How to grow your own herbs (and not kill them)


Everybody loves herbs. Basil, chives, parsley, coriander…all that good stuff. So why bother paying 80 pence for a measly packet of four wilted basil leaves every time you want to make pesto, when you can grow it in your house for free? This saves all the packaging, energy and transport that goes into delivering you three feeble stems, whilst greening up your kitchen and providing you with free food. Who doesn’t want free food?

Last year I tried this but my plants kept dying, so I got some tips from Mama Steinmann to avoid the same rookie errors I made the first time round. So here is an exact guide to how Kasia and I created our own little herb garden in the flat we just moved into using recycled tins.

So for a recycled tin herb garden, you will need:

  • First off you’ll need your herbs. Ideal would be to buy a small potted herb plant from a nursery, and not from a supermarket. the reason for this is that supermarket plants are used to a perfect air conditioned environment with lots of fertiliser so they grow quickly in a short amount of time, but also die quicker under the stress of a new environment. Nursery plants tend to be far more resilient. Some suggestions- rosemary, thyme, parsley, chives, and basil are good for indoors. Make sure you take note of what kind of conditions and watering your specific herb prefers.
  • a tin or can. (This can be anything from an old tea tin, tobacco tin, or a can of kidney beans. We used a can of chopped tomatoes and peeled off the label)
  • an unwanted/broken mug or equivalent
  • a small dish to place underneath the tin  so water doesn’t go everywhere
  • a handful of soil
  • a hammer
  • a nail




Smash your unwanted mug or plate into small bits- enough to cover just the base of the tin. This helps the plant “breathe”, ensuring water is drained out so that the roots don’t rot.




Using the hammer and nail, carefully poke a few holes into the bottom of your tin. Watch out for the edges of the tin though, they can be sharp. These holes also help with drainage.






Place the broken mug pieces into the base of the tin, and cover with a small amount of soil, about half a handful. Then carefully fit your plant into the tin on top of the soil.





Place a small saucer or something similar underneath the tin so that water doesn’t go all over your windowsill or table top when you water your herbs.  Now just place your herb in a sunny spot so your new friend can photosynthesise and BAM- endless supplies of delicious herby goodness.


And how not to kill them?

here are a few tips:

  • Don’t over water your plants! This is the most common cause of death amongst innocent herbs. Rather than water them every day, touch the soil. If it feels particularly dry and your plant looks droopy, give it a bit of water.
  • Make sure it has enough sun. Given this is Scotland, we had a bit of trouble with this one, but if you leave your plant by a window (preferably South facing…or North facing if you’re in the Southern hemisphere) it should be fine. Take note though that some plants don’t like direct sunlight.
  • Make sure your plants have enough room for drainage. If you put them in a closed pot without any chance for water to drain out, the water will sit at the bottom of the pot and rot the roots until your plant goes mouldy.

Anyone have any more tips? Please leave them in the comments! Happy planting

– Anna


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