by Mags Riordan
There is a lovely stretch now both morning and evening. There are visible signs that the gardening season is kicking off – birds pairing up, buds on trees and shrubs, spring bulbs out in full force. This is the busiest month of the year so if I fall behind now, I never really catch up.
I’m not going to give a to-do list; they’re readily available in magazines papers and the Internet. Instead I’m going to focus on what I’m being asked most about – herb growing is at the top of the list. I think it’s fantastic to see so many people enthusiastic about growing herbs. I can’t over-emphasise the benefits of growing your own. Their culinary qualities, nutritional and medicinal properties will be of huge benefit to the whole household. A few points to note before getting started though are: soil preferences, aspect, and good or bad company.
Soil preferences: Mediterranean, drought tolerant, sandy and free draining. Rosemary, thyme and sage are in this category. Moist nutrient rich soils suit camomile, wild garlic and mints while well-drained rich soils suit basil, calendula and coriander.
Aspect, Sun or part shade – lavender needs 10 hours of sun while mint will grow quite happily with four to six hours.
Companions should never be overlooked as some simply don’t like each other and will struggle.
An example would be Basil – a great insect repellent, dislikes sage and won’t grow well near it but loves camomile, which promotes healthy growth of basil.
Now is a great time to be starting seed but If you’re a novice and just getting started then I would recommend buying a plant, it would probably be cheaper than a packet of seed too.
Herbs require maintenance just like any crop, so if time is in short supply, only grow what you’re going to use and grow them well. Get your soil requirements and groups right and they will grow so much better.
Pruning is important especially if you’re growing them for culinary use, start early when the plant is quite small and keep harvesting regularly – it keeps the plant neat and a constant supply of fresh tasty herbs.
If you are using your herbs for food, then don’t let them flower, as this changes their chemical make up and they become bitter.
Final word on mints – best planted in a container in the ground to curtail its roots, it is invasive and will run amuck if you don’t keep it in check. If you are growing more than one variety then I would encourage you to plant them away from each other because their flavours cross and lose their individuality.
There is so much more to growing herbs – I could fill the whole paper – but I hope this gives you the confidence to go out there and get started, because I know once you do you’ll become hooked and the possibilities are endless. There is a post on my Instagram feed on harvesting and preserving your treasured crops and suggested uses and applications.
If you are interested in learning more, we have a workshop on May 19 here on the farm about growing, caring and getting the most from them.
A final note – we are thrilled to announce our seasonal bouquets under our ‘Wild Atlantic Blooms’ brand are available in Field’s SuperValu Skibbereen and as stocks build up, we will be rolling these out across West Cork and the city.
Please feel free to reach out on social media or email (email@example.com), I’d love to hear how your herb growing is going.
Enjoy your garden .
PHOTO ABOVE: Grapefruit mint