Tino Carnevale:

Herbs are fun and easy to grow, eas­ily prop­a­gated, and one of the few groups of plants in the gar­den that give you al­most in­stant grat­i­fi­ca­tion, writes TINO CARNEVALE

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - TASSIE LIVING -

On how to suc­cess­fully and eas­ily grow your pick of flavour­some herbs

I’m with the cooks: a herb is any plant whose leaves, flowers, stems, roots or seed are used for flavour­ing

There are a few def­i­ni­tions of pro­duce that if you ask a cook and a gar­dener you may get dif­fer­ing re­sponses. What con­sti­tutes Fruit and what falls un­der Veg­etable? How many things with berry in the name are ac­tu­ally berries and what is a herb?

Botan­i­cally a herb — short for herba­ceous — is any flow­er­ing plant that doesn’t form a woody stem and dies down to the ground af­ter flow­er­ing. I’m sure you see the prob­lem: it cuts out all of those fab­u­lously fa­mil­iar flavours that we all love to grow and eat and make cups of tea from. So, in this in­stance I am with the cooks: com­mon use says a herb is any plant whose leaves, flowers, stems, roots or seed are used for flavour­ing.

When in the gar­den I like to group my herbs into their site and soil needs. It not only en­sures I put them in the right spots but it means I can use them to part­ner up with my veg­etable crops as good com­pan­ions to en­tice ben­e­fi­cial bugs and ward off the prob­lem ones, kind of like a bouncer for my vegies.

There are the ones that like it hot and rel­a­tively dry with a soil on the sweeter side. These are mostly the Mediter­ranean herbs like Rose­mary, Thyme, Sage, Tar­ragon and Oregano. When it comes to these guys all I re­ally do is har­vest and dead­head them. A bit of wa­ter dur­ing the dry months will keep them strong and vig­or­ous but the only food I give them is a touch of lime in the au­tumn.

Then there are those that pre­fer a damper, shadier as­pect with a slightly acidic soil such as le­mon balm, the mints, cress, and co­rian­der. The first two of these are good in pots and in the case of mint, un­less you like it taking over your beds that’s where it should stay.

Many peo­ple have a prob­lem with

co­rian­der bolt­ing to flower and that is be­cause it doesn’t like scorch­ing heat. The con­so­la­tion prize is that the flowers and seeds are plen­ti­ful and de­li­cious.

Then there are those that en­joy it damp but love full sun and a soil that drains freely, herbs like Basil and FlatLeaved Pars­ley. This is prob­a­bly the most de­mand­ing group as they need reg­u­lar wa­ter and I feed mine with fish juice at least once a month over the sea­son.

For all these plants as you see flowers ap­pear near the end of the sea­son, pick them off and the plant will put on a last flush of growth but if you do choose to leave them on and you will be guar­an­teed vi­able seed for the next sea­son.

For the an­nual herbs I plant from seed as it’s cheaper and in the case of plants such as pars­ley, it prefers not to be trans­planted once it has set down roots like it’s cousin the car­rot. If it stresses it will bolt to seed. Basil is one ex­cep­tion, I will raise or buy seedlings to plant out as it doesn’t seem to do as well when sown direct.

If you are in­ter­ested in grow­ing your own food for the first time or keen to in­tro­duce a friend to the joys of gar­den­ing for food, then herbs are a great place to

start. They are easy and fun to grow, eas­ily prop­a­gated and there­fore cheap and they are one of the few groups of plants in the gar­den that give you al­most in­stant grat­i­fi­ca­tion.

Ba­si­cally you get a lot of out­put for very lit­tle in­put and as we all know, a pinch of the right herb can trans­form a bland meal into the sub­lime.

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