Sow these herbs this weekend, and you’ll be harvesting in just a few short weeks! Each of these herbs below will also attract beneficial insects such as bees and butterflies to your garden or your patio pots.
In this blog post you’ll find how to sow, the kind of soil conditions each plant prefers and when you can start harvesting.
Hope you find it helpful – if there’s a particular herb you’re after, or want some advice, just get in touch and we’ll do our best to help.
This beautiful blue flowered herb (you can also get a lovely white variety) is also called starflower. The flowers are bee and butterfly magnets – if you can get hold of borage honey, go for it! – and planting borage close to courgettes, strawberries and tomatoes will encourage bees to pollinate your allotment crops.
If you love a Pimms, make room for borage in your garden, as its flower and the young leaves have an amazing cucumber flavour which really add an extra oomph to jugs of the summer drink. Borage flowers can also be added to salads, and frozen in ice cubes.
It’s a fast-growing annual which will self seed readily and they’re also not to fussy about where they grow as long as it’s partly sunny so if you have a space in the garden that’s a bit neglected but gets a bit of sun, try growing borage there. The plants have hairy stems and leaves and grow to around two feet tall. They bush out so you don’t need too many plants to get the effect of a sea of blue flowers.
Borage will also happily grow in pots, but does not take well to being moved, so we tend to sow it where it’s going to grow, or start it off under cover in coir plugs and then move into final position when still very small. Sow now and you’ll have flowers in June.
Keep sowing over the summer and you’ll have a borage crop right through until the first frosts. Keep picking the flowers to lessen its self-seeding tendency.
On a side note, borage leaves can also be used in the same way as comfrey to make a liquid plant food that is full of nitrogen. Chop up the leaves and add to water, or just spread leaves and let them rot down if you don’t fancy the horrible smell!
2. SUMMER SAVOURY
You may never have heard of this herb, but it’s really worth growing for it’s peppery, aromatic flavour. You can use it in recipes that call for thyme or rosemary, and goes beautifully with chicken or lamb, as well as mushrooms and vegetable dishes.
It’s been around since Roman times and is a fast-growing annual – sow now, and eight weeks later you’ll be able to get your first harvest
And if you’re growing broad beans on the allotment, try sowings of summer savoury alongside – blackfly will stay away!
Summer savoury loves a sunny spot and well-drained soil, so it’s worth adding grit to either a pot for the patio or to the patch you’re planning to sow into. If you’ve got a pot, make sure it’s raised slightly off the ground – a couple of bricks or pot feet will do – so it doesn’t sit in the wet.
Seedlings will appear within two weeks, and you need to be a bit ruthless in pricking out to keep the strongest ones or you’ll end up with tons of plants!
As soon as your summer savoury plants are about 10-12cm tall you can start to harvest the leaves – pinch out the leaves to halfway down the stem, which also has the effect of helping the plants to bush out rather than getting leggy.
As always with herbs, the flavour is strongest and best if you keep pinching out the flower buds, but if you do let them flower than you can expect lots of bees!
Summer savoury leaves preserve easily – you can freeze young leaves to keep them fresh, or dry older plants and crumble leaves a jar for use over winter.
My friend Emma cannot STAND nasturtiums. She thinks they’re gaudy. But I like them; they’re cheerful, bright (well, yes, a bit on the gaudy side) and they are really good value for flowering their socks off.
You can eat the flowers and the leaves, and pickle the seeds as cheapo versions of capers, too. Trail them up wooden frames for height and watch them scramble along in weeks. I like ‘Empress of India’ in pots, for its deep red flowers against the darker rounded leaves.
You can sow straight into the ground after the danger of frost has gone, or in pots. You can push the seeds about an inch into the ground or your pot, and expect to see results within two weeks. Nasturtiums do best if you don’t put them into rich soils – they’ll flower better if you use spent compost in your pots, don’t give them feed and don’t over-water.
The older the plants are, the stronger the flavour of the leaves; pick younger leaves if you want a milder flavour.
Now’s the time to sow coriander because let’s face it, who doesn’t love a curry? Coriander is a greedy, fast growing plant that’s a bit prone to bolting if it goes really hot.
You need to do some prep to the soil before sowing coriander for best results. Fork through some organic fertiliser (you can get well-rotted manure or chicken pellets) and give it a good rake though so that there’s no weeds or stones, and make a line to sow into. Sow thinly, remembering you’ll be thinning to about 15cm between each plant.
If you want to grow in pots, pick a deep one. Coriander has deep tap roots and will want to grow down as far as it can. In a 30cm wide pot, you can get four coriander plants so sow sparingly.
You’ll see the young plants coming through in about three weeks, and within 12 weeks you can start to harvest the leaves. It’s worth giving them a feed regularly to ensure lush growth. You can use the leaves and the seeds in cooking
Basil is one herb that is synonymous with summer and sunshine. It needs light, sun, heat and absolutely no cold winds or frost to grow.
For that reason, it’s best to sow it indoors or in the greenhouse and ensure it has warmth and sunlight to germinate. If you have a heated propagator that’s ideal.
Sow about two to three seeds in a module tray and cover really lightly with compost or vermiculite, and you’ll see shoots within two weeks. Prick out the weakest seedlings and leave the strongest to grow on.
When they have more than five ‘true’ leaves, then you can transplant them. We always grow ours on in pots and keep them in the greenhouse but you can plant them outside once all the risk of frost has gone (for us that’s mid-late May).
I’ll be honest, we’ve never had much success with growing basil outdoors, and have always gone with keeping it indoors. It needs as much heat as possible and well drained soil. Never have your pots standing in a saucer of water as it absolutely hates having ‘wet feet’.