How to easily start a DIY herb garden
- By: Ashley Saunders
- April 2018
It’s almost impossible to grow a bed or pot of herbs that doesn’t look fantastic. This is great news if you’re not a natural gardener but want to get stuck in and have some pretty greenery to look at. So even if you’re not that green-fingered, you only need a few items to create your own DIY herb garden.
You can grow herbs in your garden, scattered among ornamental plants in a bed or border; or as pot plants. They also make great hanging basket plants.
However, you can grow herbs pretty much anywhere and so we’ll look at starting our DIY herb garden in a small rectangle pot. This way, no matter if you live in a flat or have acres, you can get add some instant greenery.
While you can buy a kit like the GroBox 25152 Mr Fothergill’s Easy Herb Garden, our DIY approach is much more creative!
As we’re starting small, the best place for growing herbs could be on a windowsill above the kitchen sink. Just remember herbs need a good amount of sunlight to grow and so you need to factor this in.
If you do have a sun-filled kitchen, then you’re more likely to remember to use the herbs from your DIY herb garden.
While you could grow a bed of herbs or use them as a practical yet edible border, we’ll be starting off small. So, first things, first, we need a container for our DIY herb garden.
However, before you run out and buy any old pot, there are a few things we need to consider.
Let’s start with where you plan to house your DIY herb garden. If it’s on a window sill then you’ll need to measure the available space. If you’re going to start growing in your conservatory or a balcony then you probably have more space to play with. But it’s still worth a quick measure in order to size up the space.
After measuring the space, you might need to factor in a tray to hold the pots and the excess water. So, please bear that in mind!
Also bear in mind access, both for watering and for pruning as you’ll need to do these tasks every couple of days.
Next, we need to make sure your potential container has a number of drainage holes. Of course, you can always add some more. So have a look around your shed for a smallish pot which would be perfect for your DIY herb garden.
Inspiring garden containers
If plastic pots don’t inspire you to start a DIY herb garden, then here’s some of our favourite unique containers. Firstly, consider using cardboard paper rolls. Not only are these easily available, they are compostable and eco-friendly.
If you have some old small tea tins, then grab a hammer and a nail and create some drainage holes and you’re off to a good start. If you have a few tins lying around, then you could even grow a different herb in each one!
Have some plastic bottles lying around? They’re great as well! Start by cutting the top off. Then punch some holes using a nail and hammer. If you have a few bottles, then using string you can build a vertical DIY herb garden. A perfect solution if you have a big window as you can tier the bottles to create a lattice pattern.
A few final ideas include using old wooden fruit and veg crates, cast iron baths and Galvanized Buckets and Rope.
Do I need many gardening tools?
The great thing about starting a DIY herb garden is you don’t need many gardening tools. Plus, it’s likely you already have the two you actually need. You need a small shovel and a watering can or a jug.
What the best soil for a herb garden?
So with the container sorted, we need some soil. The type of soil is really important. You want a neutral to alkaline soil, with good drainage.
If you have clay soil, the best thing to do is to dig over the soil in autumn. Then leave the clods to be broken down by frost over the winter. How this works is that as the rough soil is exposed to the wet weather, it becomes soaked by water. And when the frosts come, the clods expand, and break down.
Then in early spring – and this goes for sandy, chalky or silt soil as well – dig through plenty of organic matter, such as well-rotted garden or mushroom compost. This will provide the free-draining and fertile bed your herbs will love.
You will not need to feed or fertilize your herbs, as they will then produce lots of soft, lush growth, but no flavour, or aroma, and no resistance to frost.
How much sunlight do herb need?
While you can grow herbs under a heat lamp, they’ll grow best using natural sunlight. So, you need to know how much sun your plants will get, and how much they need. As a rule of thumb, Most herbs need about 4 hours of sunlight per day, which means even in not so sunny England, they’ll flourish in no time!
As the sun moves by season, this will affect the amount and direction of sunlight the herbs receive and so you might need to move them by season for maximum sunlight.
Can I water my herbs daily?
Herbs need a little more TLC than the average house plant. For example, If the weather is hot then they will dry out quicker. However, you can slow down the drying process a little bit by covering the soil with a layer of mulch.
In terms of watering, it’s worth checking you pots roughly every other day or daily if the weather is good.
To check, poke your finger into the pot, and if the dirt is dry an inch below the surface, it’s time to water. Of course, you don’t want to drown the plants, so just water until the soil is damp all the way through, not soaking wet.
One final tip. If your pots don’t have much in the way of drainage holes, then you will want to water less, more often.
Types of herbs
There plenty of herb varieties you can try in your DIY herb garden. And while there is no best herbs to grow, a few well known ones include:
Most useful to who ever cooks in your house. Culinary herbs often used for Garnishes and flavourings. Common culinary herbs include: Parsley, Sage, Chives, Thyme, Savory, Marjoram, Mint and Basil.
This sweet smelling foliage is used for producing perfumes. Dried herbs retain their aroma for longer periods. Some aromatic herbs are Mint, Marjoram, Lovage, Lavender, Rosemary and Basil.
These herbs have bright flower and foliage. Variegated Thyme, Chives, Lavender as well as Valerian with crimson blossoms and borage and chicory with blue flowers are some ornamental herbs.
Modern science has researched and recognized some herbs as true healers. While others have been said to be over rated in terms of their healing powers. Some of these herbs must be consumed carefully or it could result in dangerous consequences. So be cautious.
Do herbs live for long?
While each type of herb has a different life span and bloom, there are three main types. These are: Annuals, Biennials, and perennials.
Annuals herbs bloom one season and then die. These include Anise, Basil, Chervil, Coriander, Dill and Summer Savory.
Biennials herbs live for two seasons. They bloom only in the second season. These include Caraway and Parsley.
Perennials herbs bloom each season. These include Chives, Fennel, Lovage, Marjoram, Mint, Tarragon, Thyme and Winter Savory.
Starting your herb garden small
If you’re not green fingered, then try to create a micro DIY herb garden. Starting indoors, you can easily grow Parsley and Chives from seed. And as you’ll use both regularly, we can’t think of a better great starting point.
Basil is also really easy to grow and use. And, you can actually root and then plant basil straight from a cutting. Plus it wilts if not watered and therefore shows you it’s in need of some attention! Luckily, it always perks back up again after a good shower.
Always cut off the top of a basil plant instead of snipping leaves from the bottom or side of the main steam. If you take those lower leaves, you’ll just damage the plant’s solar power source, and make it grow tall and spindly instead of branching.
Don’t take off much more than a third of the plant’s height, and cut right above a spot where you see new little leaves sprouting from the stem. Those will go on to grow two new branches where you just had one stem before, which means a bushier, more compact plant. You should also try to trim before any flowers bloom.
Mint is another great herb to start with. However, it grows pretty quickly and so requires regular maintenance as well as its own pot. Be careful to not let mint run away with itself and take over your entire DIY herb garden!
Watch out for pests
If you’re successful indoors, then providing you have the outdoor space, you can start to build a larger DIY herb garden. However, be aware of Pests. They will come and take more than just a quick look!
Pests will probably destroy your lovingly tended micro-farm in the process and so you need a plan to combat them. While there’s no one way to keep them at bay, you can try bloodmeal fertilizer, plastic mesh or chicken wire, cayenne pepper, or even good old-fashioned rocks.
What’s next, after herbs?
You can buy them as seedlings, plant them, and they’ll keep throwing up new leaves that you can harvest repeatedly.
In the mid or late summer, when your first round of greens stop producing new leaves, you can replace them with cold-weather-friendly greens like chard and kale, which will keep on going well into the autumn.
As you grow in experience (sorry!), then you can get more adventurous and plant tomatoes, hot peppers, and cilantro. Great for home-made salads, especially if you play to have a few BBQs over the summer.
You can also get fancy with “companion planting” certain things close to each other, which may help control pests.
DIY herb garden tips
- Start small!
- Plant your herbs where they will get full days’ worth of sun.
- Providing a well-drained soil with a good amount of organic matter.
- Room to grow! Don’t crowd seedlings.
- Keep your herb plants tidy, pinching (so more grow) and using them regularly.