No, this is not an article about the murder mystery starring 2 gardening detectives. Last year, I had the idea of starting a herb garden using herbs that were already there, planted by our house’s previous owners, and other herbs we love.
We usually use only a little, as it’s quite expensive and a hassle to keep alive in little pots in the kitchen. However, the fresh herbs you buy in the supermarket are only meant to be consumed. Herbs need a lot of attention in the early sowing and growing stages, but once they’re strong (and summer’s here), they thrive.
So it all started last year, when we planted some basil in the greenhouse, and we decided to roll-out grass mats in the garden, where a lot of old plants were still producing.
Different kinds of oregano, wild mint, sage, thyme, rosemary bushes, chives, dill, lemon balm, fennel… It was already there. We couldn’t just throw those healthy plants away. So we created about 20m² of place next to our greenhouse, and made it into a herb garden.
Having such a large area is a real luxury: herbs in abundance means new ideas for dishes, using healthy green leafs as lettuce, making smoothies and flavored water, and never thinking “well that was great, let’s now save for the batch of next month, because our pockets have been emptied”.
Herbs are usually the first plants a growing gardener begins his journey with. They are easy to grow and maintain, attract all kinds of wonderful insects, smell and taste delicious, have all kinds of health benefits and they’ll save you a lot of money.
Gradually we added herbs like parsley (it actually kept growing in our greenhouse during winter), 3 kinds of oregano, lemon balm, southernwood, hyssop, laurel, 2 kinds of rosemary, lemon thyme, purple sage, honeydew melon sage, estragon, red basil, lemon basil, cinnamon basil, savory, curry plant, peppermint, chocolate mint, lavender… and I’m probably forgetting a few.
It was my 2017 pet project, and after a while, the herb garden was bursting at the seams, as you can see in the pictures. I randomly planted the herbs wherever I liked or where there was an empty spot, and I actually started planting them throughout the whole garden. That probably was a bit over the top, but it shows how much fun it can be to make plants thrive, and to reap the benefits on a daily basis. Even in winter: hello freezer!
Again, we’ll write a blog post about freezing vegetables and herbs, but in a nutshell: you can do it. I still have loads of basil and chives from last summer. Pesto for the win!
In 2018, I’ll first evaluate what damage winter has caused, and before spring, I’ll have to reorganize the garden, thinking of:
- What part of the herb garden receives the most sun
- Which plants reinforce each other, and which plants counteract. It was a bit too optimistic of me to just create this giant chaos.
- Creating poor soil and rich soil spots. For instance thyme will wither when you over-fertilize, while a small honeydew melon sage will grow exponentially.
- Annual, biennial or perennial herbs
- How to keep dogs out of the herbs garden (quite a tricky one, now that we have 2 Beagles).
- Not panicking during an insect plague (this is probably the most important lesson of 2017)
Domenico will help me organize it in advance with a design, and I’ll start thinking about how I’m going to propagate the herbs. There are several options:
- Sowing, mostly used for new or delicate plants like basil and dill (best before or in spring)
- Cutting, for hardwood plants during growth, like rosemary, sage and strong basil plants (best during growth, so by the end of spring or beginning of summer)
- Dividing, by tearing the roots of fully grown plants. Great for rejuvenating and duplicating mint, oregano, chives, lemon balm and estragon.
Only propagate healthy plants, and never do it while they’re blooming.
So after reading this, are you thinking of creating your own herb garden? Follow our blog as I’ll write about herbs and techniques in detail, and follow my second herb garden run in 2018.
Indoor or outdoor, boxed or in open ground… It doesn’t matter, just enjoy nurturing and watching the herbs grow.
Tastes like summer..