Grow your own herbs
May is the month for herbs, and creating your own herb garden is an adventure and a pleasure.
It’s up to you whether you want to grow your herbs formally or informally, or opt for culinary or medicinal or a mix of both. As herbs are basically wild plants, it makes sense to grow them in conditions comparable to their natural habitat. In general, herbs like a neutral to alkaline soil.
Most culinary herbs originate from the Mediterranean and like a dry sunny place and free-draining soil. The texture of your soil can be improved by adding your own garden compost or well-rotted farmyard manure. Herbs are also quite easily grown in pots, provided you take care with soil and feeding.
How to grow
Herbs can be grown from seed indoors in a seed tray using a good seed compost. Fine seeds should be sown on the surface and larger seeds just pressed into the soil, covered to same depth of thickness as the seed. Cover the tray with glass or plastic to prevent drying out.
As soon as the seeds have germinated, keep in a light warm place but not in direct sunlight. Prick out the seedlings when large enough to handle and pot on individually. When they are ready, harden off by leaving young plants out during the day. Plant out once the danger of frost has passed.
You can also sow outdoors once the soil has warmed up in late spring. Biennial herbs may be sown in late spring, summer or early autumn to flower in their second year before dying off. Perennial herbs may be sown from late spring to July/August.
Softwood cuttings are used to propagate rosemary, thyme, and mint. Cut a shoot from a non-flowering tip of the plant, preferably in the morning. Cut the base off the stem about 5mm below a leaf joint to leave a cutting of 10cm. Remove the leaves from the bottom third of the cutting, make a hole in the compost and insert the cutting up to the leaves. Label and date and keep out of direct sunlight. Place in a heated or unheated propagator or cover with an upturned cut off plastic bottle. Spray with water every morning for the first week. Once you see signs of growth start feeding. Gradually acclimatise to outdoor conditions and then plant out.
Which herbs to grow
Coriander, chives, parsley, mint, thyme, rosemary, sage, oregano and marjoram are all good herbs for a basic culinary herb garden. We will look at these in more detail in Part 2 (Tuesday, June 1).
Hans Wieland is joint manager of The Organic Centre, Rossinver, Co Leitrim, which offers courses, training and information in organic growing, and runs an Eco Shop and an online gardening store. For more information, visit www.theorganiccentre.ie,
e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 071 9854338.
Questions or comments? Contact Hans at email@example.com.