Growing your own herbs can be particularly
rewarding, according to Roger Tabor,
chairman of The Herb Society. They have
a wide range of uses – cooking, flower
arrangements, medicinal purposes or just
for the lovely fragrances they give off.
Depending on the plant will determine
how you grow it. Annuals and biennials can
be grown from seed, although it is often
easier to buy the actual plant. Although many
are available in garden centres all year round,
ideally the best time is spring or early summer.
Most herbs grow best in the sun with the
ideal soil pH being 6.3 to 7.0 – slightly acidic
to neutral. However, if you are not fortunate
enough to already have this, it is possible to
help the situation.
The hardiness of a plant also needs to be
taken into consideration, as herbs such as
basil and nasturtiums are unlikely to survive
in freezing temperatures and need to be taken
indoors or put in a greenhouse. If you grow
herbs indoors, even on a sunny windowsill,
you are cutting the light by up to half, so it is
important to keep turning the pots.
As with flowers, you need to consider
how herbs grow – and their colouring –
particularly if you are thinking of making a
herb garden. For example, herbs with purple
leaves such as purple sage, and lavender,
with its silvery leaves, can provide a contrast
to the green leaf varieties.
Taller species, such as fennel, should be
planted at the back of a border, with lower
ones such as thyme and parsley at the front
or edge of a border or bed. It is also
important to choose herbs for when you
want your herb garden to be in bloom,
taking into account whether they are
annuals or biennials, which need to be
sown again or replanted every year or two.
Growing herbs in containers can have the
advantage of being portable, enabling you to
move them according to climatic
conditions. With pots you also have the
benefit of being able to use the right soil and
water conditions for individual plants.
Grown this way, many herbs used for
cooking do particularly well. It is also ideal
for maintaining the various mints, which can
easily run rampant if left to their own devices.
When choosing a container, take into
account the size of the plant, making sure the
space is deep enough to accommodate the
roots, and that there is a hole in the bottom
for drainage. Clay pots are better for herbs
that require good drainage such as rosemary,
while plastic or ceramic are better for plants
that require moisture such as mint or basil.
In pots, herbs exhaust the soil nutrients
very quickly, particularly if used on a regular
basis,and a liquid fertiliser should beused every
six weeks. This also encourages re-growth.
Sweet smell of success
Iris Jardine talks to Roger Tabor, botanist, Chairman of The Herb Society and author of the book All about Herbs, which he wrote to commemorate the Society’s 75th anniversary.
The Herb Society encourages the
appreciation and use of herbs, and is
an ideal source for anyone wanting to
expand their knowledge in this area.
They are offering MQ readers their first
year’s membership for £17.50, a saving
of £2.50 plus a further £2.50 for standing
orders. Contact them on: 01295 768899
mentioning the MQ offer.
Readers of MQ can also buy Roger’s
very informative book All About Herbs,
published by Frances Lincoln for £14.99,
a saving of £5 to include free post and
packaging (UK & N. Ireland only.) Ring
01235 400414, quoting ISBN: 07112 170
84; reference code: 46 MQRT.
Part of the magnificent gardens at Sulgrave Manor, Northamptonshire – home of The Herb Society
© Roger Tabor Picture Library