You don’t need much space to grow your own herbs. You can grow them in a pot or in the spokes of an old carthorse wheel. Be careful, as some like mint and chives can get out of control, if planted in the ground. Also see the post on how to grow your own food.
If you garden near animals, see make your garden safe for pets to know what to avoid. Also avoid cocoa mulch, pine mulch or fresh compost (contains mould) near pets. Avoid digging where possible, to keep earthworms safe. See safe humane solutions for slugs and snails. Herbs that are toxic to pets include:
- Pennyroyal (mint)
- Chives (anything in the onion family)
- Bay laurel
- Garden cress
Safer herbs include milder basil, rosemary, coriander and thyme. Rosemary will attract bees, so keep furry friends away.
Lavender is not the most toxic herb for pets, but in large amounts can harm (many herbs are toxic to pets). Keep them away (also to avoid bees: see natural remedies for bee stings). Although an animal aromatherapist may help in some cases, essential oils should never be used near cats, birds, ferrets and reptiles (they can’t break oils down in their livers). Avoid use on beds (if cats sleep on them), or if spraying perfumes, air fresheners or scented candles (air rooms before allowing pets back in – also avoid citronella near pets).
Tips to Grow Your Own Herbs
- The fastest-growing herbs are annual herbs including mild basil, rosemary, coriander, thyme & dill. Perennial herbs take more time to grow ((thyme, sage, rosemary, chives and mint – the last two tend to spread out quickly, so keep them within a contained area like a pot, or they may overtake the garden.).
- You can grow herbs on the windowsill in a pot. Or if growing outside, you can grow them in pots. Some people like to find old carthorse wheels from architectural salvage yards, and grow different herbs in each spokes. You can grow them in flower borders, but as said above, some may overtake the garden, and get out of control.
- Don’t put pots of herbs on a kitchen window that gets too much sun, or you will scorch them. Try to have plants facing west or east instead (north is not good either, as they won’t get enough sun). Water in the morning (yellow leaves are due to over-watering). But don’t water at night, as the soil won’t dry out as it gets colder. Try to also place the plants near a draught.
- Winter herbs include rosemary, thyme and sage.
- When the time comes to use the herbs, only pick a little at a time, so the plants can recover.
- You can freeze fresh herbs. Chop them up and mix with water, then pour into ice-cube trays.
Grow Your Own Garden Cress
Garden cress is related to watercress, but is actually an edible herb that is very popular to grow. The cress sold in shops tends to be ‘watered down’ with rapeseed oil, and could not really be called cress. It’s simple to grow yourself. Cress is toxic to pets.
Also known as mustard cress or ‘poor man’s pepper’, it’s great to add a tangy taste to sandwiches, soups and stews. You can buy organic seedlings from Bloomling, as an alternative to those plastic pots in supermarkets.
Books to Grow Your Own Herbs
- Grow Your Own Herbs profiles 40 popular herbs including basil, bay laurel, thyme, lemon verbena and tarragon, along with harvesting tips. Also learn how to preserve and store herbs to make delicious pastes, syrups and vinegars
- The Kew Gardener’s Guide to Growing Herbs shows how to grow and harvest 80 herbs, alongside beautiful photography by Jason Ingram. Learn how to create your own herb garden and use them in interesting ways including food, ice cubes, cocktails syrups and artisan gin.
- Homegrown Herb Garden covers the most widely used herbs (sage, rosemary, parsley, dill, coriander and tarragon) and adds a few others like chervil and Thai basil. Learn where to plant, when and how to harvest, and how to store herbs that are not for immediate use.
Buy Ready-Made Organic Herb Kits
- Jekka’s Herb Kits are grown on a family farm, just outside Bristol. These include hand-mixed seedling compost and 5 packets of herb seeds. Founder Jekka McVicar is author of A Pocketful of Herbs, a handy A to Z book on how to get the most out of herbs – from rosemary to wild garlic.
- The Herb Patch also grows organic seeds on a smallholding in the Derwent Valley, on the border of Durham/Northumberland.