Growing your own herbs is one of the easiest things to do for a more sustainable life-style, & fresh herbs straight from your garden, have so much flavour than bought ones.
It’s not just about sustainability, there are many other good reasons:
- fresh, organic herbs a few steps from your kitchen
- the best tasting herbs … worth mentioning again.
- great value
- better for our environment, where do supermarket herbs come from, how many miles have they travelled, what chemicals have they been sprayed with? The answer is, I don’t really know, but none of it is good.
Herbs can be divided into 3 groups:
Shrubby types, often evergreen, that carry on year after year.
My favourites are:
They’re slow growing shrubs, so buy the biggest you can.
They’re originally from mediterranean countries & happiest in poor, well-drained soil in sunshine. Give it the closest you can to these conditions, adding grit to the planting hole, & placing it in the sunniest place possible.
It likes the same growing conditions as Rosemary, & is perfect for growing in containers.
There are lots of different types, lemon thyme & the ordinary varieties are the most useful for cooking.
Use it regularly to keep it nice & bushy & encourage fresh growth with new, soft leaves.
Soft leaved herbs, that grow year after year:
Buying them as small plants, if you just don’t get round to sowing the seeds. I do this wth herbs & vegetables when I’ve been busy, or forgotten to sow seeds. It makes sense, though it’s at the expense of missing out on the thrill & satisfaction of seeing seeds germinate into little seedlings.
Plants that are easy to grow are often overlooked in favour of more interesting ones, & this can be said of Mint, one of the of hardiest herbs. Don’t underestimate it’s loveliness, the best mint tea is made from freshly picked leaves, I’m told it’s also handy for mojitos & of course the quintessential combination with new potatoes, added to warm potatoes as soon as they are drained.
So easy to grow, & rampant when it gets going. Don’t risk planting it in the ground, it’s best kept in it’s own pot, & is happiest in a spot thats sunny in the morning & shady in the afternoon.
Grow as many different types as you can.
These are one of the most useful herbs, & easy to grow. They die back in winter & grow back again the following Spring. I’ve got a clump outside the kitchen door, it grows again in march & it’s the first hit of fresh, zingy herbs of the year.
The little lilac pom-pom flowers are edible, gently pull them apart & sprinkle them over salads, so pretty & tasty.
Soft-leaved herbs that need sowing fresh each year.
They don’t keep overwinter & are so easy to grow from seed.
Sow them either in little pots/modules in Spring. Keep them in your greenhouse or on the most light-filled window-sill you have. Plant them outside when there’s no danger of frost.
The seeds are often shy to germinate, so don’t give up. Sow seeds thinly, in small batches through the summer, about every 6 weeks, for a continuous supply. I use this herb a lot, not just as a garnish, chopped stalks add loads of flavour to cooked dishes.
Sow the seeds thinly in a large pot where it can carry on growing,It doesn’t like being transplanted into another pot. Keep it it in a greenhouse or near light indoors, & water it as the soil begins to dry out.
Mine will be put outside to grow next month.
Sow fresh seed every 6 weeks for a continuous supply through the summer.
So many different types & colours of this herb.
May is the best time to sow Basil seed, when it’s reliably warmer. Sprinkle them sparingly & well-spaced into a pot, tease them apart & transfer to individual pots when they’re about 3in tall.
Put it outside in a sunny spot when there’s absolutely no danger of frost. It needs to grow somewhere warm & is best watered in the morning, so it’s not damp overnight.
Sweet basil is the more common one, but try purple, especially the ones with frilly leaves.
Herbs are perfect for growing in window boxes or on a small balcony. Choose rosemary & thyme for hot, sunny balconies, mint & chives for shadier spaces.
My last post was ‘Three Simple Ways To Garden Sustainably’ , growing herbs was one of them, see the others here
This video by Jamie Oliver will show you how to make the perfect mojito cocktail.
all photos: Jill Anderson.