Make the perfect start to ‘grow your own’ by sowing herb seeds in pots whether you’ve a large garden, a small one, or none at all. Add a touch of zest to a dish by arming yourself with a pair of scissors and nipping outside to cut some fresh parsley, coriander or dill.

Most herbs grow perfectly well in pots, so you can decide on ones you’re always using, like parsley, or go for more ornamental species such as rosemary. If you haven’t tackled herbs before, you might prefer to start with some leafy annuals like, parsley coriander, dill or salad rocket.

Because herbs need slightly different light levels and grow at different rates, stick to one species per pot. I reckon you’ll be struggling to achieve the very pretty mixed container you see in gardening catalogues. Take salad rocket, it germinates and grows fast, coriander and dill take a little longer while parsley is pretty slow.

The Herald: Grow then cook Grow then cook (Image: free)

To harvest a bunch of coriander or parsley you will need several plants. You can either sow seed quite thickly in a pot and when the seedlings are 10-15 cm tall, snip off the upper part about 3-4 cm above soil level. The little plants will grow back and you can cut again. You’ll probably only be able to repeat this a couple of times so have another pot prepared to take over when the first is exhausted.

These need warmth to germinate so, for an early crop, start with small pots or modules and put in a greenhouse or on a bright windowsill where they will take up less space than their final, larger pot. Grow on until the weather is reliably warm. For cut and come again just plant clumps in their final pot or thin by snipping off surplus seedlings and then growing individual plants to maturity.

These individual plants will keep developing as long as you don’t pick the growing tip. Dill can eventually reach nearly a metre and its yellow flower heads are tasty as well as decorative.

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I always let some plants set seed as another harvest. As well as enjoying the flavour of coriander’s soft green seeds, I find the ripe, dry, brown seeds are just as good as any you buy. You really get your money’s worth from a coriander plant by enjoying every part of it and even the roots can be added to a dish.

Basil, especially a small bushy variety, grows well in pots, but it does need warmth and sun, so most of us in Scotland need a greenhouse for best results.

Chives are much easier. These northern perennials clump up quite quickly so buy a small pot and put it into a 15 litre pot. It will increase and give you lots of pickings. After a few years you will have to divide and repot.

The Herald: Magnolia stellataMagnolia stellata (Image: free)

Plant of the week

Magnolia stellata is a compact magnolia only growing to about 3 metres with a 4 metre spread. In early spring the silky buds open to beautiful white, star shaped flowers, sometimes flushed with pink, that are sweetly scented.

Though fully hardy Magnolia stellata is best planted with some shelter from icy winds and lashing rain which can damage the flowers.