A 7 minute read by Peter Worsp
Herbs have been used for centuries to flavour cooking, as additions to salads, as decorative landscape plants and for medicinal purposes.
Herbs are timeless and are as much in demand today as ever. Fresh or dried, herbs add zest to cooking, perfume the house and have natural medicinal and cosmetic benefits. Craft making with herbs has wide appeal. The fun of making pot pourri, tussie mussies and infused vinegars from your own garden is most rewarding.
- Used to flavour cooking
- As additions to salads
- As decorative landscape plants
- For medicinal purposes
Putting it Together
The herb garden can be formal as in a knot garden, a circular bed with an ornamental centrepiece, or as informal as a rockery. Herbs can be informally planted throughout the garden, mixed in with vegetables, or the flower border and even between paving stones. The smallest living spaces can accommodate a few herbs in pots on a windowsill, the porch steps, and a window box or in a hanging basket.
Here is a selection of edible herbs to get you started. Herbs to enhance flavour and aid digestion.
Culinary herbs for dry places
- Basil - Traditionally used in Italian cooking. Spicy and pungent, it is delicious with tomatoes, vegetables, pasta, salads
- Dill - delicate anise flavoured leaves that combine well with fish and vegetables. The seeds can be used in pickles and breads
- Garlic - The pungent aroma enhances many styles of cuisine. Well known in French and Mediterranean cooking it also has remarkable medicinal properties
- Marjoram - Traditionally used in mixed herbs. Good addition for savoury dishes, tomatoes, meats
- Oreganum - Similar to marjoram. Add to pasta, pizza, tomatoes, meats, dressings
- Sage - Traditionally used for meat stuffings. Good for drying
- Tarragon (French) - Good accompaniment to chicken, fish, and vegetable dishes and herb vinegar
- Thyme - Garden and lemon thyme are invaluable additions to savoury dishes, meat dishes, soups, salads, vegetables and baking. There are many other ornamental varieties
Culinary herbs for damp places
- Chives - Delicate onion flavour used in savoury dishes, salads and as a garnish for soup
- Chervil - Delicate aniseed flavour good for enhancing fish and egg dishes
- Coriander - Spicy and intense, invaluable for curry dishes
- Fennel - Delicious flavour for fish or meats, raw or braised
- Mint - Used traditionally with potatoes, peas, lamb. Also refreshing in salads and as a garnish for fruits and summer drinks
- Parsley- It's refreshing flavour is widely used in savoury sauces, meat dishes, soups, salads, baking and garnishes
Site, Soil and Planting
- Dry tolerant herbs require a sunny position with well drained soil
- Herbs requiring damp conditions will grow in sun or semi shade
- Work Tui General Garden fertiliser into the soil prior to planting
- The addition of compost prior to planting will also be beneficial
- Friable, well drained soil
- Full sunlight
- Most will grow in pots and troughs
- Minimal care required
- Do not overfeed - this can lead to soft, leggy growth and the plant may collapse or set seed early
- Herbs in pots will require daily watering during summer months
- Basil - Sweet, Dark Opal
- Curry plant
- Lemon grass
- Marjoram - sweet
- Mint - Common, Vietnamese, Winter
- Parsley - Curled, Italian
- Sage - Officinalis, Purple
- Tarragon - French
- Thyme - Lemon, Pizza, Vulgaris
Flavouring food and cooking
- Fish - Thyme, Sage, Basil
- Pork - Basil, Sage
- Lamb - Rosemary, Marjoram
- Chicken - Chives, Basil, Tarragon
- Eggs - Chives, Parsley, Basil
- Stuffings - Thyme, Basil, Sage
- Soups and Stews - parsley, Basil, Thyme, Rosemary, Sage
Add to salads to supplement standard lettuce varieties
Many more woody herbs are used in the landscape, especially in Mediterranean style gardens.
- Nepeta - Catmint
- Chamomile - Lawns
Herbs with Other Uses
There are many other herbs for many purposes. Listed below are a few examples.
- Lemon Balm. To relieve headaches
- * Borage. Lifts the spirits
- Roman Chamomile. Calming
- * Basil, purple. A striking colour contrast
- Catmint. Misty lavender flowers. Lovely under roses
- Curry Plant. Silver leaves, rich scent
- Hyssop. Ideal for low hedges
- Savoury. Fragrant evergreen, ideal for edgings
Lawns of delicious fragrance
- Corsican Jewel mint. Tiny, strongly scented leaves.
- Pennyroyal mint. Crisp peppermint smell.
- Thyme. Purple, White, Woolly, are just a few of the carpeting thymes.
* These herbs require replanting with new plants each year. Note. Borage will self seed very freely.
When to Plant Herbs
When putting an herb garden together it may be difficult to buy all the plants at one time as many are seasonal and only available at certain times.
Planting can be done whenever plants are available provided regular watering is carried out in summer.
- Trim after flowering to keep compact, bushy and to encourage new growth
- Water as required in summer
- Mulch in early spring and autumn
- Feed with Tui General Garden Fertilser in early spring
Pick leaves in the morning after dew has evaporated, and flowers at midday.
Accessories for Herbs
If you are growing culinary herbs choose a place near the kitchen for convenience. For most herbs, create pockets using stones for dry lovers and add more organic material to help retain moisture for damp loving herbs. Herbs can be grown in many styles of containers.
- Pots and containers - Terracotta, glazed, stone, timber, window boxes, hanging baskets
- Ornaments - Sundials, birdbaths, fountains, statues, seats, stones
- Structures - Summerhouse, paths. crazy paving, bricks, pea gravel, stepping stones
- Border hedging - Buxus, Lonicera, Lavender, Santolina, Hyssop
Pests and Diseases
- Most herbs are pest and disease free
- Aphids - sometimes found on chives, lettuce
- Leggy growth / early seed set - soil too rich, too wet
Pest and Disease Control
- Leggy growth / early seed set
- Do not over feed
- Avoid fertilisers high in Nitrogen and compost in large quantities
- Do not over water