Wednesday, 12 June 2013



Herbs are easy to grow and look fantastic in your garden, so why not create your own herb garden.  Whether it’s a formal herb garden, a potager or a few pots by the back door you will soon discover that herbs can be grown successfully in your garden or windowsill.  You will be able to pick your own fresh herbs to add to your dishes, which far surpasses the flavour that pre-packed dried herbs offer.

So which herbs should you grow?  It sounds obvious but if growing herbs for culinary purposes then select the herbs that you will want to use to flavour your dishes. Alternatively you can select herb varieties for their decorative foliage or scent. Some herbs last for only a season, whilst others are a perm ant feature in your garden.

There are three types of herbs; annuals, biennials and perennials.  Annuals live only for one year and will flower and develop seeds from which new plants will grow the following year and include basil, borage, chamomile, chervil, coriander, dill, fennel and summer savory . Some herbs (caraway and parsley) are biennials; flowering and developing seeds in their second year. Perennial herbs such as bay, chives, lavender, lemon grass, lovage, marjoram, mint, oregano, rosemary, sage, tarragon, thyme and winter savoury last for several years and so are permanent plants in your garden.

Herbs are tough plants that need minimal effort to flourish in your garden. They prefer a fertile, free draining soil either in full sun (rosemary, thyme, tarragon, sage and oregano) or partial shade (chervil, mizuna, mustard, rocket, parsley and sage). Most herbs can be grown from seed directly sown onto the soil after the risk of frost has passed.  You can get a head start on the season by sowing the seeds under cloches or indoors at the beginning of the year. Basil, chives and parsley can be sown under glass from January to early April. When soil conditions allow from March onwards you can sow seed of chervil, coriander and dill directly outdoors.

Prepare the soil by digging in plenty of organic matter and raking to a fine tilth, aiding drainage by adding grit if you have heavy soil. Sow seeds at regular intervals to ensure a regular supply.  Alternatively you can plant out young plants into your bed or container. Some perennial herbs such as lemon balm or mint are thugs and  need to be controlled to prevent them from taking over your border so you may wish to grow these herbs in pots instead.

Add a dressing of manure or compost around the base of the plant each autumn and only add a liquid fertiliser during the growing season if the plant seems to be struggling. Do not overfeed herbs as this will impair their flavour.  However, container grown herbs will be much less nutrient rich so feed weekly during the growing season with a liquid feed.

You can propagate your herbs by taking cuttings of bay, marjoram, mint, rosemary, sage, tarragon and thyme from late summer to early autumn. Herbs such as sweet marjoram, oregano, mint and thyme can be divided in the spring or after flowering in late summer. At the end of the season pot up herbs such as chives, mint, parsley, or tarragon and bring them in to a south facing windowsill for the winter.

The most common herbs that are grown are basil, chives, coriander, dill, marjoram, mint, parsley, rosemary and sage.  However there are many more varieties to grow. So go on, take your pick:

Coriander (Coriandrum Sativum)
Dill (Anethum Graveolens)
Epazote (Chenopodium Ambrosioides)
Fennel, Florence fennel (Foeniculum Vulgare)
Onion Chives (Allium Schoenoprasum)
Hyssop (Hyssopus Officinalis)
Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia)
Lemon Balm (Melissa Officinalis)
Lemon Verbena (Aloysia Triphylla)
Lemon Grass (Cymbopogon Citratus)
Lovage (Levisticum Officinale)
Marjoram (Origanum majorana)
Mint Marigold (Tagetes Lucida)

Oregano (Origanum Vulgare)
Parsley (Petroselinum Crispum)
Pennyroyal (Mentha Pulegium)
Peppermint (Mentha X Piperita)
Mexican Oregano (Poliomentha Longiflora)
Rosemary (Rosmarinus Officinalis)
Sage (Salvia Officinalis)
Salad Burnet (Poterium Sanguisorba)
Spearmint (Mentha Spicata)
Summer savory (Satureja Hortensis)
Sweet Woodruff (Galium Odoratum)
Tansy (Tanacetum Vulgare)
Tarragon (Artemisia Dracunculus)
Winter Savory (Satureja Montana)
Wormwood (Artemisia Spp.)

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