Fresh cooking herbs on a plate

Handy home-grown herbs

There’s nothing quite like having your own home-grown herbs right there ready to add a handful of fresh flavour to all kinds of cooking. From flans to fish and stews to salads, I really love being able to snip some of my favourite herbs right when I need them.

Not having much space means it makes sense for me to grow the herbs I use most. For me, that means Parsley, Thyme, Sage and Mint. This Spring I sowed my pots of Parsley, Thyme and Sage indoors.

I was starting from scratch with most of my herb plants as the previous plants had either reached the end of their productive lives or succumbed to backyard pests! As an extra precaution I went for indoor window ledge gardening for these three herbs this year.

First Parsley seedling2014
My first parsley seedling of 2014

It seems a long time since I sowed the Parsley seeds in yoghurt pots back in early March and watched the first little green crooks pop up through the compost. After the seedlings had grown on a little, I potted them up into some deeper recycled vegetable trays, spacing out the plants so they had enough room to grow.

Potted-up Parsley seedlings growing their first leaves
Potted-up Parsley seedlings growing their first leaves
A forest of Parsley plants growing in their upcycled plant pots on an indoor west-facing window ledge
A forest of Parsley plants growing in their upcycled plant pots on an indoor west-facing window ledge

The Thyme was sown at the end of March into its own mini-coldframe – an upcycled salad box with a hinged transparent lid. Thyme seedlings really are very small at first so I tend to sow seeds thinly and grow them in a little clump.

The tiny Thyme seedlings germinating in their upcycled mini-coldframe
The tiny Thyme seedlings germinating in their upcycled mini-coldframe

I then leave the Thyme seedlings just as they are without pricking them out separately. When the seedlings grew larger I simply potted up the whole clump into a clay plant pot. I chose a clay pot for the Thyme as it prefers well-drained soil.

My clump of Thyme is growing on well in its clay pot
My clump of Thyme is growing on well in its clay pot

The Sage was sown in early April in its larger sized clay plant pot – Sage also likes well-drained soil. Sage seeds are large enough to sow individually so I carefully distributed twelve of them around the pot. Although it wasn’t especially cold, it took some time to persuade the Sage seeds to germinate. When no seedlings seemed to be appearing I covered the pot loosely with a plastic sheet for about a week, then sure enough, through they all popped up quite quickly after that!

The Sage seedlings were eventually persuaded to put in an appearance - then they all popped through at the same time!
The Sage seedlings were eventually persuaded to put in an appearance – then they all popped through at the same time!

The Sage seedlings certainly very quickly made up any lost growing time – they seemed to shoot away on this sunny west-facing window ledge!

The Sage plants have grown on rapidly after a hesitant start
The Sage plants have grown on rapidly after a hesitant start

The Mint has grown on well from a cutting I obtained late last Summer. After encouraging this herb on my ‘warm’ window ledge over the Winter, I potted it up and placed it out in my yard in early April.

The Mint cutting in my backyard is growing on into a plant in its own right now
The Mint cutting in my backyard is growing on into a plant in its own right now

It’s starting to look like a real Mint plant now and at least it seems our slugs and snails don’t care much for menthol so they are steering clear of it, I’m pleased to say!

I find growing my own herbs is really easy. Herb seeds, some general purpose compost and some containers to grow them in, that’s all you need. You can see I haven’t gone for any fancy stuff here! Apart from the two simple clay pots, most of my ‘plant pots’ are recycled packaging from vegetables or other foodstuffs. Yoghurt pots are another of my favourite upcycled containers, along with milk cartons which I do find can be extremely versatile.

Harvesting fresh herbs couldn’t be simpler – a pair of scissors is all I use. I will usually just cut enough for the cooking task in hand. With Parsley, I harvest starting with the outside leaves. I took my first Parsley ‘harvest’ in early May – that’s a couple of months from sowing the seeds. I’ve aimed to grow enough plants to provide a plentiful supply for our needs, allowing time for the plants to grow on again. The Parsley should continue to grow and provide fresh leaves throughout the year from this indoor planting (unless it gets very cold in winter).

With the Sage, Thyme and Mint, I will continue to use fresh leaves over the Summer. However, I shall also start cutting and drying some of these herbs too, for use during the colder months. I’ll show you more on that another time.

J Peggy Taylor

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