Next time you reach for a bag of neatly trimmed chives on the supermarket shelf, stop and think how easy it would be to grow your own. Even the tiniest balcony or windowsill has room for a few pots of herbs.

It is immensely satisfying to snip your own parsley over a salad or to mix a few basil leaves in with a dish of tomatoes. Even if the vegetables are not home grown, the herbs easily can be.

Stick to the herbs you would normally buy and cook with (do not be tempted by obscure medicinal species) and grow them close to hand – outside by the back door or on the kitchen windowsill.

Many aromatic herbs are Mediterranean plants, so they need plenty of sunshine and excellent drainage – waterlogged soil spells death.

Although most herbs can be grown from seed, herb expert Jekka McVicar advises first-timers to start with small plants: “You’ll get quicker results for the kitchen that way, then you can progress to sowing seed the following year.”

Terracotta pots are ideal: they are porous so there is less risk of waterlogging. But any container will do as long as it has good drainage. Punch holes in the base of an old aluminium bucket, or a battered colander is perfect – just line it with hessian or newspaper to stop compost trickling out.


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