Whether you have a garden, balcony or only a windowsill, by following these simple guidelines you can have a herb garden bursting with flavour and fragrance.
Some herbs (like basil, chives, lemongrass, parsley and thyme) do best when they are bought as seeds. It's best to buy other herbs like mint, rosemary and tarragon as actual plants. Check with your local nursery, if you are unsure.
Location is the key to a successful herb garden. Most herbs grow best in full sun, but partial shade will often do. Herbs need as much sun as possible in order to reach their full capacity for flavour and fragrance.
The rule of the green thumb is for the herbs to get a minimum of four to seven hours of direct sun per day. If this is not possible, your herbs will still grow, but they might be a bit scraggly and disease prone, so give them a little extra attention.
The best herbs to direct-sow in spring
These herbs may thrive in cooler temperatures, but some seeds, such as those of parsley, can take up to a month to germinate, especially in cold spring soils. Soaking the seeds overnight and planting in raised beds will help speed germination of direct-sown seeds.
Two different forms include the familiar curly parsley and the more flavourful flat-leaved Italian version, with leaves like celery and cilantro.
Sow: Direct-sow seeds or set out six- to eight-week-old transplants about a week before the last spring frost, spacing seeds or seedlings 8 to 10 inches apart.
Grow: Tolerates full sun or partial shade.
The emerald leaves have a distinctive flavor that combines parsley, sage, and citrus; and its seed (coriander), which is reminiscent of citrus and spice.
Sow: Direct-sow seeds a week or two before the last spring frost and again in late summer.
Grow: Best in full sun, with some afternoon shade in hotter regions.
There are several types of basil to choose from. The most common is bush or sweet basil. It is also called the "king of herbs" and the "royal herb"
Sow: To get a head start, start the seeds indoors 6 weeks before the last spring frost. Ensure your outdoor site gets 6 to 8 hours of full Sun daily; soil should be moist and well-drained. After the last frost date, plant the seeds/seedlings in the ground about ¼-inch deep.
Grow: Choose a location with good sun.
Dill combines well with fish, mild cheeses, and vegetable dishes.
Sow: Best sown directly into the ground four to five weeks before the last spring frost; thin seedlings to 6 to 18 inches apart.
Grow: This aromatic annual thrives in full sun.
Regular chives have a delicate onion flavor; garlic chives are milder.
Sow: Grow by seeds, transplants, or divisions, with plants spaced 8 to 12 inches apart. Sow seeds in clumps or set out six-week-old transplants about four weeks before the last spring frost; divide existing clumps every two to four years.
Grow: Likes full sun to part shade.