Herbs are a must for every garden. They look good, they smell good and they do you good! Most herbs are easy to grow and make an excellent addition to your cooking.
There is always a wide choice of herb plants to buy from garden centres and nurseries, or even in pots from the supermarket. Or grow your own from seed.
Herbs are ornamental plants and can be annual or perennial. Annuals last just one year and include basil, coriander, marjoram and parsley.
Perennials regrow every year. Perennial herbs include fennel, mint and thyme, as well as woody perennials like sage, lavender and rosemary. The odd one out is of course chives, which are a bulb from the onion family.
You can grow herbs in containers or pots on the patio, in a formal herb garden or even among your ornamental plants in a bed or border. They also make great hanging basket plants
Some herbs, like mint and lemon balm, are fast-growing and very vigorous. They can take over herb garden or container, so it’s a good idea to actually plant them in their original pot to contain the roots.
Most herbs thrive best in full sun which helps them produce the highest levels of essential oils but some, like rocket, parsley and chervil are fine in the shade.
For me, the best place to grow herbs is near the back door. They smell wonderful on a hot summer’s day and they’ll be readily available when you’re in the kitchen.
Once the plants have established, they need regular watering. You can also give them a liquid feed once a week during the growing season. Make sure you pick from them regularly to encourage new growth of fresh leaves.
In the autumn, annual herbs will die off and they can be discarded. Perennial herbs such as mint, oregano and thyme will also die back, but they will grow again in spring. They should be protected from frost during the winter.
One of my favourite things to do with home-grown herbs is to make herbal tea using lemon balm, mint, sage leaves or camomile flowers. Pick about five or six leaves of your chosen herb and gently crush them in a clean paper towel. Then add to a cup or teapot and pour on boiling water.
Make sure you cover the mixture – this will ensure that the beneficial essential oils don’t evaporate with the steam. Leave to stand for at least five minutes and strain. Sweeten with honey if necessary.