The ins and outs of GROWING HERBS
Whether you long for a formal herb garden, a chamomile lawn to loll upon or just a few containers dotted around your backyard, it’s all possible! Here’s how to make it a reality.
There is something very satisfying about growing your own herbs, whether for culinary purposes, medicinal purposes or for making your own cleaning and beauty products. You don’t need a large backyard – a deck, balcony or even porch steps are suitable for growing herbs.
But for herbs to thrive, they need plenty of sunshine. Most herbs require at least six hours of direct sunlight a day, although some herbs, such as chervil, coriander, chives, lemon balm and mint, will grow in partial shade. Herbs that come from the Mediterranean, such as rosemary, lavender, thyme, marjoram, oregano and bay, grow best in full sun.
Watering is critical to your herbs’ survival too – not too much but not too little. Probably the biggest cause of death is continuous overwatering. Most herbs hate waterlogged soil, so ensure your potting mix or soil medium is free-draining.
Herbs don’t need a great deal of fertiliser either, and too much will dilute their flavour. Most Mediterranean herbs do best when they’re starved for attention, so go easy on the food. Chives and basil, on the other hand, do well when fertilised regularly. Most other herbs will benefit from a liquid feed once a month.
Like all plants, herbs are either annuals, biennials or perennials. Annual herbs, which last for just one year then die, include basil, coriander, chervil and dill. Biennial herbs such as caraway last for two years. They are sown one year, flower and fruit the following year, then die.
Parsley is a biennial, although it’s often thought of as a perennial because it can actually survive more than two years if you cut off its flowers. However, the plant starts to lose its flavour and vigour after two years, so it’s best to grow new plants every two years or plant new parsley plants every year if you’re after top flavour.
Perennials last for several years. They can become leggy or spindly if left unpruned, so give your perennial herbs a haircut in late summer to encourage strong, new, compact growth. Perennials include sage, thyme, rosemary, oregano and chives.