Friday, 11 November 2016


Monty Don: Herbs are the easiest and best thing to grow in your garden, partly because a small amount can improve a whole range of other ingredients
Herbs are the easiest and best thing to grow in your garden, partly because a small amount can improve a whole range of other ingredients

Mediterranean herbs
This group includes culinary herbs such as rosemary, thyme, sage, coriander, tarragon, bay and oregano.
Decorative and medicinal herbs such as lavender, santolina, artemisia and hyssop share the same growing conditions.
You must be cruel to be kind to these plants.
Always add drainage to your soil and never, ever add compost or manure.
If you grow them in pots, mix ordinary peat-free potting compost with the same volume of sharp sand or grit.
Do not feed these plants as the harder they are grown the better they will be able to resist problems of weather, pests or disease.
However, do not forget to water them in summer, though they can dry out in winter, and as long as they are not too wet are very hardy.
But the combination of wet and cold is often fatal.

Annual herbs
Like any other annual plant, annual herbs do all their growing, flowering — and critically — seed production within one growing season.
Many promptly die, although some can live on for a few more years.
But the gardener can harness this speed of production through managing seeds.
Sow them in spring and you will have a crop.
But sow some every few months and you will have a daily supply.
My favourite annual herbs are basil and coriander.
Basil (Ocimum basilicum) is tender so needs protection from frost, but the others are very robust.
Basil is a very strong-growing plant that needs plenty of space to develop properly and which can be picked all summer long to provide fresh leaves.
I grow mine alongside tomatoes in the greenhouse from May onwards and outside in the garden once the nights get reliably warm in July, allowing at least 15cm (6in) space between each seedling.
Another favourite herb is parsley, which is a biennial, meaning it sets seed in its second year.
Like coriander, it’s a robust plant that will grow in some shade.
I grow both all year round, inside and out, making a sowing every few months.

Perennial herbs
Some herbs are herbaceous perennials that survive the winter by the top growth all dying back in autumn and growing fresh foliage and flowers in spring and summer.
My own favourites from this group are mint, chives, lovage, marjoram, fennel, sorrel and horseradish.
There are many different mints but the three to grow for the kitchen are spearmint (Mentha spicata), peppermint (Mentha x piperita) and apple mint (Mentha suaveolens).
Mint grows in most soils and conditions, though it prefers a rather damp, sunny site.
However, it will spread invasively if given the chance, so I recommend growing it in a container.
Chives are an allium, like garlic, and are very easy to grow from seed and become long-lived perennials that can be chopped into sections with a spade to create new plants, and each will regrow with fresh vigour.
The flowers are beautiful and edible but cut them back to the ground as soon as the blooms start to fade and they will quickly grow new shoots.
This can be repeated every four weeks or so throughout the growing season.
Lovage (Levisticum officinale) has very deep, fleshy roots and does best in fairly moist soil.
The leaves have a subtle and delicious celery flavour that’s excellent in soups and stews.
It grows very large with a giant flower head that should be cut back along with the older leaves at least once in summer to encourage fresh growth.
Sorrel (Rumex acetosa) is another shade and damp-loving herb with a distinct lemony astringency, that’s especially good with egg dishes.
Common sorrel is spinach-like and best cooked, but buckler leaf sorrel (Rumex scutatus) has smaller, less bitter leaves and is better used in salads.
Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) will seed itself freely and bronze fennel is a welcome self-seeder all over my garden.
The seedlings have a deep tap root so must be transplanted when very young if they are to survive the move.
The leaves and seeds of green fennel are delicious with any fish or pork.

Read more:

No comments:

Post a Comment