Herbs – the backyard or balcony gardener’s staple. And for good reason – buying a bunch of herbs for one use usually costs around $3, and if you’re like most of us, it’s hard to use up the whole bunch before it gets all funny, whereas buying a plant (or seeds) of the same herb costs around the same, and will last you many more uses!! Herbs were the first things that I started growing (before I expanded to the triffid-like vegetables!), and I try to ensure that they continue to be present in our backyard garden, as frankly, they are fairly low maintenance, and great to help flavour most dishes!
However, not all herbs are created equal, in terms of ease of growing and maintenance, so I’ll give you some of my tips, and hope that you can share some of yours! In writing this post, I have realised that I need to concentrate more on a few larger pots of herbs, to ensure our regular supply of the ones we use, so I will endeavour to do so and let you know how I go! I have also noticed that some of my herbs are looking less happy than others, so in the interest of honesty, I’ll still write about those, and aim to increase the herb portion of my garden!
This appears to be one of the hardier of the herbs – I have usually about 3 pots of basil on the go, and while they may appear to go dormant sometimes, I find they usually spring back to life and continue to give me the sweet-smelling goodness!! Nothing better than fresh pesto made from your own basil! I also tend to chuck it into anything vaguely Mediterranean that I cook, ie if there is tomato and garlic, there is basil! I usually buy basil plants as seedlings, leave them in pots and see how they go, usually angling them near my tomato plants to keep the ecosystem happy, as they are good companions. However, in around August, I planted my first basil from seed – and look at the results!!
This is a dwarf basil variety, which is why the leaves don’t get massive, but it tastes great, and seems incredibly cheery with limited maintenance!! I have noticed, however, that it is thirstier than other basil plants, so I put a tray under the side of the planter so that it keeps its water for longer.
Mint is wonderful – it tastes great in salads and drinks and desserts, and smells so lovely!! Mint is also the hardiest herb I have – it will often completely die, then rise, phoenix-like, from its own ashes!! This particular plant has been living in various pots for a couple of years, and it is certainly much happier since I transplanted it into a larger space! That is the warning with mint, as it is basically a weed, it will take over your garden, so keep it with other herbs (even though it will usually colonise those too!) or limited in space so it doesn’t go too crazy!!
This is a constant battle for me – I find coriander loves a good bolt, and goes to flower and seed more quickly than we use it – we sometimes go through phases of lots of Asian-style cooking, but not frequently enough to use the coriander in the 5 minutes where it is edible before it goes all spindly. So, I have also tried to grow it from seed, but with a little sad results, the multiple seeds planted led to one tiny plant, that, you guessed it, bolted before I used it!! I think I will have to take advice I saw on another blog and freeze the fresh herbs like these ones to use later, as clearly we don’t use coriander enough!! However, when I went to take these photos, I noticed that there was a bit of coriander powering away in this pot, so I will attempt to do something with it prior to bolting!
This makes me sad – I am up to what must be my 6th rosemary plant, and cannot keep it alive!!! I have tried various permutations – I know it doesn’t like too much water, so I don’t water it, then it goes all woody, and dies. So then I try to water it a little, then it dies. I try to keep it out of the rain, it dies. I leave it in full sun, it dies. It’s such a shame, I love rosemary so much, particularly in meat and potato wintry dishes, but I always seem to be doing something wrong!! I have only bought it in pots, however, so maybe the key is to plant from seed? Or something else? Any insight in the comments would be gratefully received – it’s quite galling, I know it’s supposed to one of the hardier herbs, but it is eluding me!! All tips are welcome!!
I have a couple of small pots of parsley, that seem fairly perennial, but never quite enough for the recipes I need, so I think I will try from seed/larger seedlings and see how I go. And in fact, when I went to take these photos, I discovered my parsley had entirely gone, and I have no memory of removing it, so either it’s been eaten or it died and I removed it and I have blocked the trauma from my brain – either way, clearly time to grow some more!!
This is a great herb – it seems happy to live with very little maintenance in questionable conditions (it and the mint were the last herbs standing in a pot that had held parsley and coriander as well, and the thyme and mint had a stand-off for many months until I finally moved the mint – I don’t know if the thyme feels victorious or lonely) – it is going so well in its rather arid pot that I don’t dare move it, although I am now wondering whether it is getting too woody and may finally leave me … And in fact, when I took the photo of the coriander above, you’ll notice some woody stems in the background, that’s the thyme!! I hope it’s just sleeping, and will re-emerge victorious in a few months …
I use this herb rarely (I like to chop it up and put it in scrambled eggs or sprinkle on a hardboiled egg every now and again), but it thrives with limited intervention from me, apart from getting fairly tufty and needing a haircut every few months.
I don’t tend to grow other herbs, because the ones I’ve discussed are the ones we use most often, but do tell me if you have success with others that you recommend!
So, that’s my rather tumultuous herb tale – the novice gardener, as I am, will still have these trials and tribulations, it’s about finding what works, in terms of maintenance, watering and companionship, and going from there – I recommend only growing herbs that you like and will use, otherwise they will just be a pretty addition to your garden without much use!
Update: I found the parsley – poor thing, it had clearly fallen off the rack in the crazy rainy windy weather we’ve been having, and the pot had been replaced on the rack minus the little parsley plant, which was looking very forlorn and shrivelled on the ground. Alas for the parsley!! I will buy some seeds and go from there – your death will not be in vain!!