What you will need
Timeframe: From planting to eating – immediate
- 30L John Innes Multipurpose Compost (garden centres, large hardware stores)
- Three (or more) compartment herb container (Fig 1) (garden centres & large hardware stores)
- Three (or more) individual pots of herbs – recommend sage, rosemary, basil, thyme or oregano
- Some washed gravel, broken crockery or stones picked up on a walk.
Plant a Herb Garden
Herbs are really easy to grow, and can be potted into any type of container, though the smaller the container, the more you’ll have to water them.
They like a sunny place to stand, good quality compost and drainage. The John Innes Multipurpose recommended has reduced peat and contains grit which will aid drainage.
Herbs, such as thyme and oregano prefer not to be fussed about, and tolerate quite a lot of neglect. Most herbs grow well together and don’t mind being crowded together but, as with most plants, try to leave space around them to encourage air circulation.
How to do it?
- Ensure your container is scrubbed clean and that there are drainage holes. If there aren’t any you will have to make a few holes, approx. 0.5mm wide (use an electric drill, scissors, heated metal skewer, but adult supervision required).
Put a layer of gravel in the bottom of the container to cover the holes then half fill it with compost.
- Holding the herb plant in its pot in one hand, with your other hand place the V of your index and middle finger either side of the base of the stem, turn the plant upside down and gently ease it from its container upside down into the palm of that hand.
Once out of it’s original pot, pop the plant, complete with most of its original compost into the new container, repeating with the other two plants. Once they are all in place fill in any gaps with remaining compost ensuring there is a gap at the top of 15mm. This will ensure that compost does not overflow when you water it.
- Water the compost with the spout of a watering can, avoiding the leaves if possible until the water runs through the drainage holes.
Either keep your herb garden on a windowsill or outside; close to the kitchen door so you can grab your favourite herbs as you need them.
Aftercare & Harvesting
To harvest herbs, pinch or snip the leaves from the tops which will encourage them to bush out and produce more stems – the more you pick the more they’ll grow.
You can start doing this with basil when it has four to six leaves on, but always ensure you leave four to six leaves or it will die!
Either use your herbs fresh or hang them to dry in small bunches. Always hang them upside down as their oils will seep downwards giving them more flavour.
If you have lots you can chop them up, fill up ice cube containers with them, add water and freeze. They can then be thrown straight into casseroles and pasta dishes without the need to defrost.
Be careful not to overwater herbs as generally they don’t thrive. You can do the finger test to see if they need water by poking your finger deep into the compost – depending upon how damp the soil is depends how much you’ll need to water.
Things it’s handy to know
When you’re deciding which herbs to buy, choose one’s you’ll use in the kitchen. You might like the look of feverfew but unless you plan on using it, it will be taking up valuable space.
Try and pick different leaf shapes, colours and textures too when you’re grouping them together.
Outside, the best time of day to harvest them is in the morning.
And for the Kids
If you have lavender in your garden (or a friend’s with permission):
- take a few sprigs
- remove the leaves from the stem
- place into little squares of cotton fabric or muslin
- tie with a ribbon.
These can be placed into clothes drawers or given away as gifts.
With thanks to GIY Ireland. More gardening projects available on www.giyireland.com
Have you grown herbs before with your child or any other easy GIY crops? Tell us all about it in the comments below