Alice Vincent’s tips: how to handle herbs

Want to grow your own herbs but not sure where to start? All you need is a small space and some practical knowledge to get started. How to Grow Stuff: easy, no-stress gardening for beginners by Alice Vincent is the essential guide for growing anything and everything. Here’s Alice’s advice:

If you’ve never grown anything before, herbs are the best place to start. They are cheap, unthreatening and a pot or packet of seeds can be picked up in a supermarket aisle. It’s easy to be taken in by the delightful-looking wooden planters filled with lots of different types of herbs, but it can be tricky to keep them all looking lovely if you’re just starting out. Basil, for instance, needs far less water than parsley, while mint and rosemary both like their space. Shoving them all together in one vintage wine crate can be the equivalent of a botanical Big Brother house – they’re unlikely to all get along nicely. So, you’ll need to learn how to grow and look after everyday herbs that look, smell and taste wonderful.

How long will my herb plants last? 

While rosemary can live for years in the right conditions, basil, mint and parsley are all treated as one-season plants, or annuals. Although parsley and mint can return for another spring, it’s better to enjoy your herbs while they are in their prime and to encourage them to keep cropping during their growing seasons, so consider any extra subsequent growth a bonus.

The best way to pick herbs?

To keep your herbs bushy and beautiful, only take leaves from the top of the plant when you are picking them. Look out for the tiny new leaf nodules growing lower down on the stems and cut or pinch off the stem and leaves that grow above them. This is called ‘pinching out’ and it will encourage new growth outwards, rather than upwards. If you just pick leaves from the side of the stems, you’ll end up with a plant that has long, bare, woody stalks and fewer leaves.

Extracted from How to Grow Stuff: easy, no-stress gardening for beginners by Alice Vincent, published by Ebury Press £12.99.


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Gabi Van is a passionate food writer, qualified chef and brunch-lover hailing all the way from sunny...


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