Growing Herbs with Children

Growing herbs with children

Herbs are some of the most versatile plants in the garden.  Growing them is a great way to start gardening with your children.  You can use herbs to introduce them to the many uses of plants  – most herbs are easy to grow and maintain, many are aromatic and floral, nearly all are easy to harvest and are edible. If you choose from a selection of the common garden herbs you will have a lovely edible and ornamental area in your garden.   Furthermore some are perennial (which means they will regrow every year) and others, such as rosemary, are like shrubs and will just continue growing and getting larger.  Finally, possibly because of their strong and definite taste slugs and snails appear not too keen on them.  A real bonus if most of the plants in your garden suffer from slug damage.

Sow Seeds or Buy Plants?

Early spring is the time of year you can grow herbs from seed. You can sow and keep the seeds indoors up until about the end of March, when the last frosts have disappeared.  After end of March you can sow in containers outdoors and one or two herbs, such as chives, can be sown straight into the ground.

Parsley in Pots

Sow in seed compost in half seed trays, small take away trays or small pots with holes punched in for drainage.  Only use the larger seed trays if you want lots of plants.   If possible always do the actual sowing outdoors on a fine day and you will avoid a composty floor.  Many herb seeds are very small so tip the seeds from the packet into your child’s hands to avoid too many seeds hitting the compost.  Part of the fun for kids is watering in the seeds.  You may want to use a watering can with a very fine rose or a spray mister to ensure the seeds are not completely drowned.   Your child can also write or make his own label.  Ice lolly sticks make great plant labels.

A quicker and possibly cheaper option to sowing your own is to buy very small pots of herbs from your local garden centre or online.  These usually cost less than cut herbs from the supermarket so are good value.  Your children will not see the plants germinate and grow from seed, but there are other plants for example, beans and courgettes, where sowings from seeds may be easier and more successful.  Buying small plants means that your herb garden or pots have a head start, and will soon fill up and look great by the middle of the summer.  You can also start harvesting small quantities straight away.  Herbs are usually available to buy throughout the spring and summer, so you can start your herb garden at any time

Where to Plant

You can grow herbs in any container, flower or vegetable bed.   Many herbs originate from the Mediterranean and these will need a reasonably sunny location.  You can identify these as often they will have more silvery spikey leaves.  Those with darker leaves, like mint, will grow in a shadier spot.  You can grow herbs individually in pots, a selection in larger pots or in a border.   Herbs look great in most types of containers.   Recycle by planting herbs in old coffee tins, welly boots and perhaps old unwanted plastic toys.  Always make sure they have drainage holes.  You can plant herbs in hanging baskets, but may these not be so accessible for your children.

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Decide what works for you and your children.  Your pots can go on the patio, balcony if you do not have a garden, or on the kitchen window sill.  I like the idea of a selection of herbs in one large pot as it can then be allocated as your child’s or children’s very own taster garden.  Pots located close to the back door make harvesting and watering easy.

What Herbs to Grow

One UK herb farm sells over 440 different types of herbs, so you have quite a choice.  If you want really low maintenance choose perennials as you will not have to plant every year.  These include Chives, Sage, Lemon Balm, Mint and Oregano

Perhaps you will wish to choose those with showy flowers (Chives and lavender), ones that you know you will cook with and those that you child may like to nibble or be really interested in the fragrance.  If planting several in one pot you will need to consider variation of height and different coloured leaves.  Thyme and oregano will spread and you can also buy a trailing form of rosemary which will hang beautifully over a pot.  Annuals such as Basil, Parsley, Dill and Coriander will grow outside after the last frosts – they will also look equally as good on the kitchen window sill.



One mint plant will grow large and be sufficient for one family

  • Plant: All year
  • Harvest: All year
  • Container: Pot – they spread too much in the ground
  • Location: Indoor window sill (alternative location: outdoor space)
  • What to sow: Plant

Mint can be grown indoors or out over the summer, and indoors all through the winter. Buy a young plant – spearmint or peppermint grow well. Place the plant in a 12 inch pot. Water it and place it on a sunny windowsill or in a sunny spot outside.

A special word about Mint.  This is such a lovely herb with lots of different varieties available and a lovely herb to grow.  All children love the smell of pineapple mint.  However most types of mint are invasive and they are best grown in a pot on their own or in a pot sunk into the ground or another pot.



It is its versatility that makes chives such a great plant to grow with your kids.  It is of course a culinary herb and part of the onion family, but its flowers are beautiful – a delicate ball of pinky, purple.   The child and family friendly properties of the chive plant Allium Schoenoprasum include :-

  • It is a hardy perennial , which means it will come up every year.
  • It has edible leaves and flowers
  • It requires little maintenance
  • It is relatively pest free
  • Its clumps will cope with being hit by balls.

It is an essential addition to any herb garden.  You could equally grow it in any flower border or in pots.  Ideally it like well-drained soil and full sun, but it will grow in other conditions.  You can grow from seed in the spring or buy one or two pots from the local garden centre.  You will need to cut it down in late summer or autumn so it can grow again in the spring.

If you and your children are new to gardening growing herbs is a great way to get started.  Just think next time when you rosemary for the roast lamb of mint for the Pimms you won’t have to shop for it and the children can do the harvesting!


Grow your own Tomato Sauce

If your children like pasta you could grow your own pasta sauce.  A pot with chives, oregano, basil and parsley with the addition of a small cherry tomato such as ‘Balconi Red’ will provide you with all the essential ingredients for a tomato sauce and a really attractive arrangement.  You will also get to harvest the herbs for use in cooking other meals.


Most herbs are low maintenance so are ideal for a busy family.  They will need watering especially those in pots great if your child loves to use the watering can.  Some soft stem herbs such as tarragon, sage and mint will benefit from pinching out as they grow to make them bushier.  A great activity for children as it helps them with those fine motor skills.   Herbs which are shrub-like such as lavender and rosemary will need a good haircut after flowering, once a year, to stop them becoming too woody.

The youngest growth on most herbs is the tasiest so pinch out the tips to encourage lots of new shoots.


If you and your children are new to gardening growing herbs is a great way to get started.  Just think next time when you rosemary for the roast lamb of mint for the Pimms you won’t have to shop for it and the children can do the harvesting!


For more information on growing with children take a look at the following pages.


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