Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Budget Tip for One: Grow Your Own Herbs

How to Grow Herbs and Salads in Containers

Grow your own herbs in containers

herb seedlings in planter
herb seedlings from pixabay.com
Growing your own food is cheaper and very satisfying both on your budget and on the sheer pleasure it gives to pick and eat something you have nurtured. The absence of a garden space to grow them shouldn't stop you. It is easy to grow a variety of produce on window sills indoors or outside in window-boxes if that is all the space you have. With a little more space, like a small patio, you can grow almost anything in containers. In this short article I concentrate on growning herbs and salad leaves, these being the easiest things to grow. In addition, herbs and salad leaves grow quickly. There is nothing quite like popping fresh salad leaves in your mouth while they are still warm from the sun. Gardening in a pot can be really good fun. All you need is your imagination.
basil herb
basil from pixabay.com

fresh corriander growing in planter
fresh corriander from

A packet of seed is great value. Herb seeds tend to be very small. To sow them:
  1. In your window-box or container, place broken crocks in the bottom for good drainage and fill with peat-free compost.
  2. Wet the top of the compost using a Rose on the end of your watering-can - a Rose produces a fine spray that will not over-soak the soil.
  3. Empty some of the seeds into the palm of your hand, and using thumb and forefinger of the other hand, lightly sprinkly the seeds on top of the compost.
  4. Cover very lightly with more compost and dampen with a misty spray.
Herb Seedlings ready for re-planting
Herb Seedlings ready for re-planting
Source: Photo AnnMackieMiller

terracotta pots
terracotta pots
from freedigitalphotos.net

How to thin-out seedlings

Within a few days you will see your seedlings begin to grow. Inevitably there will be too many. If they are crushed together they will not grow properly. Wait until the seedlings are big enough to handle without damaging them, then thin them out as follows:
  1. Hold the seedling lightly between your thumb and forefinger.
  2. With the end of a pencil, loosen the earth around the root and gently remove.
  3. Set aside any with good roots. Don't let the roots dry out. Smaller ones can be eaten immediately or sprinkled on a salad.
  4. Leave enough space between the remaining ones to give them room to grow. You can thin them out even further as they get bigger and you will have some more to eat each time you thin them out.

Prepared container for planting herbs
Prepared container for planting herbs
Source: Photo AnnMackieMiller
Planted-up Herb seedlings
Planted-up Herb seedlings
Source: Photo AnnMackieMiller

How to plant-up herb seedlings

Use the thinned-out seedlings that have good roots to plant up new containers. Replant immediately, the roots will dry quickly.
  1. Prepare your new container, remembering it should have good draining soil or compost. The ones used here have gardening gravel mixed with compost to improve drainage and stop the herbs becoming water-logged.
  2. Wet the top of the compost.
  3. Using the end of a pencil, make a small hole and carefully plant the seedling.
  4. Tap the compost round each seedling.
  5. Wet with a fine misty spray and keep moist but not soaked.

salad, egg, tomato, lettuce, olives
salad plate from pixabay.com

Growing salad leaves in planters

You can buy packets of mixed salad leaves in most good stores and garden centres. Good varieties to pick are:
American Land Cress
Mixed Lettuce Leaves
Rocket Mix
Spinach Veneto
They make a colourful display on your window sill or patio and can be picked at any stage. They are particularly sweet when very young and tender and this serves to thin them out so don't worry too much about sowing them sparing. The other joy is that you can stagger the seeding, that is, sow some every two weeks, to ensure a continuing supply all summer long.
The only thing with any container planting is that you have to remember to water them, even when it rains, the water will not get right into the roots of containers. Feed with a liquid feed of seaweed extract every few weeks. Over fertilizing tends to attract bugs, but herbs are quite good at repelling insects.
fresh mint
fresh mint
from freedigitalphotos.net

Which herbs to grow

Any herb does well in pots and containers. Indeed some like mint are best kept in a plant-pot as they can be quite invasive if given the chance. Basil is easy enough to grow but can be tender, it doesn't like huge changes in temperature or wind. Grow outside in the summer and bring indoors for winter.
The best rule of thumb for choosing which herbs to grow is - grow what you will eat!
Try parsley, chives, coriander, mint, oregano, thyme, sage, and peppermint to start with.
The other joy of herbs is the smell. Containers surrounding your patio seating will reward you with bounty and pleasure.


  1. It is very easy and satisfying to grow herbs, salad crops etc in containers. As you pointed out you don't need a huge garden. There is nothing like growing your own produce and eating it. Excellent instructions and article :)

  2. Tiny fresh baby herbs are delicious!

  3. Excellent advice - saves having to rely on intermittent and expensive little packets in local Sainsbury's

  4. I do now have a very large balcony where I live and I plan to do some gardening next spring. I have never done that but I'll start with herbs, baby tomatoes and I don't know maybe peppers?