Trust us, anyone can grow herbs, from novice to gardening guru - even those of you who ‘always kill plants’! This beginner’s guide will get you started and make sure you avoid the usual mistakes. If you’ve ever looked at a recommended gin garnish and think “I never buy that in” (let’s face it, who hasn’t?), grow your own and never look back.
Get a mini growers pot from most supermarkets for 70p-£1.50, follow the tips and tricks below and never lack for garnish again. After each herb you’ll find a few craft gins to match them with for the perfect serve. 1. The golden rule is DO NOT OVERWATER!! That is the reason most indoor plants die. Avoid this trap by pressing your fingers to the soil, if it sticks to your fingers/feels really wet, the plant doesn’t need watering. Tip 3 below will help with this. If you're not sure, you'll know a plant has been overwatered if the soil starts to go green. This is actually algae, if this happens remove the green soil and replace it with new compost, then don't water the plant until the soil dries out.
2. On the other side of the coin, if the soil goes grey or cracks and dries out completely, you are under watering the plant. Just follow the tips below and you’ll be fine.
3. Use a pot with a hole/holes in the bottom and put in a shallow dish.
This stops water leaking everywhere.
It stops overwatering - never leave any water standing in the dish, the plant should absorb it all. If it hasn’t pour it away and don’t water again until the soil feels fairly dry. This keeps water draining and also stops roots from rotting.
4. Feed the soil. Plants outside get nutrients from the earth, indoor plants don’t. You can buy specialist fertiliser but we find liquid tomato plant food works on most herbs and is easy to find in supermarkets. Just add to water, the amount needed will be on the bottle and use once a month.
5. Most plants need direct sunlight - pop them next to a window. Try to avoid putting them above a radiator as this will dry out the soil and roots.
6. Finally, don’t be afraid of cutting off the leaves for your garnish, more will grow back, faster in Spring/Summer, slowing down in Autumn/Winter.
7. Watch out for bugs. If you get any then the most likely are aphids or blackfly/greenfly - you can’t miss them flying around your plant. If they do appear, spray the plant with lukewarm, soapy water and put outdoors for 2-5 days, re-spraying daily until they have gone (don’t leave out overnight). You also need to kill the one’s in the house with flypaper/spray etc. Basil & Mint - grow in full sun and part shade. Most windowsills would work.
1. Needs 3-4 hours of direct sunlight per day.
2. Water fairly frequently, especially the mint - check the soil a few times a week, daily in warm weather (we're watering our mint every day at the moment!) and make sure it stays moist, but not wet, at all times.
3. Harvesting - basil and mint will grow Spring-Autumn, die back a little in winter and come back the following year, you can freeze the leaves to use year round. Rinse in cold water, shake dry, chop up and pop in an ice cube mould, add water and freeze.
Gins with a basil or mint garnish:
Rosemary and Thyme - need lots of sunlight, put in a warm place; south facing windowsills, conservatories and french windows work well.
1. Needs 6 hours of direct sunlight every day.
2. Water sparingly - check twice a week but only water when the soil feels dry.
3. Harvesting - these herbs are evergreen and should grow year round. Leaves can be used fresh or dried.
Gins with a rosemary or thyme garnish:
Pot size - just get the next size up, 9-11cm, no need to go massive.
Compost - get a multi-purpose one, you can get peat free or peat based at supermarkets.
Drainage - add a handful of vermiculite or perlite to your compost, buy from supermarkets in summer or online/at a garden centre.
Slow release plant food - usually come with a measuring scoop, if not use approx 1 dessert spoon. Buy from supermarkets in summer or online/at a garden centre.
Put the compost in the pot to about half way, add the vermiculite/perlite and slow release fertiliser and mix in. Make a hole for the plant and pop it in. Add more compost until it is level with the base of the plant. Press the plant in firmly and water well - done!
Once you’ve mastered herbs the garnish world is your oyster (or something). If you want to take the next step and plant from seed/grow fruit and vegetables, the Royal Horticultural Society website is a fantastic place for ideas and tips www.rhs.org.uk
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