Grow your own

Tired of spending a fortune on organic herbs? Try cultivating your own!

Portrait of Tammy Strobel
Lim Yi Ling
Lim Yi Ling

We’re becoming more aware of where our food comes from and what we’re putting into our bodies. Avoiding the chemicals, pesticides and hormones used in commercial farming, as well as genetically modified (GM) food usually means having to buy organic greens, which cost more.

While we can’t all have our own vegetable patch, growing your own herbs is definitely possible, and will save you money, too!

All you need for an herb garden is a balcony or windowsill. As long as you put your herbs in a sunny spot and remember to water them regularly, there should be no problem growing them. You can grow them from seeds, or buy seedlings; these, as well as potting mix, can all be bought from a plant nursery.

Basil, coriander, chives, sage, lemongrass and dill are all easy to find and, better still, easy to keep alive!

■ Choose a sunny spot

They don’t need full sun exposure all day, but most herbs will need at least six hours of sunlight a day. Morning sun and afternoon shade is ideal.

■ Use quality potting mix

Dirt is not just dirt, so don’t go and get any old soil. You need to use a potting mix – not topsoil, garden soil or potting soil for containers. Other types of soil are too heavy and dense for herbs to thrive.

■ Water wisely

Too much and they’ll drown, too little and they’ll die. Your plant will let you know how much water it needs. If the leaves are wilting and the soil is dry, it needs water. Keep watering until water runs out the bottom of the drainage holes.

■ Fertilise

Plants in pots deplete nutrients from the soil more quickly than those in the ground, so mix a little compost in the potting mix and regularly add a slow-release organic fertiliser to the soil.

■ Use the right pots

When in doubt, go for slightly larger pots as herbs don’t like to be planted too close together, and need space to thrive. The more space roots have to grow, the bigger the plant will get. Always make sure the pots have good drainage at the bottom.

Lim Yi Ling
Lim Yi Ling
■ Overwatering

This can “drown” the plant, cause roots to rot and fungus to grow in the soil. Soil should be moist but not waterlogged, so make sure your pot has drainage holes.

■ Not enough sun

Most herbs are sun-lovers, so they won’t thrive unless they get at least six hours of sunlight a day.

■ Not pruning enough

Regularly harvesting your herbs strengthens the plant and encourages new growth.

■ Picking the wrong part of the plant

Don’t pick the big leaves at the bottom. Instead, always harvest the smaller new leaves at the top.

■ Using bad soil

Good-quality soil is a must, so always use a potting mix.

Lim Yi Ling
Lim Yi Ling
■ Lemongrass

–it’s not a fussy plant and is almost impossible to kill, plus it grows fast.

■ Chives

– they grow quickly and don’t mind if there isn’t much light.

■ Mint

– it grows like a weed and is happy in shade.

■ Parsley

– even though it grows slowly, it is a hardy herb that doesn’t need much light or maintenance.

■ Rosemary

– it prefers to be dry so it doesn’t need a lot of watering, and doesn’t require high-quality soil.

Lim Yi Ling
Lim Yi Ling

Match it with these herbs:

Seafood – basil, dill and chives.

Vegetarian – parsley, thyme, rosemary and basil.

Red meat – thyme and rosemary.

Asian – lemongrass, chives, coriander, cilantro and Thai basil.

French – tarragon, chives, parsley and chervil.

Italian – basil, oregano and parsley.

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