“Start with herbs.”
That’s the advice of almost every gardener you will meet about where to begin your growing adventures. But why is growing herbs considered a good beginner’s goal?
- They don’t mind drying out so much: Herbs thrive in the kind of well-drained soil found in more arid regions, and hence tolerate water stress better than most plants in the vegetable garden. Much as we care for our plants, they all need to look after themselves at times!
- You harvest them during vegetative growth. To provide us with a juicy red tomato the vine first needs to grow, then set flowers, that must be pollinated, which then give birth to a little green orb, that slowly swells and ripens over several weeks. This all takes several months, and just like during human pregnancy the nutritional requirements of the plant change drastically over the course of the cycle. You harvest your herbs during the very first stage of growth which we call “vegetation”, just like a lettuce, and therefore avoid all the complications of producing a ripe fruit. Most herbs thrive even without fertiliser – just don’t drown them and make sure they see plenty of sun.
- You can grow many very easily from cuttings. Cut a sprig of basil and stick it in a glass of water. Done! Once it sprouts roots you can simply pop it into a pot and you should soon have another basil crop to keep you in pesto. Mint is also very easy to propagate like this, as is even the venerable Cannabis.
- No need to thin our seedlings: marjoram, oregano, catnips, thyme, savory etc.
Many plants hate being crowded. If you don’t thin them out to a comfortable spacing they won’t grow well, and you’ll get much lower yields. Many herbs however don’t mind so much. You can start a whole bunch of seeds in a single pot and they will be just fine, some thinning out due to natural selection and some just growing in a bushy clump with their siblings.
This does not apply to all herbs – lavender & rosemary for example prefer to grow solo , giving them room to plunge their tap roots.
You can also just sow 1-2 seeds per pot and eventually get a nice plant – it just takes longer to grow to a size suitable for cutting.