At the beginning of next month is Jekka's Herb Fest, a herb-filled celebration at Jekka's herb farm in South Gloucestershire. Expect a fantastic day of talks from renowned herb experts, interesting workshops and cooking classes demonstrations from Jekka and the team. On top of this, there will also be food stalls, local musicians and artists.
Fill your garden, patio, balcony and windowsill with beautiful aromas by planting herbs:
Barbara Segall grows herbs in her garden and containers. She has written three herb books, The Herb Garden Month by Month, A handful of herbs and The Ultimate Herb Gardener. She offers guidance and shares her enthusiasm for her favourite herbs and ways to plant them.
Herbs have hundreds of uses in both the kitchen and garden. Many herbs, such as Lavender, Sage, Thyme and Rosemary, are ornamental and can be planted alongside other garden plants in borders.
How to start a herb garden from scratch
If you want to make a separate area for herbs in the garden, choose a site that is mainly in the sun, with a little shade for plants prone to bolting. Some plants, such as Coriander and Chervil, rush from leaf production to flowering and set seed quickly. Warm and sunny conditions typically trigger this sudden spurt of growth. Growing in the shade delays flowering, meaning more flavourful herbs and bigger yields.
Next, make sure your spot is in a sheltered place that's not exposed to drying winds. Then, ensure the soil has good drainage, taking care to hoe off other emerging weeds. Once you've planted your herbs, water well until they are established and begin producing new leaves and shoots.
Tip: Some herb gardens enclose plants using formal Box hedges, although you can achieve this in other ways. I prefer to use Chives or Golden Marjoram to outline the herb beds. That way, you have the produce and an enclosing planting.
How to start a herb garden
It is useful to make a rough sketch of a herb garden before getting started. A formal plan is also a good idea, although, in my experience, herb plants don’t always follow!
A popular design is one where short paths separate four even-sized rectangular beds. The paths give you access to the four quarters from every angle and allow for good air circulation around the plants. This reduces disease build-up, although most herbs are generally fuss-free and thrive in most soils and conditions!
Grow the herbs in your garden!
How to choose plants for your herb garden
First, mark up and put the paths in place. Next, start to think about what herbs you want to include in the beds.
I love being able to pick fresh herbs that I can use throughout the growing season. Chives, Parsley, Sage, Tarragon, Rosemary, Bay, Mint and Thyme, are the herbs I'd start with.
Chives are a must-have. They're perennials that die down in winter, producing new shoots and flower buds in spring. Similarly, Mint and Tarragon also die down during this time, but you can keep them going in a greenhouse or indoors over the colder months.
I'll make several sowings of Parsley throughout the growing season or buy young plants to ensure I have a good supply. Flat-Leaf or Curly Parsley are good choices, and you can grow both alongside one another. They are biennial plants, so they are leafy in their first year of growth and then will start to flower and produce seed.
Sage, Thyme, Rosemary and Bay are perennial woody plants that hold their foliage through the winter in temperate climates. Bay will grow to form a substantial tree, so it is best to keep it clipped into a mop-head shape, growing it in the ground or a large container if you'd like to keep it small in size. A Bay tree looks stunning when used as the focal point of a herb garden, where paths intersect.
Most herbs can be grown from seed. Depending on the type of herb, you can either sow directly into the ground in spring or grow in a greenhouse and then plant out. Chervil
dislike root disturbance, so either sow them directly into the ground or in pots for quick use. I always make several sowings of each as they are among my favourites, and I will harvest them continually through the year.
When growing Basil, sow seeds in a greenhouse because it needs heat to germinate. Once all danger of frost is over, you can plant basil out in the garden or into containers in full sun.
Herb garden design ideas
Herbs are versatile plants. You can grow the basics for daily kitchen flavours or experiment with combinations that will extend your repertoire.
1) The citrus-scented herb garden
I love growing herbs with lemon or orange flavoured-foliage, so citrus- would be my first idea for a design! Lemon Verbena, a woody deciduous shrub with a strong lemon aroma that produces delicate white flowers in the summer, would be just one of the fantastic plants you could include.
Sticking with the citrus theme, why not grow Lemon and Orange Thymes, citrus-scented Basil, Lemon Grass, and Grapefruit flavoured Mints.
Lemon Balm would also fit well, but due to its ability to spread quickly, I'd recommend planting it in a container or cutting it back regularly.
Another tropical lemon-scented plant is Lemon Eucalyptus! Please note that some of these plants will need indoor protection in winter, but their beautiful aroma makes them worth persevering with!
Shop citrus plants!
2) A herb garden for those who love tea!
Another theme could be a collection of herbs for making delicious teas - why not provide seating on which you can sit and enjoy your tea in the comfort of the garden.
Chamomile, Fennel, Sage, Hyssop, Lemon Balm, Mint, Lemon Verbena, Thyme and Bergamot would be good choices. The tender climbing Sweet Tea vine has attractive leaves that are said to offer great health benefits and look beautiful as part of a herb garden.
Get started with this herb-growing kit!
3) The culinary-inspired herb garden
You might want to grow collections that highlight the flavours of different cuisines, such as those used in French and Italian cooking. There will, of course, be cross-over plants, such as Parsley and Thyme. For a French-style garden, I would choose French Tarragon, Chervil, Sorrel and Chives. That would keep you well-supplied with herbs for classic sauces and soups. For the Italian kitchen, I would choose Basil, Bay, Marjoram and Rosemary.
4) The edible flower garden
Cowslip, Primroses, and Violets crystallised or used to decorate cakes would provide great spring colour and fit right into a corner of the herb garden. Flowers such as Pot Marigold, Chive, Thyme and Rosemary will add strong flavours to salads, whereas Lavender and Rose petals added to ordinary or castor sugar will provide good flavours for cakes, biscuits and other desserts.
How to create a herb garden with limited space
In a small garden where you must be wary of space, opt for herbs that offer the most in terms of ornamental and herbal use. Fortunately, you don’t need a large garden to grow herbs. A window box or several containers on a terrace would provide you with enough space for a good selection! Whatever your favourite herbs are, grow them in containers and sow or buy new plants to ensure successful foliate for long harvests. As you will be harvesting quite heavily from each container, it is a good idea to have some in the wings waiting to come centre stage.
Tip: Herbs growing in containers will need extra care and water. Never let the compost dry out, or the plants will wilt.
Basil, Thyme, Parsley and Coriander will thrive in containers. Pinch out the growing points on Basil and harvest Coriander and Parsley regularly, taking foliage from all around the plant so that it still looks good, even though you are plundering it.
If you have a small balcony or patio, you can continue growing herbs in sheltered sites throughout the year. Pot up Chives, Tarragon and Mint to bring indoors to keep you supplied in winter. Rosemary, Sage, Winter Savoury and Thyme will continue to grow in the ground, or you could bring small pots of each into a sunny spot indoors!
Create a garden filled with colour and scent and buy herbs from independent growers on Candide.
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