Growing all those fabulous Vegetables is only half the story; the next bit is cooking them into a delicious meal. Recipes for main meals abound by the thousand in most of our homes, and nearly all of them include Herbs as an important – nay vital – ingredient! Look at any Country Hotel with a Michelin Star in their C.V and you will find them growing herbs with a Herb Garden very firmly attached!
And Growing Herbs is very easy!
The important thing to remember when thinking about how to grow herbs and when choosing where to plant Herbs, is that all the species and varieties of herbs love to be in the Sunshine! They will also greatly appreciate good drainage. There are many and various methods of Growing Herbs including: Open Ground. Raised Beds. Containers.
- Herbs love to be in the Sunshine
- Herbs appreciate good drainage
Usually the herb Garden is part of the Kitchen Garden or Allotment. Remembering that Sunshine and good Drainage are key to success with Growing Herbs, choose a site that fits both these criteria. Herbs, by and large, do not require a very fertile soil. However, easy access is quite important, as you will be visiting the plants quite frequently to gather there aromatic offerings; alongside pathways is ideal.
Some Herbs are permanent fixtures and others are purely seasonal. Basil, for instance, is grown from seed and is gathered very shortly after sowing, whereas Rosemary is a virtual ’shrub’ and can remain in the same spot for years! It is important therefore to plan your Herb Garden before starting to plant.
The permanent Shrub like Herbs that you will probably like to grow are:
- Curry Plant
The next group of Herbs are the Herbaceous types; these are permanent, but tend to die back in the Winter:
- Lemon Balm
- Salad Burnett
The final group are the ones that only last for one season:
So, when planning your Herb Garden you can either ’Mix and Match’ the different plant types, or have separate areas for each group. In practical terms you are better to separate them, but if you like a rather more ascetic look to your Herb patch then mix ’em all up.
It is possible to propagate all Herbs from seed, but I would recommend that you purchase young potted plants for the more permanent shrubby and herbaceous subjects.
The best time to start your Herb Garden is in early Spring – say the end of March. Prepare the ground by digging over thoroughly and then breaking down the ground to a nice even tilth.
It is most important that you remove any perennial weed roots that you come across – this may be the last time you can dig over the site for quite a number of years! It would be quite a good idea to incorporate a light dressing of Bone Meal while levelling out.
Remember, when planting, to give all you plants room to develop. I would suggest at least 50 centimetres in each direction.
I would like to say a word here about Mint. This is one of our most important Herbs, but it does come with a bit of a problem – it spreads like mad! One way to prevent this happening is to circle each plant with a small ditch, or moat.
Give each Mint plant an area of approximately 60 centimetres diameter, and then dig a shallow ditch about 12 centimetres deep and a spades width around the circumference. Mint is a surfacing rooting plant and by giving it a small island in which to grow it will find it difficult to spread, and by having a ditch around the plant you will find it easy to chop off any adventurous shoots that try to escape.
The only after care of your Herbs is weed control, and this will have to be done by either gentle hoeing or hand weeding. One things you will notice when doing this task, is all the various aromas that will assail your sense of smell.
Raised Bed Herb Garden
The same principles apply as did in open ground growing, the advantages are that you get much easier access to your Herbs and you will find that they can grow better in a slightly elevated position; this is probably due to better drainage.
This method is very useful when there is little or no Garden Space available and you only have a patio or some decking.
The type of container you use is more a matter of ascetic choice than cultural need. Ceramic, wooden or steel will make little difference to the plants. The container needs a minimum of 10 litres soil capacity, but that is about the only vital specification.
The same cultural principles apply with regard to sunlight and drainage as they would in the open ground or raised beds. It is important that you use a free draining compost to fill the containers. Clearly, your choice of plants is going to be severely restricted, so I would like to offer a list of Herbs that seem to like being grown in Containers.
Rosemary. Thyme. Sage. Lemon Balm. Marjoram. Mint. Tarragon.
Not only do these varieties like being in pots, they also look quite attractive in their own right.
You will need to feed your plants regularly to get the best out of them. I would suggest a liquid general purpose vegetable fertilizer. The balance of nutrients in this type of fertilizer should be ideal for growing Herbs. Be sure to follow the directions on the product.
There, of course, many other varieties of culinary Herbs that I have not mentioned here. Some are quite unique to a particular type of cuisine, and if this is the case then you will be aware of these unusual Herbs, and you will still be able to cultivate them following the same guidelines already mentioned. There are also a number of medicinal Herbs that we can cultivate in our Gardens; these also will thrive if you follow the same rules.