NZ Gardener - Garden Diary 2018 - - Spoilt For Choice -

Herbs are re­ward­ing to grow be­cause it only takes a hand­ful of their feisty fresh fo­liage to liven up a plain green salad or omelette, or add a hit of home­grown flavour to a soup or stew. They’re de­li­cious finely chopped and whipped into soft but­ter too. Peren­nial herbs such as mint, chives, rose­mary, sage and thyme sup­ple­ment an ev­er­chang­ing blend of quick­grow­ing an­nual favourites such as basil, Ital­ian pars­ley (curly pars­ley lasts two years as a bi­en­nial) and co­rian­der. You can sow herbs from seed but, if you don’t want too many, it’s eas­ier to trans­plant plants from the gar­den cen­tre as you rarely need more than half a dozen of any­thing.

Start seeds in­doors in trays or small pots and trans­plant the seedlings when the weather has warmed up. Al­though it’s time to sow tomato seeds, it’s still far too early to sow or trans­plant warm-lov­ing herbs like basil out­doors. Wait un­til late Oc­to­ber, or even Novem­ber. If you need to fill a shady spot in your gar­den, grow pars­ley, mint, lo­vage, and co­rian­der.

COM­MON MINT: When buy­ing mint plants, the darker, rounder and crin­klier the leaf, the bet­ter the flavour. Mint needs moist, cool soil. Plant in con­tain­ers or re­stricted ar­eas to con­tain it.

ROSE­MARY: Upright rose­mary, as op­posed to trail­ing pros­trate forms, is best for cook­ing. Plant in full sun in light, free-drain­ing soil. Clip it back of­ten to pre­vent wood­i­ness.

PIZZA THYME: A lovely dark green thyme with big leaves and heaps of flavour. Di­vide it ev­ery year or two to keep it lush and green. Like rose­mary, it needs full sun and light, free-drain­ing soil.

CHIVES: These grass-like mem­bers of the onion fam­ily are dor­mant over win­ter but should be show­ing signs of life shortly. Plant at least three clumps in your veg­etable gar­den, and har­vest one clump at a time. Chives needs good mois­ture to thrive. It grows well in part-shade.

FLAT-LEAF PARS­LEY: Milder in flavour than curly pars­ley, Ital­ian pars­ley doesn’t last as long, bolt­ing to seed in sum­mer. It is not as pro­lific as curly pars­ley ei­ther. Plant by the pun­net.

CURLY PARS­LEY: A nu­tri­tious superfood, curly pars­ley can be grown as a low edg­ing around flower bor­ders and veg­etable beds. For su­pe­rior flavour in the kitchen, plant new plants each year. Curly pars­ley eas­ily self-sows, so you may not have to. Plant in part-shade.

MARJORAM: An an­nual cousin of peren­nial oregano, Ital­ian marjoram is a must-have for bring­ing in bees when it goes to flower. It has a more del­i­cate flavour than oregano, which makes it a favourite of chefs. Plant in sun in free-drain­ing soil.

DILL: Sow dill now, as it hates heat and will bolt to seed as soon as spring turns into sum­mer. Save seed; it tastes the same.

CO­RIAN­DER: Co­rian­der does best in spring and au­tumn; it runs rapidly to seed in sum­mer. Plant in sun or part-shade in fer­tile soil. Re­peat sow ev­ery fort­night for cut­ting.

FLORENCE FEN­NEL: Also known as bulb fen­nel, this quick-grow­ing herb has in­tense aniseed flavour. Sow di­rect in full sun and keep moist.

LO­VAGE: If you like pars­ley and you like cel­ery, there’s a good chance you’ll like lo­vage. This peren­nial herb has an in­tense cel­ery­pars­ley-yeast like flavour, which can be used to en­hance al­most any dish. Lo­vage can be grown in sun or part-shade.

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