Even if you plant nothing else, it's a good idea to flex your green thumb and cultivate a few herbs. These culinary heavyweights can transform a dull dinner, plus you'll save lots of money on store-bought varieties. The key to success is to plant herbs you know you'll use – it's good for your pantry and also for the plants themselves, as most thrive if picked regularly.
Growing herbs from seeds is cheap and satisfying, but many varieties take a while to germinate, which makes seedlings a more attractive option. If growing them in pots, use a quality potting mix with good drainage, and supplement the soil with a suitable liquid fertiliser once a fortnight. Water regularly to nurture your herbs – dry soil can cause them to go to seed (coriander is a major offender). However, don't drench them, as most don't appreciate wet feet. Then simply snip, rinse, tear or chop, and enjoy! Remember to choose herbs to suits your culinary creations.
Coriander: This love-or-hate herb is often dismissed as hard to grow, as it has a habit of bolting. The key is to monitor its conditions; place in a sunny but not scorching spot (winter is often better for coriander) and don't let it dry out, which will make it quickly run to seed.
Read more: How to grow and care for coriander
Lemongrass: Robust lemongrass loves heat and dry conditions. In colder climates, grow in a pot and move inside or to a sunny, sheltered spot in frosty months. Growing it in a pot or tub also combats its invasive tendencies.
Thai basil: Unlike sweet basil (the kind you make pesto with), Thai basil has a distinct aniseed flavour that's delicious in Thai and Vietnamese cooking. It's also an aesthetic asset for the garden, with pretty purple blooms that bees love.
Read more: How to grow and care for Thai basil
Tarragon: A herbaceous perennial, tarragon dies back to the level of the soil in winter, so plant in a pot or note the plant's position in the garden bed so you know where it is when it returns in spring.
Read more: How to grow and care for tarragon
Chives: A delicious addition to salads, chives also attract butterflies, bees and other beneficial insects. A ‘tea' of chopped chives can be sprayed onto plants susceptible to powdery mildew.
Read more: How to grow chives
Rosemary: Vigorous rosemary grows well in hot, dry climates, and with its delicate flowers, it's a pretty and delicious addition to the garden.
Read more: How to grow and care for rosemary
Thyme: This fragrant Mediterranean gem thrives on neglect. Put in a hot spot with well-drained soil and don't over water it – it's drought tolerant so once established it really only needs water when the soil is totally dry.
Read more: How to grow and care for thyme
Basil: Wonderfully versatile, basil should be planted in a spot that receives full sun. Pick as needed (such as for yummy pesto) and be prepared to replant every year as in most areas it'll die off in winter.
Read more: How to plant, grow and harvest basil
Parsley: Plant parsley once and you'll have it forever, as it's a renowned self-seeder. Flat-leaf parsley has a stronger flavour than curly, but both are easy to grow.
Read more: How to grow Italian parsley
Read more: How to grow and care for curly parsley
Oregano: Oregano can be used fresh – pick as needed – but leaves left to dry will develop a stronger flavour. Cut stems just before the plant flowers, hang to dry and store in an airtight container.
Read more: How to grow and harvest oregano
Chilli: If you like hot chillies, make sure there's not too much nitrogen in the soil, as this can slow production of capsaicin, which gives them their heat. Scrape out the seeds for a less fiery taste.
Read more: Growing chilli: plant care guide