Make a Herb Garden
As a nation we spend in excess of £55 million on fresh herbs from the supermarkets. They are approximately £1 for a bag and nearly £1.80 for a pot. However it is so easy to grow seasonal and perennial herbs and enjoy the taste of freshly cut herbs from your garden.
Growing annual herbs, such as basil, coriander, dill, chervil and summer savoury can be treated in the same way as growing salad. Most packets of seeds contain numerous amounts of seed to enable you to sow successive crops that can be harvested all through the summer months.
Some herbs such as bay, rosemary and thyme are perennials and can be grown in the garden all year. Add herbaceous perennial herbs such as chives and mint and you have the basis of an herb garden, where you can harvest direct from your garden and use straight in your cooking.
THE HERB GARDEN
Growing Herbs in a Flower Garden
Some herbs can be grown very attractively alongside flowers in the borders. They can provide structure and colour and make a significant contribution to the border. Many are great for attracting bees and insects.Examples of such herbs are angelica, which has a magnificent presence with a beautiful seed head, and attracts all sorts of insects into the garden. Consider too any of the fennels, both the bronze and the purple types, which have the most beautiful feathery foliage, also borage with its blue shaped star like flowers and sage with its grey silvery leaves. Parsley and chives also make an attractive edge to a border, adding structure to your design, alongside providing herbs for everyday cooking.
A Herb Garden on a Patio
All herbs except the very tall angelica can be grown in pots, tubs, boxes, crates, troughs or any suitable container providing drainage is provided. In many respects this can be more successful than growing herbs in open ground as the roots of some herbs, for example mint can be extremely invasive and need to be kept in check. Pots containing chives, parsley and marjoram can be brought indoors over winter, affording them some protection against the cold.
Make sure there are drainage holes in your allocated container and add some crocks to the bottom, fill up with ideally a combination of multi-purpose compost and for example John Innes No 3. If you purchase a collection of small pots of herbs from the garden centre, group them together as a collection allowing some room for growth. Water in and then at regular intervals never allowing it to dry out. As the summer progresses give your pot a good feed once a fortnight, to keep it good health. This will ensure a harvest right through the summer.
A Herb Bed
If growing herbs outside in the garden, decide how much space you can afford to allocate, this will determine the range and how many herbs you will be able to put in your herb garden. Draw up a plan, taking into consideration the spread, height and the size each herb will grow to.
There are all sorts of elaborate designs for herb gardens and you may wish to explore the internet for such designs. What you grow will very much depend on taste and the herbs that you actually use in your cooking. The obvious ones are chives, mint, parsley, sage, marjoram and thyme. Depending on space then add basil, borage, dill, fennel and tarragon. A larger bed could well include the larger herbs such as angelica and fennel. Plan out your design, plant into the space provided and water thoroughly.
Here a six essential summer herbs for cooks to grow:
Basil:Sow from January to April in a propagator or heated greenhouse. Alternatively sow outside into the soil when all risk of frosts has gone. Basil likes a warm sunny spot with well drained soil. Always water before midday as it doesn’t like sitting in wet soil. Keep pinching out plants to encourage new growth. Plants are ready for harvest in a few months. Leaves are best picked when young and torn rather than cut. A classicherb to go with tomatoes.
Chervil:Grow in pots or multi-cell trays from late winter, or sow directly outside from late spring. It needs some shade to stop it from flowering too readily. Keep picking to avoid it going to leggy. A summer sowing will provide herbs throughout the winter but will need covering with a cloche to protect from winter cold. The leaves are much loved in French cooking. They are delicious with chicken or fish and in soups.
Coriander:It can be grown in a cold greenhouse in early spring but not outside until the temperature heats up. Seed can be slow to germinate so gently crush seed before sowing and sow more than you need. Has a long tap root so rootrainers are ideal. Coriander hates damp soil, so water in the morning rather than at night. It bolts easily so it worth sowing every 3 to 4 weeks. Plants should be ready to harvest 6 to 8 weeks after sowing. The leaves and stems are delicious in salads, curries and stews while the toasted and ground seeds are a favourite in Indian cooking.
Dill:Sow in a cold greenhouse in early spring or directly outside in late spring. It likes well drained light soil and a little shade. Sow successive crops as plants can get leggy and it bolts easily. Keep well watered. These are tall plants and will need staking. Do not plant near fennel as they cross pollinate. Harvest a couple months after sowing. Both seed and leaves can be eaten, although the seed has a sharper flavor. Good with fish, particularly salmon.
Parsley:Sow indoors with heat from late winter or outside in late spring. Parsley is very slow to germinate but this is helped by a bit of warmth and damp soil. Plants are ready to harvest a few weeks after sprouting. Likes a rich soil. Good in pots or outside. A very versatile herb that is good at bringing out the flavor of other foods. Add just before the end of cooking. Flat leafed parsley has a stronger flavor and so is favoured by many chefs.
Summer Savory:Sow indoors in early spring, as the seeds are very small and easily swamped. They need lots of light to germinate. Plant outside when all signs of a frost have gone. Keep picking the leaves to stop the plant becoming leggy. Don’t let the plant start to flower in order for the leaves to keep their flavour. The leaves have a peppery flavor and can be used instead of pepper in some dishes. Use sparingly as the leaves are quite strong. Good with red meat and vegetables, particularly pulses.
GROWING TIPS FOR GOOD HERBS
PICK REGULARLY, TO ENSURE A CONTINUING GROP.
ALWAYS WATER BEFORE MIDDAY. HERBS HATE SITTING IN COLD WATER.
A WARM SUNNY SPOT IS THE RIGHT POSITION FOR MOST HERBS AS HEAT ENCOURAGES PLANTS TO GENERATE ESSENTIAL OILS THAT GIVE THEM THEIR DISTINCTIVE FLAVOUR.