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Updated : 21/9/2014

Growing Herbs

A herb is understood to be any plant that can be used to provide fragrance, flavour, colouring, essential oils or medicinal properties. Though the oldest of cultivated plants, they are enjoying a new wave of interest due to their many and varied benefits. The magic of herbs cannot be described in a small space but we suggest that you start by cultivating those herbs that you normally use and start experimenting from there.

Plant selection
Whether you choose a formal herb garden, a loose arrangement of herbs in a mixed bed, a chequerboard paved area or just a few pots and hanging baskets, depends on your space and the purpose your herbs are to serve.
Bear in mind the growing habits of the plants - tall at the back, low-growing as front edging and creeping as groundcover.
Isolate the invasive herbs like the mints and tarragon to keep them under control.

Growing position and soil
Most herbs do best in a sunny position (at least 6 hours a day) in well-draining soil.
When preparing the planting area, work a thick layer of compost, some bone meal and, if needed sand, into the soil. Mint and parsley can take a slightly shaded position, heavier soil and more water.
Remove the herbs from their containers (taking care to protect the roots) and plant at the depth as the soil around it. Fill hole and compact the soil around the plant.
A layer of organic mulch or a groundcover will keep soil temperature even, evaporation minimal and slowly replenishes nutrients.

Watering and feeding
Most herbs are hardy and tolerant of dry conditions, so water only as the soil begins to dry out, never allowing it to remain soggy.
Use diluted solutions of organic fertilisers regularly (± every 3 weeks) rather than infrequent heavy chemical applications.

Container planting
Herbs in containers should be planted in a good herb potting soil and fed and watered more frequently than those planted in the garden.
Mixed plantings in troughs, hanging baskets or pots can be most effective and space saving. Make sure that the plants are compatible (mint and parsley do not mix, nor sage and basil), won't compete for root space and enjoy similar growing and watering conditions. Containers should be deep and have plenty of drainage material (broken crock and sand) at the bottom. Plant thyme, marjoram (they'll trail softly over the edge), rosemary or sage at the outer edge or where they can enjoy drier conditions.
Keep your herb containers near the kitchen if possible for a fresh supply at all times.

Propagation
Lifestyle Home Garden stocks a wide range of herb seeds and healthy seedlings and plants. Annuals like basil, dill and coriander need to be replaced each year, while perennials can be cut back and rejuvenated with compost and fertiliser at the end of winter and can be divided, layered or grown from slip.

Harvesting
Use herbs fresh in cooking, teas and preparations.
Most annuals can be dried to ensure a supply in the winter. If you are drying your herbs it is best done when the plant is at the peak point of its growth cycle when the volatile oils are most concentrated. This is in the morning after dew has dried. Hang small bunches in the shade, in a dry, airy place to dry quickly and bottle when completely dry. Store in a dark place.

Commonly used herbs

CULINARY HERB TEA COMPANION & INSECT REPELLENT PLANTS MEDICINAL EDIBLE FLOWERS

Basil

BASIL

*

 

Tomatoes, green peppers, pumpkins, cucumbers

*

 

Bay leaf

BAY-TREE

*

 

 

*

 

Bergamot

 

*

*

Rosemary

*

*

Borage

 

*

*

Strawberries, tomatoes

Add to compost

*

*

Caraway

 

*

*

Peas

*

EDIBLE SEEDS

Coriander

coriander

*

 

Carrots, cabbage, anise.

DON’T plant near fennel

*

EDIBLE SEEDS

Chives

chives

*

 

Carrots

*

*

Comfrey

 

 

 

Beneficial to all plants

Add to compost

* Contact health advisor before taking internally.

 

Dill

DILL

*

*

Cabbages,lettuce,onions, tomatoes

 

EDIBLE SEEDS

Fennel

 

*

*

DON’T plant near coriander, dill, beans, cucumber, tomatoes or caraway

*

EDIBLE SEEDS

Garlic

 

*

 

Roses & tomatoes, strawberries, peas and beans

*

 

Lemon Balm

 

*

*

Beneficial to all plants

*

 

Lemon grass

 

*

*

 

*

 

Marjoram

 

*

 

Near roses for aphids.

Will benefit most plants

*

 

Mint

mint

*

*

Keep different types of mint apart.

*

 

Nasturtium

 

*

 

Broccoli, apple trees, mealies, tomatoes and cabbages.

*

EDIBLE FLOWERS + SEEDS

Oregano

oregano

*

*

 

*

 

Parsley

 

*

*

Roses, tomatoes,

*

 

Rocket

 

*

 

Use as a ‘green manure’ crop

*

 

Rosemary

ROSEMARY

*

*

Sage

*

*

Sage

 

*

*

Rosemary, cabbage

*

*

Tarragon

TARRAGON

*

 

 

*

 

Thyme

THYME

*

 

Beneficial to all plants.

*

*

Watercress

 

*

 

Needs cool, wet conditions

*

 

Winter Savory

 

*

*

Excellent underplanting to roses.

*

 

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