Growing Herbs


Herbs can be one of the easiest and most satisfying plants to grow in the garden; not only are they decorative and fragrant, but can also add an extra dimension of flavour to your cooking. Some of the easiest herbs to start your herb garden are bay, chives, chervil, dill, mint, oregano, parsley, rosemary, sage and thyme. These can usually be bought in pots and transplanted to the garden in early spring.

You can grow herbs in a wide variety of ways, depending on the amount you want to grow and the space you have available. Herb gardens can form an attractive feature and may be formed in a relatively small space; however, you might find that using pots and other containers placed in easy reach of the kitchen is far more convenient. There are a number of herbs that are decorative enough to form part of a planting bed or border, whilst herbs grown in large quantities might be best grown in the vegetable garden. Wherever you decide to plant your herbs, always ensure that any that are to be used for cooking are kept well away from any sources of contamination, such as roadside pollution or pets.

Herb Gardens

A separate herb garden can allow the gardener to grow all their herbs in one area, making them convenient for collection, with the added advantage of combining their scents in one place. A strong design impact can be made when creating a herb garden by using blocks or patterns of complementary or contrasting colour. Formal herb gardens are traditionally bordered by low, clipped hedges of box, although lavender or hyssop can be used for a more informal edging.


An attractive option for growing herbs is to plant them between the paving stones in patios. This provides them with a well-drained site and the additional warmth and shelter is particularly useful for tender plants. Planting aromatic herbs such as thymes and creeping savory so that they are allowed to spread onto the paving means that an occasional light tread will release their fragrance.


Container planting is an excellent choice for many herbs; they may be positioned wherever they are needed and allows tender herbs, such as myrtle (Myrtus communis) and lemon verbena (Aloysia triphylla), to be brought inside over the cold winter months. Even if you have a formal herb garden or grow them with other ornamentals or vegetables, it is often handy to have one or two pots of commonly used herbs near the door.

If you have very limited space, consider growing groups of different herbs in a strawberry planter (a pot with planting pockets); some of the best herbs to grow in this way are oregano, chervil, parsley and thyme. Larger herbs, such as bay and rosemary, often look best when grown as single specimens in pots or tubs.

Whatever type of container you use, always ensure that it has plenty of drainage holes and that a layer of porous material, such as drainage crocks, is added before it is planted up.

Raised Beds

A raised herb bed is an excellent way to grow compact herbs in any site where the soil in the open garden is not free-draining. It is also useful for any gardeners with mobility problems, as it provides easy access for planting, maintenance and harvesting. If you're thinking of building your own raised bed, we have a range of information and handy step-by-step guides in our section on Structures.

Beds and Borders

Some herbs are ornamental enough to grow in beds and borders, and can provide the planting scheme with additional colour, scent, contrast and focal points. Some herbs to consider might include:

  • Bergamot: striking scarlet flowers clustered in swirls up the length of the stem.
  • Rue: a mass of attractive blue-green foliage with yellow flowers in mid-summer.
  • Purple sage: warm purple young growth, which mixes softly with sage green mature foliage.
  • Chives: pretty, round, pinkish mauve heads of flowers with rich green, grass-like leaves.

Vegetable Gardens

It may be best to plant large quantities of culinary herbs along with your vegetables, either around the edge of the plot, or amongst the vegetables themselves. Some herbs may be even be used to increase vegetable or fruit crop yields, as can be seen in our guide to companion planting. For example, dill may be planted alongside broccoli, onion and lettuces to improve crop health; however, planting dill next to carrots or tomatoes may in fact be detrimental to their growth.