March 17, 2010

Grow your own Herbs

August 11th 2009:
Rosemary and Thyme 11 Aug
Inspired by using an abundance of fresh herbs during my cooking course, I decided to buy some Rosemary, Thyme and Parsley. I bought a bog standard Rosemary plant, a Common Thyme plant, a Lemon Thyme plant and a Curly Parsley.
The herbs I bought from garden centre were quite small at only 13cm (5ins) tall, but I decided to buy these because they were only £1.49 each. The bigger ones were more expensive and I didn’t think it was necessary because I’m quite confident the small plants will grow at a good rate.

Steve’s Mum found me a massive pot which is 37cm (14.5ins) in diameter at the top and 28cm (11ins) deep, but it is tapered so it didn’t take too much soil to fill.
I’d kept an article from a magazine about planting herbs and I found it really useful, so I thought I’d share it with you:
  • Mediterranean plants such as sage, oregano, basil, tarragon, thyme and rosemary prefer lots of sun, whilst chives, mint, sorrel, parsley and fennel don’t mind a semi-shaded spot. Grow one plant per container or create combinations; mint is a monster though so grow on its own.
  • Select a suitable pot – the wider the better, but at least 20cm deep. Make sure there are drainage holes in the bottom.
  • Add a two-inch layer of terracotta chunks or coarse gravel to the bottom of the pot to aid drainage. For those gardening on balconies, use pieces of polystyrene.
  • Now half-fill the pot with compost. For semi-permanent plantings like this, you can use 50:50 John Innes No.3 and peat-free multipurpose, as it holds onto water and nutrients, but drains well. Mix in a small handful of pelleted chicken manure or seaweed meal. You can also add Broadleaf P4 or SwellGel which are special gels that hold water like a sponge.
  • Now take the plastic pots off your plants; check the roots and gently tease out those that have wound themselves around the rootball, then dunk them in a bucket of water.
  • Arrange your plants in the pot so the top of the roots is about an inch below the rim; add more compost to the bottom if need be. Place tall herbs like bay, sorrel or garlic at the back and shorter ones at the front.
  • Now fill in the gaps with compost. Only slightly cover the rootball, but ensure no roots are visible or the plant will dry out in double-quick time.
  • Leave a 3cm gap between the top of the compost and the rim of the pot so water won’t gush off the top. Water well.
  • Position your pots by the back door so you can grab fistfuls when you like. To keep herbs bushy, pick regularly and remove any flowers.
Rosemary Thyme 11 Aug defence
I had quite a bit of space around each plant and I thought this would be quite tempting for pesky squirrels to have a dig around, so I’ve put some defences in to deter them!
Parsley Chives 11 Aug
Steve’s Mum had a set of small pots that sit in a tray, so I decided to plant the Curly Parsley in one of these pots and the same with the Chives that I’ve been growing. This way I can easily take them indoors in the winter as they’re not as hardy as Rosemary and Thyme. I will probably put some basil in the third pot.
I bought the herbs today and I have already used the Parsley and Thyme in my cooking as part of a bouquet garni in a Beef Carbonnade recipe. The smell of fresh herbs is amazing!
September 5th 2009:
Herb pot 5 Sept Well the herbs have really filled out the pot since I bought and planted them at the beginning of August. I removed the green plastic and chicken wire to give them more space, but I left the bamboo sticks in as they seem to be a very good deterrent for anything trying to dig up plants.
Lemon thyme 5 SeptThe Lemon Thyme (above) has a very different fragrance to the Common Thyme (below) which I would say has a stronger smell, but I’m not sure if I can really tell the difference in flavour. It’s still nice to have the choice and they are both growing really well. They look incredibly similar, but I think I could tell the difference if tested, just by the smell.
Common thyme 5 Sept
rosemary 5 Sept My Rosemary looks rather sad in this photo, but it has been growing very well and I’ve just chopped off a huge sprig to use in cooking!
September 27th 2009:
Rosemary 27 Sept 09As you can see my rosemary hasn’t grown at all over the last couple of weeks and I’ve found out why. I was reading a book I borrowed from the library, The Container Kitchen Garden’ by Antony Atha, and it says that rosemary will not regenerate if it is cut back into the hard wood. Well now I can plainly see that is the mistake I have made! There’s a detailed section in the book about taking cuttings to grow more plants, but to be honest it was so cheap to buy the rosemary plant that I will probably just get another one if this one doesn’t grow anymore!
It’s quite a good book as there are lots of detailed photos and instructions on how to grow things in containers. It doesn’t appear to be available to buy online, but even if it was I probably wouldn’t bother buying it and just borrow it from the library again.
November 3rd 2009:
Rosemary 3 Nov 09I didn’t think the rosemary had grown at all, but comparing the picture taken in September it does look a little bigger (that’s real optimism for you!).
Thyme 3 Nov 09Both thyme plants are looking very sad indeed. Most of the leaves have all fallen off, but I’m guessing that is natural for this time of year.
I’m not going to do anything special to my herbs over the winter, like re-pot them to bring them indoors as it’s too much effort and I’ve not really got anywhere to put them (I don’t think Steve’s Mum will appreciate me clogging up the kitchen windowsill with all my herbs!). So I’m just going to put a large fleece over the whole pot and that should protect them from any frost.
March 17th 2010:
After a very cold winter I wasn’t expecting my herbs to be in any great shape. So when I took the fleece off my herb pot a couple of weeks ago I was surprised to see that the parsley was looking very healthy, probably even healthier than when I first planted it!
17-03-parsleyIt looks a bit yellow in the picture, but it’s actually a very healthy green colour and looks like it will continue to grow quite steadily this year.
17-03-chivesLikewise the chives are starting to come through again after a winter sleep. I have quite a few of these little clumps in the herb pot and they’re all about this size.
17-03-rosemaryI wasn’t surprised that the rosemary hadn’t improved after I’d cut it too short. I’m hoping to replace this with a new plant if my seeds ever germinate!
17-03-Common-thyme 17-03-lemon-thyme What I am surprised about is how awful both my thyme plants look. I thought they were supposed to be really hardy plants, but they both look dead. I’ve read that they don’t like too much water and it’s possible I did overwater them or they got too wet over the winter. I’m going to just leave them in the pot and hope that they make some sort of recovery!

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