The Herb garden
The Herb Garden
It should be possible for everybody to grow some herbs, whether they have a garden or not. Many people living in flats grow herbs successfully using suitable containers. Details on indoor herb gardens are given later. Nearly all herbs prefer light, well drained soil and plenty of sunlight. This helps the plants produce their essential oils and active ingredients. Naturally the few that prefer shade such as angelica, bergamot and chervil can be planted in a shady corner or behind the other herbs.
Towards August as the herbs approach maturity it is time to think about drying them for Winter use. Although the leaves of marjoram, thyme and oregano are always available, they are even more poignant when dried. Herbs should be harvested just before the buds open into full flower for the greatest flavour and abundance of natural oils. Gently pick them in dry weather after the dew but before the hot sun, and hang them to dry in an airy passage or lay them on paper in a dark cupboard. Drying time varies from about twelve days to three weeks after which you can strip the leaves and place them into separate, clean, airtight jars which have been clearly labelled. When dried herbs are used, a much smaller quantity is required as the flavours tend to be much more concentrated than in the fresh product. If you are following a recipe which calls for fresh herbs and you wish to substitute dried herbs a good rule of thumb is to add one third the amount of dried herbs.
With the coming of Autumn in the herb garden, the flowers which have been left to bear next seasons crop of herbs must be collected when the seeds are ripe. Put the seeds away in airtight envelopes or jars. Cut the dead stalks in the garden and trim the plants.
Growing Herbs Indoors
There is a few simple rules that must be followed to grow herbs indoors successfully. Firstly the right soil mixture is very important, it should consist of sand, leaf-mould, and soil in equal parts. Gardening shops normally sell this mixture. Secondly herbs love sunlight, so it is desirable for them to bask in it, particularly by an open window. The third point to keep in mind is to remember to always keep them watered, once a day during the summer and enough during the winter to prevent drying out. About once every two weeks add some liquid fertiliser, such as fish emulsion to the herb's water. fish emulsions are slow acting fertilisers that encourage the build-up of essential oils.
Planting the herbs is straight forward just use flower pots as you would normally with regular houseplants. Place a few stones or broken pot over the drainage hole in the container, fill with the soil mix, and plant with the seedlings firming well, and water. Nearly all herbs will grow well in containers , the taller-growing varieties such as Florence fennel, borage and sage becoming satisfactorily dwarfed by their confined root space. Low and medium growth herbs are especially suitable for indoor growing such as sweet basil, chervil, chives, marjoram, parsley, and thyme. Herbs with thriving root systems such as balm, winter savoury, the mints, oregano, pennyroyal and tarragon should be put on their own, as their extensive roots will choke out any other plants. Lavender, rosemary, and the scented-leafed geraniums will not attain the height they would reach if growing in the garden. Put if repotted every year with new soil they will do quite satisfactory. Angelica, chicory and loveage really grow to high to be considered for indoor planting.
There are various container on the market suitable for growing herbs in, a little imagination can do wonders for the look of a room. For restricted space try a strawberry pot with six to nine pockets. The procedure for filling this container is as follows; prepare the soil (or buy it !) and put the plants in as the pot is filled up with earth. the soil must be a very light mixture of equal parts of sand, soil and leaf mould. This allows the water to reach down to the bottom plants, and the leaf mould allows for airiness and fertilising.
Strawberry pot suitable for a herb garden
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