Growing Herbs on the Balcony

Some sun is required by most herbs, but apart from this, they are easy to grow on the balcony and the wide variety of leaf shapes and colours, as well as the flowers, will provide interest throughout the year. Herbs come in a wide range of sizes from the taller angelica, fennel, lovage and borage which can all grow to over 1m (39in), to the smallest Greek basil, chives, curled parsley, thyme or winter savory which are unlikely to grow over 30cm (12in). When planning a herb-filled balcony you need to bear in mind that the tallest herbs should be grown in large containers against the side or back walls and the smaller varieties should be grown in a window-box at the front or in hanging baskets or boxes on shelves along a wall.

Leaf shape and colour

Consider leaf shape and colour when positioning herbs, some not commonly used in food like rue and tansy are worth growing for their decorative leaves. Many herbs have variegated leaves like mint and thyme or different coloured leaves such as sage and basil, so mixing the varieties creates interest.

Include some evergreen herbs, such as rosemary, bay and thyme so that the balcony will be green, even in winter.Growing Herbs on the Balcony

Allowing herbs to flower

If you let herbs flower you will shorten the period in which they can be harvested. However, some of the flowers are decorative as well as edible and can be used to add taste and decoration to food.

Borage, chive and nasturtium are good examples. In order to have both flowers = and leaves for flavouring food, remove flower heads from some plants so that you can use the leaves, and let the others take their natural course, flower and provide the colour.

Where to position your herb garden

Most herbs need sun for at least part of the day to do well. Balconies often have the advantage of bright light, unshaded by trees or other buildings, so many herbs

will survive happily on an east or west as well as south-facing balcony. Those that need less sun are mint, winter savory, rue, chives, lemon balm, angelica, sorrel. Those that require sun to bring out the aroma include basil, coriander, tarragon, thyme, sage, borage, dill, fennel, parsley, marjoram and rosemary.

Containers

Some large tubs will be necessary if you want to include the tall herbs mentioned above (check the weight your balcony can take.) Hook window boxes along the balcony rail for small plants but make sure they are well secured.

Group a number of tubs in one corner with tall borage, fennel, dill or angelica at the back. Place some medium height herbs, 30-60cm (1-2ft), in front of these such as lemon balm, mint, sorrell, rosemary, sage, or tarragon and then add low pots of the small herbs in front.

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