Starting the Herbs
Herbs can be grown from seeds, cuttings or roots.
If you know someone who grows herbs from seed, see if you can beg or barter a
few seeds from them – why buy a whole packet if you can get just enough for your
needs? Seeds are easy to work with. You can start seeds growing in trays filled
with potting mix – try using egg cartons, paper cups, cut-off milk cartons, or
plastic trays (try take-away food trays, or the kind you buy cakes, etc, in).
Keep the soil damp and preferably have the trays somewhere where they will catch
a great deal of light and be kept warm. Transplant them into a larger container
after the second set of leaves has formed and the seedlings look strong.
If you know someone with herb plants, perhaps they would let you have a few
cuttings. Herbs that grow well from cuttings include rosemary, lavender, mint,
thyme, scented geraniums and oregano. Take the cutting in spring or (preferably)
summer, using a section of stem without flowers which is at least a few inches
long. The stem should be firm enough that it can’t be merely pinched off. A side
branch growing from the main stem of the plant is best. Use shears to remove the
stem, and make a slanting cut below the lowest set of leaves. If you can take a
cutting which has a ‘foot’ on it, so much the better – this means that there
will be more space for the stem to suck up water and nutrients from the soil.
Remove the lower sets of leaves, leaving a reasonable section of bare stem –
this is where the roots will form. However, you should leave a few sets of
leaves at the top of the cutting. Poke a hole gently into the potting mix and
insert the bare stem of the cutting, then press the rest of the potting mix
firmly around it. Water well, and after the first watering keep the soil moist
but not completely saturated. The cutting will be ready to transplant when it
has started to grow more leaves, or when it has formed enough roots that it
resists being pulled out of the ground when you tug very gently on it.
Certain herbs grow best from root pieces – comfrey and ginger being good
examples. Take a healthy-looking ‘finger’ of root, plant it in the soil and keep
it well-watered and in a warm sunny place. The root will grow into a healthy
plant, which in turn can have more root fingers taken from it when it’s mature.
Care of Container Plants
I suggest you buy, beg or borrow a good book on caring for herbs in your own
country, as what you should do with them does vary greatly depending on