Herbs are rewarding to grow because it only takes a handful of their feisty fresh foliage to liven up a plain green salad or omelette, or add a hit of homegrown flavour to a soup or stew. They’re delicious finely chopped and whipped into soft butter too. Perennial herbs such as mint, chives, rosemary, sage and thyme supplement an everchanging blend of quickgrowing annual favourites such as basil, Italian parsley (curly parsley lasts two years as a biennial) and coriander. You can sow herbs from seed but, if you don’t want too many, it’s easier to transplant plants from the garden centre as you rarely need more than half a dozen of anything.
Start seeds indoors in trays or small pots and transplant the seedlings when the weather has warmed up. Although it’s time to sow tomato seeds, it’s still far too early to sow or transplant warm-loving herbs like basil outdoors. Wait until late October, or even November. If you need to fill a shady spot in your garden, grow parsley, mint, lovage, and coriander.
COMMON MINT: When buying mint plants, the darker, rounder and crinklier the leaf, the better the flavour. Mint needs moist, cool soil. Plant in containers or restricted areas to contain it.
ROSEMARY: Upright rosemary, as opposed to trailing prostrate forms, is best for cooking. Plant in full sun in light, free-draining soil. Clip it back often to prevent woodiness.
PIZZA THYME: A lovely dark green thyme with big leaves and heaps of flavour. Divide it every year or two to keep it lush and green. Like rosemary, it needs full sun and light, free-draining soil.
CHIVES: These grass-like members of the onion family are dormant over winter but should be showing signs of life shortly. Plant at least three clumps in your vegetable garden, and harvest one clump at a time. Chives needs good moisture to thrive. It grows well in part-shade.
FLAT-LEAF PARSLEY: Milder in flavour than curly parsley, Italian parsley doesn’t last as long, bolting to seed in summer. It is not as prolific as curly parsley either. Plant by the punnet.
CURLY PARSLEY: A nutritious superfood, curly parsley can be grown as a low edging around flower borders and vegetable beds. For superior flavour in the kitchen, plant new plants each year. Curly parsley easily self-sows, so you may not have to. Plant in part-shade.
MARJORAM: An annual cousin of perennial oregano, Italian marjoram is a must-have for bringing in bees when it goes to flower. It has a more delicate flavour than oregano, which makes it a favourite of chefs. Plant in sun in free-draining soil.
DILL: Sow dill now, as it hates heat and will bolt to seed as soon as spring turns into summer. Save seed; it tastes the same.
CORIANDER: Coriander does best in spring and autumn; it runs rapidly to seed in summer. Plant in sun or part-shade in fertile soil. Repeat sow every fortnight for cutting.
FLORENCE FENNEL: Also known as bulb fennel, this quick-growing herb has intense aniseed flavour. Sow direct in full sun and keep moist.
LOVAGE: If you like parsley and you like celery, there’s a good chance you’ll like lovage. This perennial herb has an intense celeryparsley-yeast like flavour, which can be used to enhance almost any dish. Lovage can be grown in sun or part-shade.