An essential ingredient in Italian cooking with strongly flavoured
leaves that can be used to in tomato dishes or to make pesto sauce.
Seeds are best sown indoors in April-May for plants that can be grown
outdoors in summer, providing leaves that can harvested well into the
Fill a small pot or pots with moist multipurpose compost. Sprinkle your seeds thinly (about 10 seeds per pot) and cover with a very fine layer of compost. Place your pots on a warm windowsill. Keep the soil moist but not too wet as the seeds can rot. Seedlings should appear after one or two weeks.
Late May to June - Plant out
After about five weeks your seedlings should be ready to be transferred into individual pots. Tease them out, holding the leaves very carefully so you don't damage the roots, before potting up separately into small pots. Your basil can now be left indoors all summer or planted outside.
'Genovese': Large, bright green sweet leaves that are brilliant with mozzarella and tomatoes.
'Napoletano': Huge leaves for perfect pesto.
'Siam Queen': Tasty, slightly hairy oval leaves are great for Thai cooking.
'Cinnamon': Bushy plant with aromatic red veined green leaves.
'Purple Ruffles': Showy dark leaves which are heavily fringed.
Bay is an evergreen tree with aromatic leaves and shiny grey bark. In
spring it develops small, yellowish flowers and in autumn the tree
bears dark, purple berries. It is a tall tree that is often kept small
by growing it in a container. It is hardy to –7C but if temperatures
fall below that the tree should be covered with horticultural fleece
or taken indoors until the weather changes.
Bay trees can grow up to 12m if left to grow unchecked, so you’ll need to prune your tree each year if you grow it outside. Pruning bay trees is easy – they can be kept to any height and width if pruned regularly. Use secateurs to simply snip the excess foliage away to form a circular shape. Bay trees have very shallow root systems.
Young bay plants are best planted in the spring after all danger of frost has past, giving plants time to establish before summer. Choose a sheltered spot protected from strong winds in full sun.
Laurus nobilis ‘Angustifolia’:
Narrow, wavy-edged, pale green leaves. Hardier than common bay.
Laurus nobilis ‘Aurea’: Showy golden leaves. Slightly hardier than common bay.
Laurus nobilis (Common bay):Dark green, aromatic leaves.
Coriander is a versatile herb popular in Asian cooking including curries, Chinese and Thai dishes. Both the seeds and the leaves of the plant can be used, and offer two distinct flavours. The seeds have a slight lemony flavour; they are often ground and used as a spice. The leaves (also known as cilantro) have a slightly bitter taste and can be chopped up and added to dishes and breads or used as a garnish.
Coriander is best grown from seed directly into the soil. This is
because it is quite a sensitive plant; transplanting young plants can
shock them and cause them to bolt (run to seed). Prepare the soil
thoroughly by digging it over, removing any weeds and incorporating
organic matter, such as well-rotted manure or compost. Rake the soil
so it’s level and sow seeds 4cm apart in drills 1cm deep.
Coriander does well in containers and can be grown on a sunny windowsill or balcony. The container must be quite deep as coriander has a long tap root. Sow the seeds little and oftem from June-September. Do not transplant, but thin out to bout 20cm apart. Scatter seeds on the surface of the compost and cover with soil, watering well. Care for the plants as you would if they were in the ground; you may need to water them more often as pots dry quickly.
Varieties: Coriandrum sativum:
Can be grown for its leaves or seeds.
‘Lemon’: Grown for its citrus-flavoured leaves.
‘Leafy Leisure’: A vigorous cultivar producing masses of leaves. Slow to bolt.
Because chervil grows with a long taproot, it doesn’t transplant very
well. You’re better sowing your seeds directly into the garden.
The seeds lose power very quickly, don’t bother with old seed.
Sow in succession March to August.
Chervil is a prolific self-seeder. Remove a proportion of the flower heads to prevent being over run with seedlings, but allow some to remain to provide you with new plants for growing on.
Water plants regularly, especially during hot, dry summers.
‘Curled’: Large clumps of finely cut, delicate dark green leaves.
Anthriscus cerefolium (Common Chervil):
Produces a rosette of ferny foliage in its first year, followed by 60cm (2ft) high stalks holding sprays of tiny white flowers in its second.
A member of the onion family, chives are well worth cultivating in
the vegetable and flower garden. They take up very little space, and
the whole plant can be eaten -including the flowers.
I like to grow them in pots but they also grow well in the ground.
Sow seed outdoors from April to May.
Chives should be used fresh and uncooked, otherwise they loose almost all their flavour. When used with cooked foods, add them after cooking. To keep plants productive, remove flowers as they start to fade or use the young blooms to brighten up salads. Cut leaves as required with scissors, snipping close to the base of plants
‘Black Isle Blush’:Similar to common chives, but with showier, light mauve flowers with a deep pink centre.
‘Fine Leaved’:Milder flavour than common chives with thinner leaves.
‘Forescate’: Makes robust clumps with slightly garlic-flavoured leaves and pale pink flowers.
Dill is a large annual or biennial herb with ferny foliage that is
topped with sprays of yellow flower in summer. The strongly flavoured
leaves can be chopped into soups, salads or used to flavour rice.
Start sowing seeds in April. Scatter them over the soil’s surface and cover with a thin layer of compost. Seedlings will usually emerge within 2 weeks and should be thinned to around 24cm apart. Re-sow seeds every 3-5 weeks. This will ensure a continual supply of dill throughout the summer months.
Do not allow soil or compost to dry out. Water plants regularly, especially during hot, dry summers, but do not over water.
Support plants with garden canes or twiggy sticks to prevent them toppling over in a gust of wind.
'Bouquet’: Best for seeds.
'Dukat’: Vigorous, slow to bolt and great flavoured leaves.
'Fernleaf’: Dwarf and bushy, this only grows to 45cm (18in) making perfect for pots.
'Herkules’: Reaching 1.2m (4ft), this is a tall plant with masses of long-lasting leaves.
'Mammoth’: Grows up to 90cm (3ft), good for seed production.
Marjoram is a half hardy annual; this means it will only last for one
season and it is unlikely that it will survive through the winter
Marjoram grows best in full sun, in a well-drained soil of average to low fertility. Sow seeds from April, 2cm deep and approximately 15cm apart in a well-prepared seedbed. After about 2-3 weeks, thin seedlings to 30cm apart to give the plants room to grow to their full size.
As marjoram is tolerant of most conditions, it requires very little care. In the first few months, ensure the plants do not dry out, but after they have become established they should cope well with drought. Try to avoid letting the plants become waterlogged, however. Marjoram is a Mediterranean plant and is not used to wet conditions. If you can’t grow marjoram in a well-drained soil then grow it in a container with plenty of grit to aid drainage.
Plants do not like to be too wet in winter, so place pots in a sheltered spot and raise onto pot feet to allow excess water to drain away.
For a winter supply of leaves, lift plants in autumn, pot them up and place them in a well lit spot under cover.
Origanum vulgare ‘Aureum’ AGM (golden marjoram):Golden marjoram has bright leaves and pink flowers in summer.
Origanum vulgare ‘Nanum’ (dwarf origanum): 'Nanum' is a compact cultivar with small green oval leaves and whitish flowers.
Origanum marjorana ( sweet marjoram):Sweet marjoram grows to around 60cm (24in) and has tasty green leaves.
Origanum onites (pot marjoram): Pot marjoram has dark green hairy leaves and pink flowers.
Origanum x applii: Strongly pungent leaves. Needs protection over winter.
Mint is a hardy perennial and a voracious grower. It will do well in both sunny and shady parts of the garden. It will also thrive in pots; in fact if you have a small garden it is recommended that you grow mint in a pot to prevent it from spreading and taking over the other herbs.
Mint can be grown easily from seed, or young plants sold at garden centres. Mint is tolerant of almost all conditions, but it prefers a well-drained, fertile soil. However, mint enjoys a fair amount of moisture, so it will do better in a moderately shady position, where the soil won’t dry out as quickly as it would in a very sunny area.
Alternatively grow in a large, bottomless bucket and plunge it into a gap in the soil, making sure the lip of the container remains above the surface to prevent shoots from escaping over the top.
Apple mint: Mentha suaveolens - apple mint has oval shaped leaves and mauve flowers that appear in summer.
Tashkent mint: Mentha spicata ‘Tashkent’ is a robust plant with a strong taste and heavily-textured leaves.
Ginger mint: Mentha × gracilis - ginger mint - has oval leaves with a spicy mint scent.
Chocolate mint: Mentha × piperata f. citrata ‘Chocolate’ has dark brown leaves that taste like chocolate creams.
Oregano originates in the Mediterranean. It is closely related to the
herb marjoram; in fact oregano is actually wild marjoram (oregano has
a more intense flavour). Oregano is a half hardy annual; this means it
will only last for one season and it is unlikely that it will survive
through the winter months.
Oregano prefers a well-drained site in full sun. Oregano does not require many nutrients and will thrive on a sandy or chalky soil. It grows well in containers and is extremely useful in the kitchen.
Oregano grows best in full sun in a well-drained soil of average to low fertility. Prepare the bed by digging it over thoroughly and incorporating organic matter such as leafmould, well-rotted animal manure or homemade compost. Sow seeds from late April, 2cm deep and approximately 15cm apart in a well-prepared seedbed. After about 2-3 weeks, thin seedlings to 30cm apart.
Oregano is well suited to being grown in pots. Sow seeds indoors in March in a small pot then transplant into a 30cm diameter pot in May. Water the pot when the soil dries out. Feeding oregano can impair the flavour of its leaves. Only feed once or twice during the season.
‘Kent Beauty’: Dwarf cultivar with grey green leaves and very showy pink flowers.
Oregano: Origanum vulgare: dark-green leaves topped with pink flowers in summer.
Greek oregano: Origanum vulgare subsp. hirtum ‘Greek’ has bright green leaves and white flowers. Good for drying.
‘Aureum Crispum’: Origanum vulgare ‘Aureum Crispum’ has crinkled golden leaves and pink flowers.
Compact oregano: Origanum vulgare ‘Compactum’: compact oregano with pink flowers.
Parsley requires a fairly rich soil in order to thrive. Once
established, however, parsley is a low-maintenance plant that requires
very little attention if given the right conditions to grow in.
Parsley is a biennial herb, this means it will flower and produce
seeds in its second year of growth, so you’ll only need to replace it
every two years.
There are two main types of parsley
French parsley: Dark
green, flat leaves with great flavour.
'Envy' AGM: Dark green, densely curled leaves.
‘Gigante Napoletano’: Large, flat and aromatic leaves.
'Plain Leaved 2’: Flat leaves with a strong flavour.
A decorative herb originating from the Mediterranean and bears small,
blue or white flowers in late spring. It is a fantastically versatile
herb in the kitchen, sprigs of rosemary can be added to roast
vegetable medleys and to meats, including roast lamb. Rosemary is an
evergreen, perennial shrub that thrives in good soil in full sun.
Get a rosemary cutting. Rosemary is easiest to grow from a cutting, rather than planting seeds. Go to your local nursery and get a cutting, or better yet, find a rosemary plant you admire and clip off a few 4 inch pieces to propagate. Or buy a pot. The best time to do this is in the late spring, end of May.
Rosemary prefers a light, sandy soil of medium to low fertility. However, rosemary will tolerate most growing conditions, as long as it is not waterlogged. Rosemary is difficult to grow from seed and is best bought as small plants from the garden centre.
To keep plants compact, cut back stems after the blooms start to fade or plants will become leggy.
Feed plants in containers with a balanced fertiliser after they have finished flowering.
'Lady in White': Pretty white flowers.
'Majorca Pink': Tall shrub with columnar habit and pink blooms.
'McConnell's Blue' AGM: Compact habit and blue flowers.
'Miss Jessopp's Upright' AGM: A tall plant with an upright habit and blue flowers.
Prostratus Group:A prostrate form that is ideal in a pot or cascading over a wall.
Sage is a popular herb used to make stuffing and to flavour meat
dishes. It is native to the Mediterranean but is a hardy perennial and
is easy to grow. Sage enjoys a sunny position in a well-drained,
fertile soil. Sage is an attractive plant to have growing in the
garden; its velvety leaves and small, purple flowers look spectacular
in the herb garden and herbaceous border alike.
Sage takes a long time to grow from seed, so it is best bought as a young plant and transplanted straight into the garden. Alternatively, you can propagate sage from another plant by taking cuttings.
Sage does well in a container. Simply grow in normal potting compost and keep the pot fairly dry, in a warm, sunny position. Prune once a year and feed with a liquid feed every fortnight during the growing season.
Pruning plants after flowering helps to maintain an attractive shape and encourages lots of new growth.
Raise containers onto pot feet in winter to allow excess moisture to drain away.
Sage can also be planted in 20-45cm (12in) pots filled with soil-based compost.
Common sage: Shrub, 80cm (32in) tall with wrinkly, grey-green leaves.
‘Icterina': Green and yellow leaved variegated sage with a mild flavour.
‘Tricolor’: Showy pink, white and green leaves. Less hardy than common sage.
Broad-leaved sage: Excellent culinary sage with large leaves and strong flavour.
There are two main types of this strongly-flavoured herb, which is
often used in bean and meat dishes, stuffings and sausages – it’s an
important flavouring of salami. Summer savory is a half-hardy annual,
while winter savory is a semi-evergreen perennial with a slightly
stronger taste. Grow winter savory to harvest leaves all year round.
Sow Summer Savory seeds from late winter to spring at 18-20C (65-68F), in a good quality seed compost, at a depth of 1.5mm. Place in a propagator or seal the seed tray inside a polythene bag until after germination, which usually takes 14-21 days. Keep the compost damp but not wet. When seedlings are large enough to handle, transplant into 7.5cm (3in) pots and grow them on in cooler conditions until large enough to plant outdoors. When alyssum plants are well grown and all risk of frost has passed, acclimatise them to outdoor conditions over 7 to 10 days. Transplant outdoors in full sun on any well drained soil at a distance of 38cm apart.
A light harvest of Summer Savory can be made after about 6 weeks. Pick the leaves as and when required. For drying, Summer Savory is best harvested in August.
Summer savory will die in late autumn – sow seeds for more plants the following spring.
Summer savory: Bushy plant, 35cm (14in) tall with small, oblong leaves.
Summer savory ‘Aromata’: Stronger flavour than common summer savory.
Winter savory: Grows up to 40cm (16in) with leathery, slender pointed leaves.
Winter savory ‘Purple Mountain’: Compact plant to 23cm (9in) with purple flowers.
Winter savory 'Citriodora': Small plant with lemon-flavoured leaves.
These perennial herbs are grown for their tangy, slightly lemon tasting leaves that are perfect for adding a kick to salads, sauces and egg dishes
Grow in well-drained soil in a sunny or lightly shaded spot, or plant
into the middle of a container filled with multi-purpose compost.
Water plants often, especially during warm, dry summers. Self-seeds
and can be difficult to eradicate or control.
Nip out flowers to prevent plants running to seed. Cut back after flowering. Cut back prior to seed setting to avoid self-seeding.
Top growth of plants will die back in autumn. Raise pots up onto special pot feet or even bricks to allow excess moisture to drain away, reducing the risk of compost remaining soggy and roots rotting.
Divide established plants every couple of years in spring or autumn to rejuvenate congested clumps and to ensure plants are productive.
Pot grown plants can be planted out into well drained, moist soil in sun or partial shade.
Susceptible to damage from slugs and aphids but generally disease
Sorrel red veined. An unusual and beautiful herb with a striking blood red veining to the leaves and a tangy lemon flavour.
Sow seeds indoors March-April or buy plants.
Thin to 2-3 seedlings and keep the compost moist. When the first true leaves have grown (when the plants are 10cm tall), harden the plants off by moving the pots outside in the day then taking them in at night. Do this for up to a week, before leaving the pots out at night. This gradually acclimatises the plants so they are not shocked when planted outside.
Plant out in a warm, sunny spot in the garden end of May-early June. They demand well-drained soil and will rot over winter if the ground is too wet. If your soil is too heavy or you have a small garden, grow thyme in pots – they will thrive in 15cm pots filled with a gritty potting medium, ideally soil.
As they are evergreen, thyme can be picked all year round, but the leaves taste best during their natural growing season. Use scissors to snip off sprigs, ensuring cuts are made carefully to avoid spoiling the shape of plants. Use fresh or dried for later use.
'Archer's Gold': Golden leaves and pink flowers.
French thyme: Compact, with narrow dark green leaves.
Common thyme: Common thyme, Thymus vulgaris, has dark green leaves and mauve flowers.
'Aureus' AGM: Green and yellow variegated leaves with a citrus kick.