Read these 10 Growing Herbs Tips tips to make your life smarter, better, faster and wiser. Each tip is approved by our Editors and created by expert writers so great we call them Gurus. LifeTips is the place to go when you need to know about Vegetable tips and hundreds of other topics.
Parsley is the most commonly used garnishing herb, but also does well in sauces, salads and dressings. Try to imagine fragrant couscous or tiny new potatoes without handfuls of fresh parsley! It also goes well with eggs and white fish.
Parsley grows easily from seed. It likes rich soil and needs watering until it is established. It's a biennial plant and its leaves can be harvested throughout, but the seeds won't ripen until the second year. Replace the plant after the seeds have been collected.
Parsley grows well indoors, but once you discover all the uses for it, you will struggle to grow enough in a container. So make sure you also have a row outside….
Thyme is a low-growing shrub and makes an excellent ground cover in any garden. It needs full sun and well-drained soil, but will reward you with a carpet of purple flowers and a garden full of heady scent and many bees.
Thyme can be propagated easily by taking cuttings or dividing the roots of existing plants. It can also be grown in containers. Pick the leaves while there are flowers on the plant. They can be both dried and frozen successfully. Use in cooking, as cough medicine, disinfectant or compress for strained or aching muscles.
Sage is one of the most useful herbs to have in your garden. It can be used in cooking, as a hair rinse, a gargle for a sore throat, a natural deodorant, to disinfect a room and can be placed in clothes cupboards to deter insects.
It's also extremely beautiful. Common sage has silvery gray leaves that look otherworldly when viewed in moonlight. There are sages with green, purple and variegated leaves. Its flowers, from pale cream through pink to deepest purple, attract beneficial insects to your garden and, when dried, make a lovely tea.
Sage grows easily from seed, but can also be propagated from cuttings. Most sages are hardy, but some of the ‘fancier' varieties, such as pineapple sage and tricolor sage need some protection in the winter. Prune the plants after the flowers have faded.
Harvest the leaves just before the flowers appear. Leaves can be dried or frozen. Collect the flowers when fully open and dry spread out on kitchen paper.
Rosemary is a beautiful plant, with blue-green needle-like leaves and very pale blue flowers. It's a perennial, so once it is established it will carry on growing and flowering for many years. It can handle a bit of frost, but positively hates standing in water.
I find rosemary very slow to grow from seed. But a potted plant from an herb nursery or garden center planted out into the garden in April / May will soon settle in. Rosemary is very happy to grow in a container. Feed it monthly during the summer with an all-purpose fertilizer and move it indoors during the winter. Not having its roots in the ground makes it more sensitive to frost.
Cut fresh sprigs of rosemary as you need them for cooking, hair rinses or a relaxing herbal bath. The leaves can also be dried for use in herb pillows or drawer sachets.
Garlic is one of the most versatile plants around. It is extensively used in cooking, but medicinally classed as almost a superfood as it has antiviral, antibacterial and anti-fungal properties. The properties in garlic help protect against colds and flu and is said to help lower blood pressure and cholesterol. (See the Garlic Information Centre at garlic.mistral.co.uk for more information). In addition, it's very easy to grow.
Garlic needs a sunny site with well-drained soil and produces a single crop each year. Separate a head of garlic into cloves (special seed garlic heads are available from nurseries, but for a first attempt ordinary garlic from the supermarket will do) and push the cloves into the soil ca 2-3 cm deep with the tip upwards, keeping them about a hand's width apart. Each clove will turn into a new garlic bulb with 10-20 cloves.
In the northern latitudes, plant your garlic in late autumn, to give it enough time to mature. The first leaves will appear just after the frost sets in, and your garlic will be ready to harvest come June/July. Do not harvest the bulbs until their green shoots have turned brown and died off.
Lift the bulbs carefully without damaging them, and then use the dead leaves to tie the bulbs in bundles. Hang them up in a cool, dry place to dry out.
Basil loves hot dry weather, which seems to concentrate its flavor. It needs good soil and a sunny spot in your garden. It can be grown from seed but must not be sown outdoors until all danger of frost has passed.
Basil does well in a pot on a sunny windowsill as long as it is watered regularly and fed with an all-purpose fertilizer once a month.
Pick the leaves whenever you need them. If you pinch out the tip, then the basil will grow bushier. Basil is best used fresh. For winter reserves, keep a few pots on the windowsill or place whole basil leaves into ice cube trays, cover with water and freeze.
You may want to grow herbs for a specific purpose, for example to make your own skincare products, to experiment with the cuisine of a specific area, to relax and relieve stress, to treat a specific ailment or simply to attract wildlife to your garden.
A themed garden is a fascinating way to learn about herbs and their uses. If you want to try your hand at a themed garden, try and visit monastery herb gardens, where the herbs are often grown in groups based on the ailment or illness they are meant to treat or the kitchen gardens of big houses, where vegetables and herbs are often grown together as they are used.
Gardening shows are also a good place to gather inspiration and good herb nurseries will often plant themed displays, so they are well worth checking out.
To successfully create a themed herb garden, you need to understand the conditions that your chosen herbs need to grow and you need to be sure that you can provide them.
For the most part, herbs are undemanding. They grow easily and need little looking after, making them ideal for hectic lifestyles and inexperienced gardeners alike.
If you are an absolute beginner start with a few large pots or a window box. Try parsley, chives, thyme, and lavender. These herbs are available from any good herb nursery or garden center. Plant them in good compost, water well and place in a sunny spot.
Once your green fingers have developed, add sage, rosemary, garlic, lemon balm, basil, chili, chamomile, marjoram and savory to your collection. These herbs can all be grown in pots or in the garden. Garlic would do best in a large window box, which gives the bulbs room to develop.
Most herbs like a sunny sheltered position and well-drained soil. Choose a corner of your garden or yard that gets at least 4 hours of sunshine a day. If possible, provide some shelter against strong winds. Hedging or fencing is fine. As most herbs are compact, you can start with a fairly small site and still grow a good number of different herbs.
If growing herbs indoors, choose a window that's in the sun for a few hours every day. A blind on the window would be good to avoid scorching during the hottest part of the day. Also remember that herbs grown indoors on a windowsill dry out faster and therefore need watering more often as herbs grown outdoors.
You don't need to be an experienced gardener to grow herbs. You don't need endless hours of spare time or a large space for an herb garden. All you need to start growing herbs is a small sunny corner in your garden, a few large pots and containers or a couple of window boxes.
Start with three or four herbs you like or are most likely to use. When your experience and enthusiasm grow, extend your selection.
|Sheri Ann Richerson|