Growing herbs in your garden

FENNEL growing methods

Fennel likes any well-drained soil in a warm, sunny position.

Sow seeds thinly in I cm (’/nil) deep drills in early spring, if you want seeds to ripen in early to mid autumn, or in mid to late spring if you want leaves and stalks. Thin seedlings to 30cm (12in) apart.

Pick the leaves from early summer onwards. Pinch off the flowerheads if you don’t want seeds. Gather seedheads on a dry day in early aurumn when pale brown. Hang in a warm place for a week or two, then store in a jar.

Fennel is usually trouble free.

GARLIC

Garlic (Allium sativum) is an onionlike perennial which grows roa height of 30-90cm (1-3ft).

Cultivation

Garlic prefers light, wellmanured soil in a sunny position. In heavy soil, work in some sand or grow on ridges to ensure good drainage.

Rake the soil to a fine texture.summer when the foliage has died Separate the cloves, selecting down, easing them out with a fork. Those at least 1cm (’/lin) wide. Garlic is sometimes affected by Plant in October or November for onion eelworm and white rot. Best results, or in February. Plant 15cm (6m) apart, pointed end up- GaHic has fl unique flayour am1 t() wards, and 2..V 10cm (1 -4m) deep. Many, is indispensable in the kitchen.

HORSERADISH

Horseradish (Armoracia rusticana) is difficult to eradicate from cultivated areas so grow a few plants in a corner of the garden.

The roots are long, white and fleshy and grow to about 30cm (12in) long, 1.6cm (/iin) thick. The leaves grow straight from the base, to a length of 60-90cm (2-3ft), and die down in winter.

Cultivation

Horseradish prefers rich, well-drained soil in a Sunny or semi-

HYSSOP

Hyssop (Hyssopus officinalis) is a hardy, evergreen herb which grows to about 60cm (2ft) high and wide. It bears spikes of blue, pink or white flowers, much loved by bees, from mid summer to early autumn.

Cultivation

Hyssop grows best on well-drained soil in a sunny position.

Sow seeds outdoors mid to late spring in drills I cm (Vim) deep.

When the seedlings are large enough to handle, thin them to 7.5cm (3in) apart.

Set the seedlings in their permanent position any time between early autumn and early spring -space them 30cm (12in) apart.

Encourage the plants to bush out by removing the tip of the main shoots. When well established, trim the plants with shears in mid spring.

Pick hyssop leaves at any time of year, though for salads they are best in early summer.

Hyssop is usually trouble free.

LEMON BALM

Lemon balm makes a good substitute tor lemon, but use it in generous quantities because of its mild flavour. It also makes a pleasant drink when its leaves are added to Indian tea.

The variegated lemon balm (M.o. Var. variegata) is just as flavoursome as the species and it is also highly decorative and less invasive.

Lemon balm (Melissa officianalis) is a strongly aromatic perennial. It has a bushy habit with a hairy, upright stem and grows to between 45-90cm (18-36in) high. Its leaves – smelling of lemon – measure up to 7.5cm (3in) long and are light green. Small flowers – white or yellowish -appear in mid summer. Self-sown seedlings are invasive.

Cultivation

Lemon balm is slow to germinate and should be grown from seeds sown from mid spring to early summer. Alternatively, grow from stem cuttings or propagate by root division in spring or autumn.

Plant out 30cm (12in) apart in ordinary, moist soil in a sunny position with some midday shade. Keep well watered during the first summer. In subsequent years, cut the stems back to 15cm (6in) in early summer to encourage new growth. In severe winters cover with straw or bracken. Harvest in summer for immediate use.

Lemon balm is prone to fungal leaf disease in damp summers.

LEMON VERBENA

A tender perennial shrub, lemon verbena has a strong flavour and, if used sparingly, adds a pleasant taste to fruit salads, jellies and drinks. Use only the young leaves – older ones tend to be rather tough.

An aromatic, half-hardy shrub, lemon verbena (Aloysia triphylla) grows to a maximum height of 3m (I0ft) in ideal, sunny conditions, but rarely to more than 1.5m (5ft) in cooler regions.

It has woody, branching stems with narrow, pointed leaves up to 7.5cm (3in) long. The leaves have a strong, persistent smell and flavour of lemon. Small flowers, either white or pale mauve, appear in groups of three or four from mid to late summer but are nor particularly attractive.

Cultivation

Take stem cuttings from a well-es-tablished plant at any time during the growing season, preferably in early summer. It can also be grown from seeds sown under glass during early spring. Lemon verbena can be planted in ordinary to poor, well-drained soil but benefits from a warm, sheltered site – ideally against a sunny wall or fence.

Lemon verbena needs some pro-tection from strong winds and during winter, if grown outdoors. Lay a thick matting of straw to reduce the effects of frost. Alternatively, it can be grown in containers or lifted into pots and brought indoors to avoid the worst of the weather.

Pot-grown plants need regular watering in summer but very little in winter. Prune in late winter to within 30cm (12in) of the base and pinch out the tops of the shoots during the growing season to prevent the shrub from becoming straggly.

The shoots can be saved for drying, and the leaves keep their aroma even when dried.

Lemon verbena-has many uses. As a drink it aids digestion after a heavy meal or makes a sleep-inducing nightcap. It can also be added to salads and jellies, but should be used sparingly because of its strong flavour. Dried leaves are used in aromatic herb cushions and to scent clothes and bed linen.

Lemon verbena is generally pest and disease free.

Lovagc (Levisticum officinale) is a hardy perennial and reaches a height of up to 2.1m (7ft). It has a straight, rounded stem with large, coarse, dark green leaves at the base of the plant. Smaller leaves are found nearer the top.

Small, pale, green-yellow flowers are produced between early and mid summer. Lovage seeds are oblong and brown. All parts of the plant are edible and have a strong celerylike aroma and flavour.

Cultivation

Sow lovage seeds in later summer or early spring in a drill about lem (Vim) deep, either in a seedbed or where the plants are to grow – preferably at the back of a herb border. Lovage can also be grown by dividing the fleshy roots – each piece must have a strong bud. Plants die down to the ground in winter but grow quickly in spring. Young leaves are bronze coloured at first.

Make sure the seeds are ripe before sowing in rich, moist soil in sun or partial shade. When the seedlings are large enough to handle easily, thin them to 30cm (12in) apart, or transplant them into their permanent positions, leaving a similar space between the young plants. In well-kept, fertile soil lovage will last for many years. However, it is invasive and will self-seed if left alone.

During summer remove the early flowers to promote the growth of healthy young leaves. To increase your stock of lovage, divide the roots of existing stock in early spring and replant the divisions 30cm (12in) apart.

It is generally pest and disease free but may suffer heavy attack by leaf mining fly and celery fly.

MARJORAM

There are two main types of marjoram available. Sweet or knotted marjoram (Origanum majorana) is a tender perennial, reaching up to 45cm (I Sin), with grey-green leaves. It produces tiny pink or white flowers from early summer to early autumn. Pot marjoram (Origanum onites) is a dwarf sub-shrub with mauve to pink flowers; it grows to 30cm (12in) or more.

Cultivation

Marjoram grows best in full sun in well-drained, fertile soil. Sweet marjoram is treated as a half-hardy annual. Sow sweet marjoram seeds under glass in early spring, and prick out the seedlings when they are large enough to handle. Place in pots of potting compost. Harden off before planting out, 30cm (12in) apart, in late spring. Pot marjoram is fully hardy, so can be sown outdoors in mid to late spring; thin out to 60cm (24in) apart. Pot marjoram can be basal roots in early spring. Remove lower leaves and insert the cuttings in equal parts of peat or coconut fibre and sand in a shaded cold frame or suitable container. Plant out when firmly rooted.

Both types of marjoram are pest and disease free.

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