Gardening: Spring and summer herb gardening
The whole process of growing and nurturing herbs, hand picking the aromatic leaves, adding them to home cooking and enjoying their flavour at the dinner table is a satisfying activity.
There is a large selection of herbs that can be planted in your garden. You simply need to decide on the herbs that are right for your culinary needs.
Popular culinary herbs include basil, chives, parsley, sage, bay trees, thyme and dill. All of these herbs offer great flavour to summer dishes and salads.
Another aromatic summer favourite is mint. There is nothing quite like the smell of fresh mint leaves, which can be crushed in a delicious summer mojito cocktail or a refreshing iced-tea. Fresh mint leaves also make a delicious mint pesto when whizzed up in a food processor with olive oil, pine nuts and walnuts.
Experiment with your herb garden and don’t limit yourself to a few well-known favourites. Most herbs grow best in well-drained, fertile soil. Typically, insects don’t bother herbs and disease shouldn’t be a concern either.
Seeds can be sown indoors or out or you can buy young plants from a nursery to speed things along. If you are growing from seed, don’t plant seeds too deeply and make sure you barely cover the seeds. Keep the top of the soil moist.
Designing your herb garden near your kitchen door is an excellent way to encourage using the herbs for cooking. If you are planting in a flowerbed, choose a location that receives sun and protection from the wind. Make sure that you use the correct soil preparation, preferably organic.
If you are tight for planting space in a small garden, it is possible to plant some types of herbs in between other plantings in sunny flowerbeds. Rosemary makes for an attractive shrub with blue flowers in the spring, while chives and parsley can be planted very successfully between flowers to add attractive foliage. Low growing coloured sages and spreading thymes also make good edging plants. Avoid planting mint in flowerbeds, though, as it can spread wildly.
Most herbs can be grown successfully in containers, provided they have adequate drainage. Because they are portable, herbs in containers can be nurtured in an ideal spot and moved into a convenient position outside the kitchen door when they are ready to use. Exceptions are fennel, which needs deep soil, and bay trees, which grow big when mature. These herbs are best in large containers and look very attractive too.
Wait until the plant has enough foliage before you start harvesting the leaves. It’s tempting to start enjoying your produce but waiting will ensure that your plant continues to grow after you pick it. The best time to pick your herbs is in the morning before the sun is shining too brightly.
Most herbs need to be protected in the winter and some can be used in the winter too, such as rosemary and bay leaves. For maximum success, buy or loan a book on herb gardening so you can get the best out of your herb garden.