GROWING HERBS FOR SALADS

The main commercially-grown herbs are thyme, mint, parsley and sage. A much wider range is grown in gardens, and as well as those mentioned above, horseradish and chives are often grown in small quantities, as well as tarragon, marjoram and fennel.

Those students who wish to know more about the commercial production of herbs could consult Reference book 325, Culinary and Medicinal Herbs, Ministry of Argriculture, Fisheries and Food. (This may be out of print, but copies will exist in reference libraries.)

Parsley

This a biennial plant, I.e. it runs to seed the second season.

(flowers) in

Soil and Site

For winter production, light soils are best. Good drainage is essential. Medium to heavy soils are suitable for the summer crop.

Manuring

Light soils for summer crops will need organic manure, and a

dressing of artificial fertilisers is also given:

68 gms/sq.m (2 oz/sq.yd) superphosphate and 34 gms/sq.m

(1 oz/sq.yd) each of sulphate of ammonia and sulphate of

potash being suitable. Parsley does not thrive on acid

soil.

Seed Sowing

For cutting in summer and early autumn, seed is sown in March as soon as soil and weather conditions allow. Rows can be 300 mm (1 inch) apart. Germination is usually slow. Successive sowings are made in autumn and winter. Rows should be spaced so that some can be covered by cloches for protection in winter.

Thinning

This is done as soon as the plants are large enough to handle; plants are left at 15 – 17.5 cm (6 – 7 inch) apart. Sowing thinly to keep plant thinning to a minimum is sound practice.

Varieties

Varieties available are usually described as curled, fern leaf or moss-curled, the latter being dwarfer than ordinary curled – varieties. French parsley is flat-leaved and is said to be better for culinary use. It is not decorative like the moss-curled parsley used as a garnish.

Pests

Carrot .fly can attack parsley, and seed should be dressed with lindane at sowing time in areas where attack is anticipated.

Mint

Several kinds of mint are grown in gardens. The most widely grown is Mentha spicata (spearmint), but M. longifolia, which is rather similar, and forms of M x piperita var citriata, with coloured stems, are also grown. The round-leaved, hairy apple mint is often found in gardens.

Soil

Light loams suit mint best, and a moist situation is preferable. In private gardens the mint bed is sometimes planted on the north border. Prior to planting, some compost or rotted manure should be dug in, together with a 102 gms/sq.m (3 oz/sq.yd) dressing of a complete fertiliser.

Propagation

Plants can be increased by division in early spring, by offsets (runners), or by rooted cuttings in early summer. Offsets and cuttings should be planted out 150-300 mm (6-12 inch) apart each way. A top dressing of sulphate of ammonia, 34 gms/sq.m (1 oz/sq.yd) is beneficial, as is watering in dry weather. No shoots should be cut from the first season. A new bed should be planted every 3 years.

Disease

Rust can be troublesome. Infected roots can be washed clean with water, or put in warm water for 10 minutes at 44.5°C (112°F). Infected leaves and stalks should be burned at the end of the season.

Chives (Allium schoenoprasum)

This perennial plant, which forms a clump of small bulbs, can be propagated easily by division of the clumps in spring and autumn. The leaves have a mild onion flavour, and to ensure a continuity of supply of young leaves some clumps should be cut back hard in spring and early summer. Best results are obtained if fresh plantings are made by division every 3 years. Plant in 150 mm (6 inch) spacing in the rows.

Garlic

Garlic is propagated from cloves (the individual bulbs from the main clump), which are planted in spring at a spacing of 150-200 mm (6-8 inch), in rows 300 mm (12 inch) apart, setting the bulbs 50 mm (2 inch) deep. A fairly rich soil is best, and a dressing of complete fertiliser at 136 gms/sq.m (4 oz/sq.yd) can be given before planting. Garlic has become popular in recent years, due perhaps to more experience of continental dishes, but it is only grown in gardens in very small quantities. The growth dies off in August, when the cloves can be lifted and stored in the same way as shallots.

Useful Reading for the more serious student

The Royal Horticultural Society garden at Wisley, near Guildford, Surrey, provides a model vegetable garden where one may see up-to-date growing methods demonstrated with new varieties. Their trial ground may also be viewed.

Some of the larger seedhouses have open days at their trial grounds. These open days are advertised in the trade press. Many of the larger firms produce excellent catalogues which provide valuable reference sources and much useful information. The list which follows is just a few of the many seedmen:-

Breeders Seeds Ltd., /’ Halsall,

Nr Ormskirk, Lanes.

Elsoms Seeds, / Pinchbeck Road, Spalding, Lines.

Nutting & Speed,

Station Road,

Long Stanton, Cambs.

Students seeking in-depth knowledge of vegetables should consider becoming members of the National Vegetable Research Station Association.

For membership details contact:

The Scientific Liaison Officer, National Vegetable Research Station, Wellesbourne, Warwickshire.

The Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries & Food have experimental stations which are involved in vegetable production. They have open days which from time to time are advertised in the trade press such as The Grower and Horticulture Week.

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