Herbs are the garden´s treasures
Here in the garden, we love herbs. They have so many qualities and fulfil pretty much every wish one can expect from a plant. They are decorative, useful for both cooking, cosmetics, and several of them also have a beneficial effect in relation to pests of other plants.
There are thousands of different kinds of herbs, far more than the common classics we usually have in a few pots on the terrace, which are also found in the fruit and vegetable section of the supermarket.
I am experiencing a growing interest in this particular group of plants, and I am pleased because there are so many beautiful and exciting ones to choose from. One more peculiar and surprising than the other. Having sage that tastes of blackcurrant or pineapple, or mint that smells of strawberry or apple, is pretty amazing.
Cultivation tips of common herbs will be difficult to outline in a simple article, as the growing conditions of the herbs can be very different, sometimes even contradictory. Typical Mediterranean herbs such as thyme or rosemary thrive best in the sun in nutrient-poor, dry and well-drained soil, whereas basil or mint requires nutrient-rich and moisture-filled soil to thrive. Cultivation conditions must be correct for the plant in question to develop its best taste potential, so therefore one should learn which growth requirements the different herbs prefer.
As a greenhouse owner, it is also exciting to grow some of the more exotic herbs, which either require a little extra heat or have a great beneficial effect on the greenhouse's other green occupants.
In the greenhouse this year I have been experimenting with different types of sage, because of both their incredible flowers and delicious taste. I have chosen sage because of its ability to protect other plants from fungal attacks and uninvited creeps and crawls also. Sage contains sulphur in the leaf juice, and when the sun shines on the leaves, the sulphur is released and acts as a kind of organic fungicide, which is spread around the greenhouse. Due to the warm and humid environment in the greenhouse, the growth conditions for fungi are often good, and here sage can be the first line of defence. I have put the sage close to various roses we keep in the greenhouse. Roses are known to be affected by downy mildew, mildew, and other fungal infestations, but this year there is not a stain on them. Maybe a testimony that it works.
In addition, the sage flowers contain large amounts of nectar and therefore attract many pollinating insects, especially hoverflies. The hoverfly is a good friend in the garden and especially in the greenhouse, as its larvae feed on spider mites, aphids and other pests.
If I were to pick just one herb to take on a desert island, the lemon verbena (aloysia triphyllia) would definitely be it. Lemon verbena is a small shrub that has the most aromatic leaves, as the name so nicely indicates it has a strong scent of lemon. The leaves can be used for desserts, salad bowls, Asian dishes or tea. Nanna also uses them diligently for creams and other cosmetic products. Unfortunately, the lemon verbena is not completely winterproof in our climate, but it can easily be stored frost-free in a shed or similar. Here the plant will lose all its leaves, but shoots will happily appear again when the following spring comes. Lemon verbena thrives excellently in the greenhouse. The plant loves the heat, and, in a few years, it becomes a fairly large shrub. However, the long shoots of the plant can be easily pruned back, which will result in a more compact shape.
If we talk about obvious herbs for the greenhouse, of course, we cannot avoid the much-loved basil. The greenhouse will almost feel empty without this wonderful plant. Every spring I sow a bunch of red-leafed basil, as I think the colour is so decorative and they taste excellent. A tomato salad will not be the same without fresh basil.
I also have good experience with buying organic basil in the supermarket and dividing it into 4-5 plants which I transplant in separate pots. Before I separate the plants, I cut them approx. halfway down to activate the side shoots and thereby get a bushier plant.
It is important when harvesting the long-stemmed herbs that you take the top shoots instead of the leaves from the bottom. By picking the top shoots, as mentioned, the plant is stimulated to form side shoots, which gives a denser and more compact plant and thereby more leaves to harvest from. If you pick the leaves for the bottom, no new ones will come due to the apical dominance.
I want to encourage you to go to a nursery and get started on a lot of herbs.
Have a nice summer and remember irrigating in dry periods.
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