Having fresh herbs growing in your garden looks fantastic and they are easy to grow too. What’s more, fresh herbs have more flavour than dried herbs and can be used in your own home cooking. You can choose the right herbs for your garden; some enjoy a sunny disposition and others are happier in the shade. Many can be grown on clay soils and others prefer sandy soils.
Most herbs are tough wild plants, which will thrive when given the luxurious conditions of a garden. When planting your herbs, divide them into those that enjoy full sun, such as rosemary, thyme, French tarragon, sage and oregano, and those that enjoy partial shade such as sorrel, mizuna, rocket, mustard, parsley and chervil.
Annual or Perennial?
Like all plants, herbs fall into two categories: annual and perennials. Annuals only live for one year, before flowering and developing seeds from which the next generation will grow the following year. Perennial plants last for several years (and flower each year) so will need a permanent position in your garden. Annuals include basil, coriander, and marjoram.
Perennials include mint, thyme, rosemary, lavender and sage. Chives are also perennial plants but they grow from bulbs. Some herbs fall into the biennial category, which means they flower and develop seeds in the second season. These include: parsley and caraway.
You can grow herbs in a formal herb garden or arranged among ornamental plants in a bed or border. You can even grow them in pots on the patio, or in a hanging basket. Keep them near to the back door – not only will they be within easy reach when cooking, but they smell great on a hot summer’s day.
Herbs enjoy regular feeding throughout the growing season, although some perennial herbs, such as mint and lemon balm, can grow out of control and will need cutting back every year. Alternatively, grow them in large pots to keep them under control. You can sink the pots into the ground to make them blend in with the rest of your herb garden.
Tips for Growing Herbs Successfully
The most common herbs to grow in a traditional herb garden are:
- Summer Savory
- Winter Savory
Many herbs originate in the Mediterranean and so enjoy a free-draining soil. Drainage can be improved by adding grit to the planting hole before placing the herb in. Add plenty of rich, organic matter such as well-rotted manure or compost to increase fertility. Avoid over-feeding; this can impair the flavour of the herbs. Simply add a further 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.
Most herbs can be grown from seeds and sown directly into the soil. For an early harvest, start the seeds off in shallow trays indoors in late winter, then transplant out into the garden when all risk of frost has passed. Harvest the leaves when the plant has enough foliage to continue growing. Don’t pick too many leaves, as this will weaken the plant. The flavour of the leaves is at its best just before the plant comes into flower.
Whether you have a robust herb garden or just a few in pots by your back door, you’ll soon realise the luxury of being able to pick your own fresh herbs. Once you’ve added homegrown basil, coriander or rosemary to a dish you won’t look back.