How to grow herbs on your windowsill

Nick Moyle and Rich Hood 13 May 2020

You don’t need an enormous garden to grow herbs, they thrive in pots and love sitting on sunny windowsills

Grow them in your kitchen for easy access during culinary creations—the plastic-wrapped supermarket offerings will taste bland in comparison to your homegrown efforts, and growing your own is easy.


1. First off, grab yourself a container  

A plant pot around six inches diameter is the ideal size for herb growing.  

If you have nothing ready-made to hand, try raiding the recycling box: large yoghurt pots make ideal planters, and you can also fashion one from an empty two-litre milk container if you are deft with a pair of scissors.  

Just remember to poke drainage holes in the base of your container before filling with compost. 


2. Add compost 

Add compost to a level a couple of centimetres below the rim of your pot, firming it down gently with your fingers. Sprinkle your chosen seeds onto the surface, then cover with another fine layer of compost.  

Give the pot a light watering, taking care not to over-soak as this can cause your seeds to rot. 


3. Choose your light 

Herbs grow best in strong bright light, so choose a south-facing, draught-free windowsill if you can.  

A sunny porch shelf is also a good option but remember to close any outer doors in the evening in case the temperature outside decides to plummet.  


4. Enjoy your results 

All being well, you should start to see signs of life after one or two weeks.  

Established herb plants may need watering once a day during hot spells but go easy and don’t over-do it. Only water when the surface soil feels dry to touch. 


5. Make sure your plants observe social distancing 

Pots of herbs squished together like commuters on the tube can potentially spread diseases between each other, so allow them enough shelf-space to spread. 


6. Harvest your herbs regularly  

For peak flavour, pick in the morning. Herbs are best used fresh but can be stored in a fridge for a few days. To prolong their freshness, wrap first in a damp piece of kitchen roll and pop them in a resealable bag. 


Three great herbs to try:

Garlic chives Allium tuberosum 

Chives are a “cut and come again” plant, meaning they respond really well to regular harvesting. Snip the leaves at the base to keep the plant productive. Chive flower—although milder in taste than the leaves—can also be tossed in salads for flavour and floral interest. Chives are thirsty plants, so keep them well-watered during hot spells. 


Lemon Thyme Thymus citriodorus 

True to its word, the leaves of this herb release an intense citrus scent when rubbed. As well as lending its flavour to soups and stews, Lemon Thyme will brighten up your kitchen sill with a delicate display of small lilac flowers. Once established, it tends to grow like the clappers (thyme waits for no man after all) so re-pot and divide in early spring. 


Basil Genovese Ocimum basilicum 

Basil genovese is the one that tends to be used in pesto, but also works a treat when flung over pizzas and paired with its plump ruddy pal, the tomato. Basil doesn’t like super sunny windowsill sites, so if your plant starts to wilt, try moving it somewhere with a bit more shade. Basil grows quickly, so keep picking the newly emerging leaves throughout the season to keep it in check. 

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