Growing herbs

by Kate Bradbury

If I only had one container or window box, I would fill it with herbs. Fresh herbs are a joy to cook with, they smell good, their flowers are loved by bees...

Chive flowersIf I only had one container or window box, I would fill it with herbs. Fresh herbs are a joy to cook with, they smell good, their flowers are loved by bees, and most perennial species can tolerate a bit of neglect.

Having said that, my perennial herb pot is looking a bit worse for wear. I blame the hard winter, the lack of sun, and possibly vine weevils. I also might have neglected it a little too much (I can't remember when I last watered it). Last year the pot was crammed with rosemary, chives, oregano, thyme and mint. Now there are two gaps where the oregano and thyme grew, a half-dead rosemary and some scraggy chives. The mint, of course, is romping away. (Mint is a bit of a thug, and should be planted separately from other herbs to prevent it smothering them.)

The thyme is dead - it doesn't even have any bare stalks left, let alone leaves - but there's hope yet for the oregano. There's no sign of fresh growth, but I'll give it another week or so, before giving up. This weekend I'll scrape back the top layer of soil, replace it with fresh, home-made compost and give all the plants a good water. Any vine weevil grubs will be dispatched to the blackbird, and the thyme replaced with some garlic chives, which I'm ready to plant out. I'll prune out the dead bits of rosemary and hope it pulls through.

In the meantime, my annual herbs (basil, coriander and flat-leaf parsley) are coming on well. These I grow in grow bags with the tomatoes, along with more chives (which I once read can help improve tomatoes' flavour). Strong-smelling basil and flat-leafed parsley deter whitefly and, when in flower, coriander attracts beneficial insects.

Most of these herbs prefer full sun, but they don't get that in my shady garden. And a bit of shade can be good for annuals like basil and coriander, as they're less likely to run to seed, enabling them to put their energy into leaf growth, instead.

I've already had my first chive and mint harvests of the year, and can't wait for my first basil, tomato and mozzerella salad (made with my own tomatoes and basil). I just need to help the rosemary come to life so I can use it in tomato sauces...

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Gardeners' World Web User 08/04/2011 at 15:54

For years I had what we called Welsh bunching onions all along one side of the and one winter they all disappeared. They were so useful for soups,stews.omelettes.pizzas,salads, i missed them sorely. Last year I bought a packet of Japanese red bunching onion seeds and now have my useful bunches back and looking much prettier with their red stems and bulbs. I agree, Kate, herbs are the "must grow" for the good cook. Rosemary is flowering in a sheltered spot in my garden but a large one with pink flowers succumbed to the frost. Garlic and rosemary just transform roast potatoes. Thyme likes to grow in crazy paving and sage bushes always look good as well as going well with onions in stuffing. I have a lovely plant of Lady's Smock in full bloom up my garden and your blog reminded me that the leaves can be put in salad in lieu of watercress. Should be hearing the cuckoo soon as the flowers are supposed to come at the same time as the cuckoo. My chives seem to be flowering very early this year too.

Gardeners' World Web User 08/04/2011 at 19:49

My Coriander seeds always always disappear. I assume being eaten by slugs? Any advice please?! Elspeth

Gardeners' World Web User 09/04/2011 at 00:04

I'm planning to put a hanging basket with herbs in outside my back door for easy access. It will contain both perennial and annual herbs - chives, basil, creeping rosemary, lemon balm, parsley, lemon thyme, sage, rocket and coriander. It will get a little morning sun, so I hope it will survive. I can't wait to be able to snip herbs without having to go outside in the garden!

Gardeners' World Web User 09/04/2011 at 09:56

watching the last episode of gardeners world regarding the frost damage to the cordyline australis i have two over ten foot tall in the same condition but not the fungus mentioned but its black at the base and secreted what can only be descibed as spit at one point and has lost most of its leaves,the bottom line, is it a gonner, and should i cut it to the base and hope it regenerates

Gardeners' World Web User 09/04/2011 at 10:51

We have a "herb patch" in our garden, a patch with a little concrete wall. It has rosemary, sage, garlic chives, oregano, lemon thyme, bay (very neglected), mint, cotton lavender and a raspberry bush. I don't do anything to these except for water them and ocassionally prune them and each year they produce a lovely aroma and loads of herbs for us to use. Herbs appear to be one of the easiest things to grow!

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