supermarket, that tend to go bad after a few days causing wastage.

growing a herb garden
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According to Guy Barter, Chief Horticulturist at the RHS, herbs are also great if you’re short on space. “You can easily grow them on a sunny window sill or on a balcony,” he says.

But the ease and simplicity of growing herbs isn’t the only reason to get started. “As we’re all becoming more aware of the environment and where our food comes from, there’s something so interesting, satisfying and reassuring about cooking something you have grown,” says Barter.

For Newton, growing herbs – among other plants – also works wonders for her mental wellbeing. “I love gardening because you can’t rush it – it takes its own time, and there’s something really soothing about that in this world of speed and smartphones,” she says. “Watching something grow from nothing is really magical.”

What kind of herbs should I grow?

You can try any you like! “I’d start with the dependable, everyday-cooking herbs, like basil, sage, coriander, mint and rosemary,” Newton suggests. “But you can try out so many interesting varieties. I am currently growing Moroccan mint outside my back door, and lemon thyme which works amazingly with chicken. I also love growing chives, because the flowers are edible and they look great in salads.”

Where to buy herbs

Seeds and plants have become increasingly more straight forward to get hold of over the course of the pandemic, as many garden centres and retailers have pivoted online to keep up with demand, although there are some ways to find herbs in person, too.

“You can buy pots of rosemary or basil from the supermarket, and transfer them into a different pot or bed at home, so you can nurture them and keep them growing,” he recommends. “You can also buy big bags of coriander seeds from some shops and sow those – these can take around six weeks to grow but they still work really well.”

When to grow a herb garden

“If you start growing them in spring, they will grow well throughout the summer," says says Guy Barter. "Herbs like thyme, rosemary, lavender, sage and oregano are pretty hardy and will keep all winter.”

What you need to grow your own herbs

Alongside your seeds or plants, you will also need pots – but according to Barter, these don’t have to be anything fancy. “You can either use smaller pots to separate them, or one bigger, longer, pot,” he says.

“But if you don’t have anything to hand, you can even use containers from the supermarket with holes in the bottom to ensure they have good drainage,” adds Barter.

Then, you’ll need to fill them with potting compost – although both Newton and Barter agree that if you can’t get hold of any, some soil from the garden will work just fine.

“You don’t need any other specialised equipment, except maybe a trowel would come in handy,” says Barter. Just grab a watering can or spray bottle and you're all set.

How to grow herbs and get started

If you have a plant, simply put it into a pot, and surround it with soil or potting compost. “If you’re using a bigger pot outside, I recommend placing some gravel or stones at the bottom to aid drainage, before filling with good quality peat-free compost,” says Newton.

If you’re using seeds, Barter recommends sowing about one dessert-spoon full into the soil before covering it up. Then give everything a good water, and get ready to watch them grow!

What to feed a herb garden

“By and large, all herbs need the same treatment – which is moderate and regular watering. You shouldn't saturate the soil too much; the top of the soil should be dry before you water them again,” says Barter. “And plenty of sunlight! Chives and mint prefer a cooler, wetter environment so you could move them somewhere shady and reserve the best light for your rosemary and thyme.”

How to harvest herbs

“It’s best to harvest your herbs in the early morning, when the essential oils are at their most abundant,” recommends Newton. “Try not to pick all of your herb’s big tasty leaves right away, as they are like the herb’s power station. Take a mixture of small, new leaves, and big older ones when you go picking. You’ll find you have a healthier, happier, far more leafy plant for longer.”

growing a herb garden
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How long do herbs last?

As long as you tend to them, many of your herbs will continue growing for months to come. But you can also make new herbs from your old plants, by doing cuttings.

“With herbs like rosemary or thyme, you can take a tip of 3-4 inches long, remove the leaves on the lower half and then put it in a pot of compost. Cover it with a plastic bag to stop it drying out, and then the following spring, you will have roots that you can use to start growing again,” Barter explains. “If you stop tending to them, you can let them run to seed, and then store the seeds away to reuse them next year.”

And remember, if any of your herbs die, don’t beat yourself up over it. “If you haven’t done it before, it can be a learning experience,” suggests Barter. “If you accidentally kill it, don’t worry. You can keep trying again.”

For more information about how you can get involved with gardening, visit

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