GARDENING: GROWING HERBS
PUBLISHED: 17:46 22 May 2014 | UPDATED: 13:24 30 August 2017
Gardening expert Paul Prove explains how to grow herbs in your garden for use in cooking
Cornwall Life’s gardening expert Paul Provéspells on why garden herbs are too good to eat
I was in our local garden centre last week, buying some herbs for a new area in our garden; the mixture of aromas that filled the car on the way home was something special. It always amazes me how much taste and fragrance can be packed into a few leaves.
Herbs as garden plants have a lot going for them. They are easy to grow and establish very quickly; a new herb border can look mature within its first season. They do not need good soil and in fact prefer it not too rich. The key requirements for success are good drainage and sunshine. I like things that give value for money and herbs certainly score well in that respect, having culinary, medicinal, aromatic and ornamental uses.
Fennel can make a handsome specimen in an herbaceous or mixed border and comes back each year without any trouble. We used to have a clump growing through a crack in a concrete path at home that grew to about 4 or 5 ft tall each year. There are bronze and green varieties, all with attractive, finely dissected, fronds. The whole plant smells sweetly of aniseed and has many uses. Normally, when planting a herb garden one is thinking of their use in the preparation of food and drinks. It therefore makes sense to place them near the kitchen.
If you are starting from scratch, dig in plenty of organic matter and grit so that the ground holds just the right amount of moisture and nutrients. Remember that certain plants, notably mint and horseradish (the roots can go down 6ft. and you only need a small piece to start a new plant), can be invasive and should be confined to a container.
A dwarf hedge planted around a herb garden helps to make it more of a feature, box or lavender are ideal for this. Remember not all herbs are hardy, basil is a popular example; excellent with tomatoes or Pimms. Choice can be confusing so here is a list of plants I think you should have. Spearmint and Applemint are useful in the kitchen; peppermint is for making mint tea. Parsley, which needs no introduction, is grown from seed and it is best to start a new batch in March, July and September, or buy new plants.
The flat leaved variety tastes better; the curly leaved type is more attractive. Chervil is similar to parsley, but much nicer in a subtle way, mix into salads or sprinkle over soup. Chervil must be used fresh and is grown from seed. Chives, a member of the onion family, is a hardy perennial; lovely chopped into an omelette.
Sorrel is another perennial, the leaves of which can be used to make a delicious, strongly flavoured soup, similar to spinach; do not let it go to seed. Tarragon is a perennial, very useful in the kitchen but not hardy. Lemon Verbena, thyme, sage, rosemary and dill should all be included. Start with these and you should soon be tempted to try more. Herbs can be quite seductive.
Paul Prové is a horticultural specialist primarily involved with maintaining clients gardens. He has experience in many
areas of horticulture (including retail, commercial and amenity) and specialises in garden design and landscaping projects. Oak Gardening Services
01726 252153 / 07789 007979