My Herb Garden
Growing your own fruit and veg requires space and time and they can be a bit of a faff when you have to protect them from so many different pests and diseases. Herbs, however, are a different story. Herbs are generally easy and can be grown in the smallest of spaces – even if you don’t have a garden, a sunny windowsill is sufficient to grow a lovely collection of these fragrant, tasty plants.
In these cash-conscious times growing your own herbs, rather than buying them from the supermarket with the weekly shop, is a good way to save money, and fresh herbs are a great way to jazz up recipes if you’re cutting back on expensive foods such as meat, fish and cheese.
In my herb garden I wouldn’t be without mint. It works well in both savoury and sweet dishes, you can make a herbal tea by steeping the leaves in boiling water, and the foliage makes a lovely fragrant addition to a vase, where it lasts for ages. The lavender-coloured flowers are really pretty and bees and butterflies love them. It’s easy to grow, perhaps a little too easy – don’t plant mint directly into the soil as its root will spread and spread and it will be impossible to control. Instead grow it in large pots (in small pots it will dry out too quickly) or in large plastic pots that have had the bottom cut away, then sink these into the ground – this helps to contain the roots, as they tend to spread sideways rather than downwards. There are so many different types of mint from the classic garden mint you’d use with lamb to Moroccan mint which makes lovely tea, but there are so many more unusual ones too, such as banana mint, chocolate mint, pineapple mint and strawberry mint. It’s important to grow different mints in different pots otherwise the flavour will be altered.
Lots of common herbs originate in the Mediterranean, plants such as rosemary, thyme, oregano and lavender. As a result these love plenty of warm sun and they don’t like sitting in wet soil, particularly over winter. Sometimes they can be short-lived plants in this country because they don’t like our winters, so growing them in pots means you can move them to somewhere that’s sheltered from the worst of the cold and wet between autumn and spring – I tend to move mine into my cold frame. This year I’ve planted a rosemary called ‘Arp’ which is said to be one of the hardiest and a lemon thyme.
My Favourite Herb
If I had to pick my favourite herb it would be French tarragon. It has a lovely mild aniseed-like flavour and it’s delicious with chicken or in sauces to accompany fish. I’ve heard it isn’t reliably hardy but it has survived in my garden for the last few years without any problems. If you do live somewhere particularly cold you could always place a cloche over it to protect the plant over winter.
There are plenty of herbs that can be easily and inexpensively grown from seed: thyme, basil, parsley, coriander, dill, chives, chervil, the list goes on. Personally, I love dill for its feathery aniseed leaves that are wonderful in fishcakes or added to mayonnaise. Basil is a must for topping pizzas and incorporating into pasta sauces, and this year I’m growing parsley to add to tabbouleh salads.
Om Louise Curley
Louise is a horticulturalist, garden writer and author of the award-winning book The Cut Flower Patch. She’s passionate about the power of plants to make us feel happy and is an advocate for organic gardening and encouraging wildlife into gardens.Get to know Louise Curley
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