Trying to grow my own herbs

Starting a herb garden

In an attempt to combine cooking and gardening, I am trying to grow some herbs, now that we actually have a garden to grow them in.

With more hope than experience I’ve planted some herbs in a little bed at the corner of the house.

It is one of the few that wasn’t packed with loads of other plants – just the bright green virginia creeper on the right in the picture above, multiple bluebells, a small Japanese Quince (I only know this due to Google and a label that says “Chaenomeles speciosa Moerloosei”) and some tenacious ground elder.

My mother-in-law kindly potted up some tarragon, mint and curly parsley from her own garden, and arrived for another visit bearing little pots of majoram, common thyme and thyme archers gold.

I have added a couple of supermarket pots: some chives I bought and forgot to use, and a bargain flat-leaf parsley plant.

The blue ceramic pot contains one of the few plants we brought from our tiny garden in London, some extra mint which I have left in a pot to contain it.

Wobbly bricks around recently planted herbs

I am guessing we probably have some herbs elsewhere in the garden as well.

The only ones I have spotted so far are the enormous green bay tree flourishing opposite this herb bed. Given its size, I do not think I will ever have to buy bay leaves again.

Bay tree flourishing just like the wicked. Watering can added for scale.

There is also a blue-flowered plant that I assume is another version of mint, and has taken up unlikely residence in the front flower beds.

Blue flowers – mint? Or not? Unsure about the violet one either.

Now I am standing well back, trying to remember to water the herbs every so often, reigning in the virginia creeper and continuing my on-going battle with the ground elder.

The chives and flat-leaf parsley do not look terribly happy so far but I remain hopeful. I am not quite sure why – my track record for growing herbs on windowsills is appalling. I would love to grow coriander, as one of the main herbs I use in recipes along with mint and flat-leaf parsley, but have been warned it is rather temperamental.

Any tips for resurrection, or alternative other idiot-proof herbs, would be gratefully received.

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9 Comments

  1. June 16, 2015 / 4:09 pm

    Your blue flowered thing might be Borage unless it smells of mint! Coriander is a pain as it runs to seed in 5 minutes. Chives,marjoram (or oregano)thyme, sage and rosemary are pretty hardy. Mint either spreads like crazy or dies!
    I once had a huge herb bed with about 30 different sorts of herbs but some were just weeds in disguise! and we had a ginormous Bay tree that gradually took over so had to be taken out.

    • June 17, 2015 / 4:16 pm

      Thanks so much for the advice. I like the sound of rosemary and sage, and do sometimes cook with both, so will seek them out. Fear our bay tree also has plans for world domination!

  2. June 21, 2015 / 4:57 am

    I read somewhere that most of the cooking herbs bought in pots in supermarkets are not grown to pot on, have small roots and usually die after a while however carefully tended. I reckon that if you get some to survive you've done a great job!
    The bed looks lovely.
    J x

    • June 21, 2015 / 10:23 am

      Fear you are right about the supermarket pots of herbs. In a triumph of hope over experience I have just picked up another yellow-stickered 50p flat leaf parsley pot and bunged that in next to the ailing original, but I'm not sure if either of them will make it. Think I have some seeds too, must try that.

  3. June 21, 2015 / 5:52 am

    Beware the bay! Ours is about 20' high and would be higher if my husband did not chop several feet off it every year. They take well to being topiarised. (not sure if that is a word). I've been reading several of your posts- very enjoyable.

    • June 21, 2015 / 10:25 am

      Thanks so much for reading and commenting! Also thanks for the warning about the bay. I will have to arm myself with ladder/secateurs/telescopic pruning thingummy and get going (or try and persuade my husband up the ladder).

  4. August 3, 2015 / 5:56 am

    Hi, I'm a bit late to this post, but I've just been having a read after discovering your blog. The blue flowered herb is Nepeta- catmint- I think. It is related to the mint family. As well as being made into toys to please any cats you might know, it can be made into tea. It's supposed to be very calming and good for tummy ache, but I haven't actually tried it (my garden is too soggy to grow it).
    And I second the advice about the supermarket plants. They're actually lots of tiny plants crammed into one pot, so you may do better separating them out first. Chives are a bit less temperamental than parsley, so I'd try them. They're also great value for money in the herb garden- perennial, early to sprout in the spring, they go with lots of foods and you can even eat the flowers 🙂
    Finally, (sorry- very long comment!), if it is ground elder in your herb bed, you can eat it when it resprouts. It's got a distinctive taste, which I really like, but you can mix it in with other greens if you're not so keen. Google it for lots of recipe ideas!

    • August 6, 2015 / 9:44 am

      ooooh cat mint sounds possible, thank you. The parsley keeps trying to bolt but the chives are soldiering on. Interesting about the ground elder. Reckon the combination of ground elder and nettles in the ancient veg garden could keep me in soup and salads for a while to come…

    • August 8, 2015 / 7:03 am

      Absolutely! Would Roman soldier soup appeal to your children?!
      As long as it is ground elder and not dog's mercury, say. I don't mean to be patronising, but I suddenly had a panic about it!