How to Cultivate Herbs


As any good cook will soon tell you, even with all these vegetables in our gardens, there are some vital ingredients missing – herbs. These plants and shrubs take up little space and are invaluable in the kitchen for flavouring food. There is room in every garden to grow a few herbs – they are happy to grow among the vegetables, fruit and flowers. However, if you do have enough space, then a special herb garden will also provide you with a colourful and sweet-smelling array of plants that more than compensate for the small amount of time and effort involved in growing them.

Here are six herbs which are suited to most gardens and will be most welcome to any cook. Remember that herb leaves for drying should be harvested on a dry day before any flowers are fully out.


Hardy perennial

Spread: 20 by 30cm (8 by 12 in)

Position: Sun or light shade.

Soil: Any, provided that it is well-drained.

Sowing: Sow in early or mid-spring in rows 1 cm (0.5 in) deep. Thin the seedlings to 15 cm (6 in) apart.

Seed can also be sown indoors and one seedling placed in each 12.5 cm (5 in) pot. The leaves can be used for months after sowing.

Harvesting: Cut the leaves close to the ground to encourage further growth. Remove any pink flowers which appear.

Storing: Leaves may be frozen for use in winter.

Herbs: basil, scallion
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Hardy perennial

Spread: 30 by 45 cm plus (12 by 18 in plus).

Position: Sun or partial shade.

Soil: Moist and fertile.

Planting: In spring or autumn plant pieces oi’ root in 25 or 30 cm (10 or 12 in) clay pots containing good soil or a proprietary potting mixture and sink the pots in the garden soil so that the rims are level with the soil surface.

Harvesting: Gather the leaves as required.

Storing: Freezing or drying.


Hardy evergreen shrub.

Spread: 60cm to 1.5m by 60cm to 1.5m (2 to 5ft by 2 to 5ft).

Position: Sunny and sheltered.

Soil: Light and well-drained.

Sowing and planting: Sow seeds in early spring outdoors 6 mm (0.5 in) deep. Thin as required and

Right: A larger-than-average herb garden.

Transplant to a final spacing of 60 cm (2 ft) apart. Or buy shrubs in spring from a nursery.

Harvesting: Cut sprigs as required.

Storing: Unnecessary as rosemary is evergreen.


Shrubs with a useful life of three years. Spread: 30 to 60cm by 45 cm (1 to 2ft by 18in). Position: Warm and sunny.

Soil: Any, provided that it is well-drained.

Sowing and planting: Sow the seeds 6mm (\ in) deep in a nursery bed in early summer, thin and move the plants to their final positions the following spring 60cm (2 ft) apart. Alternatively, shrubs from a nursery can be set out in spring.

Harvesting: Gather leaves as required.

Storing: Leaves for drying should be picked in late spring.

English: Valeriana phu, perennial herbaceous p...
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Biennial, but best treated as an annual. Spread: 25 by 25 cm (10 by 10 in). Position: Sunny and sheltered.

Soil: Rich and moist.

Sowing: Sow in early or mid-spring for summer and autumn harvest; sow in midsummer for winter and spring. Sow the seed as thinly as possible in drills no more than 6 mm (0.5 in) deep. Germination takes three to six weeks. Thin the seedlings to 23 cm (9 in) apart. Seedlings can also be planted in 12.5 cm (5 in) diameter pots containing a suitable potting mixture. Remove flowers if they appear.

Harvesting: Cut as required.

Storing: Freezing or drying.


Shrub;herbacious perennial with a useful life of three years.

Spread: 23 by 23cm (9 by 9 in). Position: Full sun.

Soil: Any, provided that it is well-drained. Planting: Nursery-grown stock should be set out 23 cm (9 in) apart in early or mid-spring. Alterna-tively each plant can be accommodated in a 15 cm (6 in) diameter pot containing a proprietary potting mixture. After three years, the plants can be lifted in spring, divided and replanted.

Harvesting: Pick the leaves as required.

Storing: Dry leaves picked before the flowers appear in early summer.


More Herbs

Angelica. The leaves of this plant may be either cooked or eaten raw with fish or meat, while the seeds are used for flavouring. Sow in spring, and when the seedlings are large enough to handle they should be thinned to feet apart.

Basil, Sweet. An annual herb of dwarf habit grown for flavouring. Sow in gentle heat in April, and transplant in June. They like a light, rich soil and the plants Bhould be set 8 inches apart.

When the flowers begin to bloom the plants should be cut down to the ground and the stems tied into bunches and dried. If these are potted in September and put into the greenhouse, this herb will last until well into the winter.

After cutting down the plants, stir the soil; this will encourage fresh growth.

Borage. Borage is used in claret cup and in summer drinks. The flower is also valued by the beekeeper. It is very easy to cultivate, and when once established the seeds will sow themselves. When the seedlings become overcrowded they should be thinned to 15 inches apart.

HerbsChervil. This plant is an annual of dwarf habit. It is aromatic and is used for salads, seasoning, etc. To obtain a continuous supply, seeds may be sown at intervals, in drills 1 inch deep, and 1 foot apart. The leaves may be cut for use-six weeks or two months after sowing. When sown in hot dry weather, they like moisture and a shady position.

Chives. This is a dwarf perennial plant, which is used as a substitute for onions in salads and soups. Although chives may be grown from seed the general method of propagation is by division, setting the plants 9 inches apart. Division should take place every four or five years.

In order to ensure a continuous supply of joung and tender leaves, the clumps should be cut down regularly with a knife.

Fennel. This herb is not very popular, but when it is grown the leaves are used for fish sauces, and the stalks are blanched and used in salads. It will grow on any garden soil, and is increased by seeds, division and cuttings, the plants being placed 15 inches apart.

Horehound. This is often grown for medicinal uses. If the leaves are soaked in boiling water and the liquid strained off, it makes an excellent cure for coughs. It is also grown for seasoning.

Seeds may be sown in spring or the plants may be divided at this period, the plants being set 15 inches apart.

Horseradish. This plant likes a rich, moist soil. Propagation takes place by root cuttings. The pieces should be from 3 to 12 inches long. They should be cut straight through at the upper end, and slanting at the lower end.

These pieces are dropped into a holo made by a long dibber, and covered with 6 to 9 inches of soil. This is done in early spring. With careful attention some of the roots will probably be ready by the following autumn, but for a good crop they should be left for another year.

Marjoram. There are two kinds of Marjoram, Sweet and Pot. Both are used for flavouring when the leaves are dried, and also in their green state.

Seeds may be sown in March or April in gentle heat, or in May in the open ground, thinning the seedlings to 10 inches apart. The leaves may be gathered in June if they are to be used green, but if they are to be dried they should not be cut down until the flowers appear, when they should be tied in bunches, and hung up to dry.

Pot Marjoram is grown as a perennial, and although Sweet Marjoram is a plant of this class, in its native quarters it is grown as an annual in Europe.

Mint. Mint is a very popular herb and is used for flavouring in almost every kitchen. It is very easy to cultivate and will grow on any soil. It is generally increased by division of the roots or by cuttings. The former is done in March or October, and the cuttings are taken during early summer. They need plenty of water, and the soil should be constantly hoed to keep down the weeds.

Parsley. Parsley is a very easily cultivated herb, and is used for flavouring fish sauces, soups, etc.

Seed may be sown in March or April, sowing in drills 1 inch deep and 1 foot apart. When the seedlings are large enough to handle they should be thinned to 2 to 3 inches apart. If this is not dono the plants will not be able to develop in the right way. When cutting, the outer leaves should be cut off, to allow the smaller inside ones to develop.

The rust disease often attacks parsley, and this should be guarded against.

Sage. The leaves of Sage are mostly used for seasoning. It is easy to grow and will thrive on any ordinary garden soil, preferably in a warm corner. It is generally increased by cuttings, which should be planted 1 foot apart.

Savory. The leaves and young shoots of this plant are used for flavouring soup3, etc. Seeds may be sown in spring, or the plants may be increased by division or cuttings, this also in spring. The plants should be grown 1 foot apart.

Tansy. This herb is used for flavouring, colouring, etc. Propagation takes place by divisions of the root stock, planted 1 foot apart.

Tarragon. The leaves of this plant are used green, or steeped in vinegar for flavouring. These are perennials and may be left for several years without attention, though it is better to divide the rcots in spring, or take cuttings in early summer. The young plants should be set 1 foot apart each way.

When the leaves are wanted for winter use, the plant may be lifted and forced in gentle heat in the greenhouse or hotbed.

Thyme. This is a very common herb, the leaves and young shoots of which are used for flavouring soups, stuffings, etc. It may be used in the green state or dried for use in winter.

Seeds may be sown in March or April, or cuttings may be taken at the same period. The plants may also be increased by division in spring, the young plants being set 1 foot apart.

There are, of course, various other garden herbs in cultivation, but these are not very widely grown. A few of the less important herbs and their uses are given below. Most of these can be raised successfully from seed, and they will grow on almost any garden soil.

Balm is dried and used for making tea for invalids. It can also be used for making wine.


Used mainly for pot-pourri, and for garden edging.

Lavender is used for pot-pourri.

Pot Marigold.- – This herb is used for colouring and flavouring soups.


Sometimes used as a culinary dish. Years ago, it was said to have medicinal virtues, but of late its reputation has deteriorated.


Rosemary tea is a good cure for headache. It is also used in potpourri.

Sue is mostly grown for medicinal purposes.


The leaves of these plants are used to serve with spinach. It is also a good flavouring in sauces and salads. It Ja sometimes served separately.


This is grown for its value as a medicine. It is very bitter.

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