With the sun starting to shine, now is the best time to get out into the home garden to start planting herbs for use in cooking. Herbs are a quick and easy way to jazz up an otherwise boring meal and a satisfying spring project.
Amanda Brame, responsible for Horticulture at Petersham Nurseries Richmond in the UK, has put together some handy tips and tricks for curating your own home herb garden:
Pre-potted living herbs
April is the best time of year to create the perfect herb garden, whether you want to use ready grown plants, or start completely from scratch and sow a few seeds, now’s the perfect time to get going. In the current situation you may not be able to find herb plants in your local garden center. If this is the case, you can, with a little extra care, use living supermarket grown herbs still in the pot. A word of warning though – they are not hardy, meaning they are only suitable for keeping indoors – so before you can plant them, you will need to keep them indoors for around three weeks, harvesting them very, very sparingly. After this period, harden them off outside for around five to seven days (place the plants outside during the daytime and bring them back in at night). This gets them acclimatized to the outdoors and ready to pop them into containers where they will romp away very quickly. You will need to follow this process again around late summer time to ensure a good succession, providing fresh herbs way into the autumn.
Herbs for cooking
At Petersham Nurseries we have the luxury of a beautiful kitchen garden which we cram full of many different varieties of herbs ready for the chefs to add into their delicious creations. Top of the chefs list are borage, sage, thyme, rosemary, and basil, not forgetting Moroccan mint. Out of these, borage is best grown from seed. It requires a little more room to grow than the others ,but the one we love the most. The pretty little blue flowers are edible and are sprinkled over pasta and pastry alike. Once established, the tips of the plant make for delicious borage fritti – crispy deep fried morsels.
Generally, herbs aren’t too fussy and will cope quite well in containers as long as they are around 40cm deep, have drainage holes and are filled with a soil-based compost such as John Inns No 2. Failing that, a good organic water retaining compost is also suitable. Regular watering is really important and if you are able to site them out of the midday sunshine this will be much easier to manage and also encourage a strong steady growth. Also, give them a liquid feed every two to three weeks with an organic seaweed fertilizer and this will help speed up the growth for a regular supply.
To get the look, take inspiration from the nurseries. Keep the containers simple by filling each one with a single herb type and grouping them together for that final stylish impact.