The easy-grow herb garden

Thyme, chives, mint... When it comes to adding flavour to your cooking, there’s nothing better than aromatic plants. Here are some hot grow-your-own tips.

Although dried herbs are useful all year round, the fresh version can’t be beat when cooking great quality ingredients (or even mixing a mean cocktail). Plant some on the balcony or in the garden and you’ll never be short of them again.

Which plants are best if you don’t have green fingers?
You're better off planting hardy aromatic herbs such as tarragon, chives, thyme, rosemary, sage and laurel sage to begin with. These plants can live several years and will allow you to season your homemade dishes in winter and summer alike! You can also grow seasonal herbs like parsley, mint, coriander and chervil. Because these plants only last one season, you need to renew them every year.

Where can you get them?

In garden centres or supermarkets, perennial plants tend to be sold in pots, ready for planting. Seasonal herbs can be bought as seeds which you can then plant in your own pretty pots. N.B. It’s a good idea to add a bed of gravel, sand or broken pots to the bottom of your flowerpots or window boxes. This helps root drainage essential for a healthy productive plant, roots need air and without it your plant can die.  With herbs only water if the soil feels dry and stop when water comes out the bottom of the pot.  Make sure there are holes in the bottom of your pot.

Where’s the best place for your herbs?

Herbaceous plants (e.g. tarragon, parsley, chives, chervil) love to face north. Mediterranean plants, on the other hand (e.g. thyme, rosemary, sage, etc.) prefer the sun – just like us! So it’s better to place them facing south. If your apartment faces east or west, don’t worry: your plants won’t have any trouble growing on the balcony.  Some herbs will grow indoors.

Can you grow mint and chives in the same flowerpot?

No. Mint is a very hardy and aggressive plant, so it needs its own flowerpot.  Otherwise, its roots might choke neighbouring plants. Other aromatic plants should be planted together according to whether they need frequent watering (e.g. parsley, chive, tarragon, coriander), or thrive in dry soil (e.g. thyme, rosemary, sage).  The good things about chives, thyme, rosemary and sage is the plants can live for years.

Can you leave them outside all year?

It depends on the herb. For perennials, generally yes. Just make sure you protect your plants as soon as the temperature falls below 5°C. Annuals like basil die at the end of the year.

Easy herbs to start with

  • Basil: You can start to harvest the first leaves three months after planting, but remember to remove all the flower buds. Basil needs frequent watering – 3 to 4 times a week in summer.
  • Tarragon: You can start harvesting after just one month. Always pick the leaves and stems together.
  • Chives: Harvest from March till October. Simply cut it at the base with a pair of scissors.