The 40plusandalliswell guide to growing herbs

Whenever I visit a historic house, I am always head off to the kitchen garden to discover what herbs they are growing.  Herbs are easy to grow requiring very little maintenance and so are are a great introduction to gardening.  You don't even need a garden!!  You can grow herbs in pots on your kitchen windowsill and your kitchen will smell amazing.  Herbs can usually be grown indoors all year round and think what you will save from not buying supermarket pots.  

When deciding which herbs to grow there are several things you might want to consider. Firstly what herbs do you like to eat and which herbs are best suited to where you will grow them?  If you are growing herbs on your kitchen windowsill parsley, basil, coriander, dill, and chervil are all good because they are fast growing. Choose a south facing window for preference and avoid a north facing window.  You can sow them at intervals through spring and summer. If you are growing pots indoors, place a plant pot saucer under your plant pot to avoid mess.

basil starting to sprout

If you do have an outdoor space you can also consider slower growing, perennial herbs, that is herbs that grow each year.  These include oregano, thyme, sage, mint, thyme, rosemary, chives and hyssop. Plant them in spring and place them somewhere warm like a greenhouse then harden off in a cold frame before planting them out.  We have a cheap cold frame (around £10) with a metal frame and polythene cover.  We open it's vents during the day and close them at night. This prevents thermal shock which can kill the plants. Herbs grow best in an organically enriched, sheltered but sunny spot that is well drained.  This can be in a herb bed, a raised bed or in pots on a patio.  Ideally the soil should not be too acidic.

Another consideration is that you might want to choose herbs that are bee friendly. These include hyssop, rosemary, lemon balm, mint, chives and thyme.  Bees need all the help they can get at the moment.

chives

So what are we growing here at 40plusandalliswell this year? Once again we are growing basil. If you would like to grow this herb too, you can sow it in pots of moist compost - about 5 in a medium pot.  Cover lightly with compost and keep in a warm place (either on a sunny kitchen windowsill or in a greenhouse). Keep moist - if you have them on a kitchen windowsill you need to put a plastic saucer under the plant pot). We like to sow basil little and often because we love this versatile herb which complements tomatoes recipes beautifully - it can be used in soups, stews, to top pizza and in pesto.  We also have chives, parsley and mint in the garden.  

New for this year is hyssop.  This herb has been used for centuries - it is even mentioned in the Bible— verse 7, Psalm 51, “Thou shalt purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean.” Hyssop, one of the mint family, is a shrub with dark green leaves and fragrant flowers.  It can be used in soups and salads and is high in antioxidants. Among its many benefits are that it helps respiratory conditions, aids digestion, promotes good circulation and helps immunity.  To grow hyssop we have planted the seeds in a seed tray.  Now that we are sure that the winter frosts have gone, we are about to plant it out.  Plant about 6 -12 inches apart.  
Hyssop

We are also growing lemon balm.  This lemony herb is nice on fruit salads and in smoothies. It can be used to make a tea and you can mix the tea with clay to put on your skin to soothe bug bites!!  Again we have grown the seeds in a seed tray and transplant in the garden after the frosts.  

In the next few days we are also going to plant some coriander, just because I use so much of it in cooking. It's great in Chinese dishes, Indian and Mexican food. I am going to grow this on the kitchen windowsill (around 5 seeds per pot). Water it well to start and then when the soil is dry. It will only last a few months so have another pot ready to go. Keep using it to stop it 'bolting'.

Just one thing - herbs are generally safe for everyone in food but if you do have a medical condition check that they will be safe for you.




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