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From the team at Gardeners' World Magazine

Five top tips - growing herbs

Published: Friday, 17 June, 2022 at 11:50 am

Jekka McVicar shares her five top tips for growing herbs

Jekka McVicar (Photographer - Andrew Maybury)

Herbs are ideal for growing in a small space, as the majority of culinary herbs will happily grow in containers. Or, if space allows, you can plant them out in the garden for really generous harvests. To ensure your herbs stay healthy and productive, there are a few simple tips and tricks to follow.

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Maintaining lemon verbena

Cutting back lemon verbena

Lemon verbena will drop its leaves, but don't worry, this is not a sign that it is dead, as it is a deciduous shrub. To maintain it, cut back last years' growth to 4cm, or a couple of growing nodes, when it starts to shoot in spring – wait until all threat of frost has passed.


Propagating French tarragon

Propagating French tarragon
Propagating French tarragon

French tarragon can be propagated by taking cuttings from both the growing tips and the roots, in the spring. It is not possible to grow French tarragon from seed. In winter, tarragon dies back into the ground, protect it with a layer of horticultural fleece and prevent it from getting overly wet. If you have heavy clay soil, grow your French tarragon in a pot – you can then move it into a cool, frost-free place, to help it survive over winter.


Growing basil from seed

Basil seedlings

In most cases basils are annuals, which means they can be grown from seed each year and will die at the end of the growing season. They are best grown in containers, where you can provide them with protection from inclement weather if needed, and are great companion plants for tomatoes. Start sowing seeds under protection from early spring into early summer, they can be transplanted once the risk of frost has passed. Basil requires lots of sunshine, but will need some shelter from the midday sun to prevent scorching. The biggest trick with basil is to water in the morning, never in the evening, so it doesn't sit in wet soil over night and has plenty of moisture for the day.


Growing rosemary from cuttings

Planting rosemary cuttings

Rosemary does very well in pots, using a peat-free, soil-based potting compost. To maintain your rosemary plant’s shape, ensure you cut it back after flowering. However, do not cut it back into the old wood as it will not reshoot. Always 'stay within the green'. Rosemary is best grown from cuttings and when taking cuttings you should choose a non-flowering shoot.


Cutting back sage

Italian sage
Italian sage. (Photographer Jekka McVicar, VMH)

To stop Italian sage becoming woody, cut back after flowering. However, some others, like pineapple sage, often flower late into winter so, to stop these getting mildew, remove the flowers as they fade, and do not cut back as the plants will not heal and this can lead to damage in wet conditions.

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In the UK climate, hardy sage will be fine outside unprotected as they can tolerate temperatures as low as -10°C, as long as they are growing in a well-drained soil.

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