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Herb Gardening Tips

Scroll down to discover herb gardening tips from Kathleen for the entire year!

December / January Herb Schedule

Things to do:

  • Protect planters, especially terracotta planters with bubble-wrap or hessian or even old jumpers. The cold temperatures and frost can easily penetrate containers, freezing the soil and plant roots and killing all but the most robust plants.
  • Protect parsley, buckler leaved sorrel and chervil with cloches.
  • Hand-pick fallen leaves from the herb bed and other debris - that may be harbouring over-wintering pests.
  • Place feeding stations in the form of fat balls or wild-bird seed nets in the areas where pests are known to visit. Visiting birds will also feed on over-wintering pests.
  • When the temperature drops to freezing, place a bowl of water out every day for the birds and other wildlife. Make sure that ponds and bird baths are not frozen over.
  • Reduce watering of plants in containers outdoors, but do not allow to totally dry out.
  • Check plants for pests and fungal diseases. Remove aphids as soon as they appear on plants in the greenhouse or on the window-ledge. Pick off any leaves showing signs of browning or fungal infection.
  • Plan any new designs or plantings for the following year.
  • Check any seed you have saved, and remove any that are becoming diseased

 

Flavour from the garden in December & January

Herbs are very versatile. The following herbs can provide fresh flavours for the pot all through the winter:

  • Bay (Laurus nobilis) Perennial

Bay leaves are a delicious addition to soups. Dried leaves and berries can be added to vinegars for a welcome flavouring. It is also an essential ingredient in bouquet garni. Bay leaves help to promote good digestion, particularly of meat. A bay leaf in jars of flour, or in pantries, helps to deter weevils.

  • Chervil (Anthriscus cerefolium) Annual

This pretty fern-like herb provides a tasty aniseed flavour for cheese and egg dishes. Chervil can also be used as a substitute for parsley. As the leaves lose their flavour quickly, add to dishes just before serving. Protect with cloches in colder regions to maintain growth

  • Marjoram (Origanum sp.) Perennial

There are several different species of marjoram. Some are hardy, wild marjoram (Origanum vulgare) and French marjoram (O. onites) for example. These will provide evergreen ground cover in the herb garden and delicious leaves for use throughout the year. Others, such as sweet marjoram (O. marjorana), are half-hardy and will not survive winter outdoors in colder, wetter areas. For this reason they are usually treated as an annual plant

  • Parsley (Petroselinum crispum) Biennial

This well-known and widely-used herb is a great favourite for salads and soups, as well as sauces. It is an essential ingredient in bouquet garni and is a natural breath freshener. Protect the plant throughout the winter with a cloche for a constant supply.

  • Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) Perennial

Rosemary is a beautiful evergreen herb that is frost hardy to around -5?C. This herb can be kept clipped as an edging plant or hedge. It will provide leaves for fresh use throughout the year. Add sprigs of rosemary to soups and casseroles or add to roasting potatoes. This herb is the traditional accompaniment for lamb. When roasting, cut slits into the surface of the meat and tuck in sprigs of rosemary.

  • Sage (Salvia sp.) Perennial

There are many aromatic sage plants suitable for the herb garden. They provide evergreen laced every 3-4 years as they become woody and lose flavour. Hardy sages are ideal for container growing, although they will need some protection in winter. A delicious addition to stuffing and nut roasts as well as salads. Sage tea can be used to remedy sore throats. Gargle with a warm infusion of this herb.

  • Thyme (Thymus sp.) Perennial

Thymes provide a useful evergreen or gold ground cover, and fresh leaves, all year round. Some thymes have a citrus flavour, suitable for vinegars and oils. As with sage, plants should be replanted after 3-4 years.

 February Herb Garden

Things to do:

  • Spring appears to be arriving early and plants have begun to put on some fresh spring growth, but make sure that tender shoots are guarded against frost at night. Protect with horticultural fleece or hessian. On warmer days remember to remove the fleece, especially if it has become wet, to allow air to circulate around the plants.
  • Container grown herbs will benefit from top dressing with fresh compost. Remove the top 5 to 10cm (2-4in) of compost and replace. Use well rotted garden compost or worm compost mixed with a slow release fertiliser, such as pelleted chicken manure
  • Clear away any dead twigs and remains of fallen leaves especially if lying on top of the plants. This can cause stem splitting, providing easy entry of pest and disease.
  • Check for wind and snow damage. Cut out damaged twigs and branches.
  • If you are growing plants known to be attractive to aphids later in the year, place fat balls close by to attract blue tits. Blue tits are natural predators of aphids and will hopefully keep visiting the site when the aphids arrive.
  • Place a bird bath or construct a small pond to provide shelter and water for beneficial wildlife. On frosty days make sure that ponds and bird baths are not frozen over.
  • Trim southernwood (Artemisia abrotanum) to maintain an attractive shape. Do not cut back into old wood, as this will kill the plant.
  • Make up seed and potting composts in preparation for sowing and potting-on annual and biennial herbs.
  • If re-using last years modules, seed trays and pots wash them out well using hot water.
  • If the weather is mild, later in the month, parsley, sage, chives, chervil and dill can all be sown in a cold greenhouse.
  • Check cuttings taken last autumn, such as Balm of Gilead (Cedronella canariensis) and scented geranium (Pelargonium graveolens). Pinch out growing tip if becoming long and leggy.
  • Take root cuttings of mint (mentha spp.) to provide a fresh supply of this tasty herb. Kept in the greenhouse, new shoots will be ready to use with your early potatoes in June
  • Mint can also be propagated by splitting plants in Spring. Seeds are not worthwhile as they often do not breed true and the results may be rather disappointing.
  • If planning a new herb garden, or any other hard landscaping, now is the last chance before the plants start into really active growth.

Flavour from the garden in February

Herbs are very versatile. The following herbs can provide fresh flavours for the pot all through the winter:

  • Hyssop (Hyssopus officinalis)

Leaves can be added to pulses and salads all year round, use sparingly as they have a particularly strong sage-mint flavour. Attractive purple, pink or white flowers develop in the summer, add them to a green salad to give colour and a sweet mint flavour.

  • Sage (Salvia officinalis)

There are many beautiful sage cultivars available from specialist nurseries. The distinctive flavouring obtained from the leaves can be used in cooking and medicine. Before using sage leaves, plunge them into hot water. This will draw the aromatic oils contained in the leaf to the surface, enhancing the flavour.

  • Thyme (Thymus X citriodorus)

Lemon thyme. This low growing herb has a highly aromatic lemony flavour and bright yellow leaves all year round. Delicious in salads, excellent with fish, though use sparingly as fresh thyme has a particularly pungent flavour. Orange-scented thyme (Thymus 'Fragrantissimus') has a spicy orange scent. It can be used to flavour meat or sweet dishes, such as fruit salads or jam.

  • Parsley (Petroselinum crispum)

A well-known biennial herb that can provide leaves all year round. Both curly leaved and flat leaved varieties are available. There is also a tuberous, perennial parsley available, Petroselinum crispum var. tuberosum. Parsley leaves have a mild flavour, if a stronger flavour is required use the stems as well. Cover parsley plants with cloches on cold nights to protect from frosts.

  • Curry plant (Helichrysum italicum)

If this evergreen shrub is situated in a frost pocket it is advisable to cover for protection. The silver leaves will give of a spicy aroma when brushed.

  • Horseradish (Armoracia rusticana)

A very invasive deep-rooting plant that can be difficult to eradicate from the garden if no longer required. If the plant has spread, lift and divide when the weather allows. The root can be harvested any time of the year. Wash the roots before eating. Horseradish root is high in calcium, magnesium and vitamin C. Do not cook as this destroys the flavour. Grate the raw root into coleslaw, dips, cream cheese and mayonnaise for extra heat.

  • Salad burnet (Sanguisorba minor)

Provides attractive evergreen leaves that can be harvested throughout the year. In the summer quaint red drumstick like flowers look lovely in the herb garden. The leaves have a cucumber like flavouring which taste lovely in salads.

  • Winter savory (Satureja montana)

A tasty evergreen shrub that originates from southern Europe. Regular picking will produce fresh leaves all year round that can be added to salads, meats and pulses. Fresh winter savory leaves can be used as a substitute for black pepper.

March Herb Garden

Things to do:

  • As the days get warmer, remove protection from the more tender herbs during the day. Listen to the weather forecast; replace cover if a cold snap is forecast.
  • Start seed sowing.
  • General tidying up.
  • Tidy up herbs grown in containers and pots. Remove any moss or lichen growing on the surface. Repot or add fresh compost to the top of the pot.
  • Check shrubby herbs for wind and snow damage. Cut out damaged twigs and branches.
  • Place a bird bath or construct a small pond to provide shelter and water for beneficial wildlife.
  • Plant sweet flag (Acorus calamus), in a damp spot or muddy area near the pond.
  • Divide large clumps of perennial herbs such as lovage (Levisticum officinal), catnep (Nepeta racemosa), chives (Allium schoenoprasum), mint (Mentha spp.), thyme (Thymus spp.), marjoram and oregano (Origanum spp.).
  • Check cuttings taken last autumn, such as Balm of Gilead (Cedronella canariensis) and scented geranium. Pinch out growing tip if becoming long and leggy. Keep tender herbs under cover until all danger of frost has passed – sometime in May or June for most gardeners.
  • Repot or add fresh compost to the top of the pot.

Flavour from the garden in March

  • Hyssop (Hyssopus officinalis)

Sage-mint flavoured leaves can be added to pulses and salads all year round. Attractive purple flowers develop in the summer. Hyssop is also an excellent attractant plant for butterflies.

  • Sage (Salvia officinalis)

There are around 500 sage cultivars available from specialists. The name Salvia is derived from the Latin 'Salvere' meaning to be 'in good health' or 'cure'. Old plants become woody and unkempt so new stock should be grown from seed every three or four years. The distinctive flavouring obtained from the leaves can be used in cooking and medicine. Mix with onion to make stuffing for poultry.

  • Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis)

The variegated form of this perennial. (Melissa officinalis 'Aurea') is particularly attractive. The leaves make a delicious soporific tea. Lemon balm can also be used to make sauces for fish, poultry or pork and in sweet dishes such as fruit salads or custards.

  • Thyme (Thymus X citriodorus)

Lemon thyme. This low growing herb has a highly aromatic lemony flavour and bright yellow leaves all year round. Delicious in salads and can be added to sauces stuffings and marinades. Lemon thyme is used to flavour Benedictine liqueurs. Use fresh thymes sparingly as they are very pungent.

  • Bay (Laurus nobilis)

Sweet bay looks wonderful in containers. It can be trained in topiary shapes such as balls and cones. The evergreen leaves can be harvested all year round. Bay is an important ingredient in both sweet and savoury dishes. Can be used to flavour marinades, stocks and soups. Bay leaves are also often used as flavouring for milk, which is to be used to make custards and rice puddings. Use bay leaves within a few days of drying for optimum flavour – old leaves rapidly lose their pungency. Bay is susceptible to scale insect and the associated sooty moulds. Remove the pests by hand or use an insecticidal soap.

  • Mint (Mentha sp)

There are many very tasty mints to grow. Spearmint (Mentha spicata) and peppermint (Mentha piperita) are very popular flavours used in chocolate, ice- cream and other sweet foods. Leaves can also be infused in hot water to make a refreshing tea.

  • Horseradish (Armoracia rusticana)

The Germans and Danish first used the root for culinary purposes, as a sauce for fish. It was first cultivated in Great Britain in around 1640, and is now most often associated with roast beef. The root can be grated and added to coleslaw, cream cheese and mayonnaise. Young leaves can also be added to salads or sandwiches. Horseradish sauce can be warmed gently, though cooking the root destroys the oils responsible for its pungency.

  • Sorrel (Rumex scutatus)

Also known as French or buckler-leaved sorrel. The blue/green shield shaped leaves have a deliciously tangy flavour, which counters the rich flavours of meats. Add leaves sparingly to salads or use to make a soup. Sorrel is available early in the season and grows well in containers.

  • Winter savory (Satureja montana)

A tasty evergreen shrub that originates from southern Europe. Regular picking will produce fresh leaves all year round that can be added to salads, meats and pulses for a peppery flavour. Flavour is particularly pronounced just before flowering. The related summer savory (Satureja hortensis) is a half hardy annual that can be sown under cover now. Also known as the ‘bean herb’, it is popular in Europe and North America as an addition to bean dishes to help prevent flatulence

April Herb Garden

Things to do:

  • Plant out hardy herbs grown in containers and pots such as comfrey, sage, yarrow, violets. Harden off in a cold frame before moving into final position.
  • Sow seed outside and under glass.
  • Thin any March seed sowings, allowing strong plants to develop.
  • Hard prune shrubby herbs such as cotton lavender, bay and rue, to encourage new growth and side-shoots.
  • Prune lavender into shape, taking care not to cut into the old wood. The offcuts can be used as softwood cuttings.
  • Take softwood cuttings.
  • Divide clumps of herbs that have become too large.
  • Plants, such as bay, that are difficult to propagate otherwise, can be layered now.
  • Hoe and remove weeds that are germinating


Flavour from the garden this month

  • Caraway (Carum carvi)

Young leaves have an aniseed flavour and can be added to salads and soups. Roasted seeds can be used in sweet and savoury dishes, though use sparingly as they have a strong flavour. The plants are biennial, which means that they produce seed in their second summer, then die.

  • Lovage (Levisticum officinale)

Fresh, young leaves have a celery-like flavour and are great in salads. Crushed seeds can be added to breads and pastries or sprinkled onto mashed potato.

  • Chervil (Anthriscus sylvestris)

Has a delicate flavour, similar to that of parsley though with a hint of aniseed. Use generously in salads, sauces, soups and with chicken and fish dishes.

  • Lemon Thyme (Thymus x citriodorus)

Leaves have a strong lemon scent and should be used quite sparingly. Ideal with fish and chicken.

  • French Tarragon (Artemisia dracunculus)

Main ingredient of sauce Bernaise. Its flavour compliments many dishes including chicken and fish, and is often used in salad dressings. Beware of any seeds labelled as ‘French Tarragon’ as this variety does not come true from seed and must be propagated from cuttings.

May / June Herb Garden

Things to do:

  • Grow French tarragon
  • Plant out pots of basil and other tender herbs
  • Keep sowing seed outside - to provide continuity of supply
  • Thin seedlings that have been sown direct in the garden
  • Trim shrubby herbs such as cotton lavender and box
  • Hoe and remove weeds regularly as competition will be great these months
  • Cut sage for drying
  • Take softwood cuttings
  • Cut cornflowers for drying as the flowers open
  • Gather elderflowers for making 'champagne'
  • Begin gathering petals of damask rose for drying


Flavour from the garden this month

  • Anise hyssop (Agastache foeniculum) Perennial

Long spikes of purple flowers in the summer provide lovely aniseed scent. Leaves are aniseed flavoured and can be used in teas as well as in recipes with fish, rice and salads. The flowers can be added to fruit salads for a splash of colour.

  • Borage (Borago officinalis) Annual

A very pretty, Mediterranean addition to the herb garden. Fresh young leaves should be cut for salads. The flavour is reminiscent of cucumber.

  • Catnip (Nepeta cataria) Perennial

This herb is loved by cats. This is worth keeping in mind if there are pest problems of the feline variety in your locality. Try growing a healthy crop in an area away from tender herbs. The fresh leaves add a light, minty flavour to salads.

  • Clary ( Salvia sclarea) Hardy biennial

A very attractive pink/mauve flowering member of the sage family. Grows to a height of 90cm (3ft). With a slight vanilla/sage flavour, the leaves are used for soups and salads.

  • Pot Marigold (Calendula officinalis) Annual

Mediterranean native, so sow in situ in an area of full sun. Will grow in most soils, unless really waterlogged. Flower petals make good culinary dye for rice, scones or butter. They also look great in salads and omelettes

  • Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis)

A popular addition to barbeques and soups and stews. Use woody sprigs as barbeque skewers.

  • Soapwort (Saponaria officinalis) Perennial

NOT grown for its flavour as it is, in fact, poisonous. It is, however, a sweetly scented, attractive, cottage garden herb. The tall ruffles of pink flowers can sprawl, so stake early in the season. The roots are still used today to make a gentle wash for ancient tapestries.

  • Valerian (Valeriana officinalis) Perennial

Attractive herb with delicate, sweet-scented flowers. Flowers are white, often tinged pink. Historically used as a sedative or relaxant.

July Herb Garden

Things to do:

  • Keep sowing seed outside - to maintain supplies.
  • Mulch moisture-loving herbs
  • Thin seedlings that have been sown direct in the garden
  • Dead-head where flowers have faded, unless seed is to be collected
  • Harvest lemon balm, summer savoury, hyssop, tarragon, thyme, lavender, marjoram and most other herbs this month
  • Hoe and remove weeds regularly as competition will be great this month
  • Take softwood cuttings
  • Cut flowers such as lavender and cornflower for drying
  • Begin gathering seed of caraway and angelica
  • Cut back lavenders after flowering to keep a good shape
  • Water regularly any plants that may be showing stress
  • Keep gathering petals of damask rose for drying

Flavour from the garden this month

July will offer flavour from just about all the herbs. New shoots, leaves and flowers perfect for the kitchen.

Using flowers in salads and cookery is an ancient method of adding flavour and colour to food. Pick early in the day, taking care not to bruise the delicate blooms.

Here are a few ...

  • Pot marigold (Calendula officinalis)
  • Nasturtium (Tropaeolum majus)
  • Heartsease (Viola tricolor)
  • Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale)
  • Violet (Viola odorata)
  • Pinks (Dianthus sp.)
  • Borage (Borago officinalis)
  • Day lily (Hemerocallis sp)
  • Rose (Rosa sp.)
  • Anise hyssop (Agastache foeniculum)
  • Chives (Allium schoenoprasum)
  • Garlic chives (Allium tuberosum
  • Basil (Ocimum basillicum) Annual

There are a great many varieties of this tasty herb available. You can choose Lemon, Lettuce Leaved (one of the most productive), Red Ruben, Sweet Genovese and Cinnamon.

  • Anise hyssop (Agastache foeniculum) Perennial

Originating in North America, this sweet scented herb can reach a metre in height. Long spikes of purple flowers in the summer provide lovely aniseed scent and are especially attractive to butterflies. Leaves are aniseed flavoured and can be used in teas as well as in recipes with fish, rice, salads, jam and desserts.

  • Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis)

This herb is ideal for growing in containers. A popular addition to barbeques and soups and stews. Use the woody stalks as skewers to add flavour to meat and vegetable kebabs.

  • Borage (Borago officinalis) Annual

A very pretty, Mediterranean herb. The bright blue, star-shaped flowers can be added to drinks, salads, or frozen in ice cubes and added to summer drinks. Fresh young leaves should be cut for salads. The flavour is reminiscent of cucumber.

  • Catnep (Nepeta cataria) Perennial

Although the camphor like aroma is used in teas, this herb is best loved by cats. This is worth keeping in mind, for if there are pest problems of the feline variety, try growing a healthy crop in an area away from tender herbs. The fresh leaves add a light, minty flavour to salads.

  • Clary ( Salvia sclarea) Perennial/biennial

A very attractive pink/mauve flowering member of the sage family. Grows to a height of 90cm (3ft). With a slight vanilla/sage flavour, the leaves are used for soups and salads.

  • Pot Marigold (Calendula officinalis) Annual

Sow in situ in an area of full sun. Will grow in most soils, except for poor draining, waterlogged soils.

  • Valerian (Valeriana officinalis) Perennial

Valerian is a very attractive, sweet-scented flower for the herb garden. Valerian prefers damp ground and grows well near streams and ponds. A tincture of the roots, which has a calming effect, was used to treat shell-shocked soldiers in World War One.

August Herb Garden

Things to do:

  • Pot up a few herbs to make an indoor winter herb garden.
  • Keep sowing seed outside - to maintain supplies.
  • Mulch moisture-loving herbs to prevent them drying out in hot weather
  • Thin seedlings that have been sown direct in the garden
  • Dead-head where flowers have faded, unless seed is to be collected
  • Harvest thyme, sage, clary sage, marjoram, lavender for drying
  • Cut flowers such as lavender, love-in-a-mist and cornflower 
  • Take softwood cuttings
  • Begin gathering seed, e.g. angelica, anise, caraway, coriander, cumin, chervil, dill, fennel
  • Freeze mints and pennyroyal. Borage flowers look great in ice cubes
  • Cut back box, cotton lavender and the curry plant to maintain shape
  • Water regularly any plants that may be showing stress

 Flavour from the garden this month

Nearly all herbs should be available from the garden this month.

Here are a few ...

  • Scented geraniums Pelargonium spp.
  • Pot marigold  Calendula officinalis
  • Nasturtium  Tropaeolum majus
  • Hollyhock  Alcea rosea
  • Heartsease  Viola tricolor
  • Violet  Viola odorata
  • Pinks  Dianthus sp.
  • Rocket  Eruca versicaria
  • Borage  Borago officinalis
  • Day lily  Hemerocallis sp.
  • Rose  Rosa sp.

Warning!  Only eat flowers that you are sure are edible, and that you are sure you can identify correctly.

Some flowers, just like other parts of the plants, can be very poisonous. Do not eat flowers from florist shops that may have been sprayed with pesticides

 

  • Caraway (Carum carvi) Biennial

Caraway is a member of the carrot family, and like its cousins is a good attractant flower for beneficial insects. It also yields delicious, aromatic seeds, ready to harvest this month. Use in bread and biscuits, as well as any recipes with cabbage.

  • Lavender (Lavandula spp.) Hardy perennial

A common herb garden plant, at its best in the height of summer. As well as being useful for pot pourris and scenting underwear drawers, it is also has edible flowers. Make your favourite plain biscuit recipe and press some flowers into the top of the ready-to-bake shapes before baking as usual.

  • Chives (Allium schoenoprasum) Hardy perennial

Chives with yellow and brown tips are a sign of poor soil as they need a rich, moist soil. This herb does not dry well but can be frozen in ice cube trays with a little water. Add to summer salads, or use a garnish for beetroot soup.

  • Tarragon (Artemisia dracunculoides) Hardy perennial

Russian Tarragon is a hardy annual but Artemisia dracunculus or French Tarragon is superior in flavour. However, this variety does not produce viable seed so must be propagated by other methods. Flowers should be removed to encourage the plant to put its energy into leaf production. It goes well with cheeses and is an excellent addition to quiches and flans.

  • Basil (Ocimum basilicum) Annual

A popular summer herb that is easy to grow from seed and comes in several varieties. If you grow more than one variety, don’t save your own seeds for next year as it won’t produce the same variety. If you don’t plan on saving seeds for next year, keep removing the flowers to ensure maximum leaf production. Add the leaves at the last minute to tomato and meat dishes or stir torn leaves with a dash of olive oil into hot pasta for an easy lunch.

  • Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) Hardy perennial

Rosemary should be putting out lots of fresh young shoots over the summer and these go extremely well with lemon in iced lollies. Add the zest of two lemon to a cup and a half of sugar, add a cup of water and the rosemary. Bring the mixture to the boil, stirring until the sugar melts. Simmer for around ten minutes, then strain and cool. Add another seven cups of water and one cup of fresh lemon juice. Use this mixture in ice-lolly moulds to make a lovely cooling snack for high summer.

September Herb Garden

Things to do:

  • Clear up dead flowers and leaves. Remove annuals and second year biennials that have finished flowering. Remember to collect the seed, or to scatter them before removing the plants. Fork over bare soil and add a mulch of leafmould where possible.
  • Remove any weeds, especially perennials.
  • Take inside plants such as mint, parsley, French tarragon and perennial basils. Pot them up to provide a continual winter supply. They need a sunny, light, frost-free yet cool environment such as an unheated conservatory. You may be able to keep them outside in a sheltered spot close to the house with a little attention to frost protection on the very coldest nights.
  • Divide plants of herbaceous (perennial plants that die down each winter) herbs such as costmary (also known as alecost), lady's mantle, chives, lemon balm, bergamot, sorrel, oregano, hyssop, lovage, sage and pennyroyal.
  • Take tender herbs under cover. This group of herbs can live outside during the summer in most places, but cannot withstand the winter, and are often grown in pots to make moving easier. They include scented pelargoniums, balm of Gilead, lemon grass, lemon verbena, pineapple sage and French lavender.
  • In colder areas, young bay and myrtle trees will also benefit from being taken under cover. A cool greenhouse or conservatory will be ideal. If the weather turns very cold, provide extra protection by wrapping the plants in hessian or bubble wrap.
  • Take semi-ripe cuttings
  • Continue to divide perennial herbs that have become too large or are losing vigour, such as comfrey, elecampane, mint, sorrel, Welsh onion.
  • Protect with mesh, fleece or cloches, those herbs growing outside that can be used fresh through the winter months, such as parsley, chervil, lemon thyme and salad burnet
  • Cut back and clear debris from around herbaceous herbs like skullcap Virginia (Scutellaria lateriflora), alecost (Tanacetum balsamita) and woodsage (Teucrium scorodonia).
  • Check your mint plants thoroughly for any signs of rust – characterised by orange blobs usually on the underside of the leaves. This can kill mint plants if allowed to get a hold. Remove any affected leaves and send them to your local green waste recycling centre, do not add them to your home compost heap as it will not get hot enough to kill the rust spores. In severe cases, remove the whole plant.
  • If it was growing in the ground, you will need to find a new place for your mint and replace the old ones with something else. If the mint was growing in a pot, send the compost to the green waste recycling, along with the plant, then thoroughly scrub and disinfect the pot with Citrox, a citrus based disinfectant, before adding new plants and growing media.


Flavour from the garden this month

Some herbs are still available for harvesting this month. Harvest plants sparingly over the winter to avoid removing too much growth and damaging them.

  • Bay (Laurus nobilis) Perennial

Bay leaves are a delicious addition to soups and stews. Dry small bunches of leaves by tying together and hanging upside down in a warm, dry, dark place. An airing cupboard is ideal. Once crisp, store in a dark, airtight container.

  • Marjoram (Origanum sp.) Perennial

There are many different species of marjoram. They provide an evergreen groundcover in the herb garden with delicious leaves for the pot throughout the year.

  • Parsley (Petroselinum crispum) Biennial

A well known herb and a great favourite for salads and soups, as well as sauces. Protect the plant throughout the winter for a constant supply.

  • Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) Perennial

Rosemary is a beautiful evergreen herb which graces the herb garden. This herb can be kept clipped as an edging plant or hedge. Add sprigs of rosemary to soups and casseroles or sprinkled over potatoes, drizzled in olive oil for roasting.

  • Sage (Salvia sp.)

There are many aromatic sage plants suitable for the herb garden. They provide evergreen leaves all year round. A delicious addition to stuffing and nut roasts.

  • Sorrel (Rumex sp.) Perennial

There are several species of sorrel suitable for the herb garden. Rumex scutatus, 'French sorrel' adds a sharp flavour to salads, omelettes and soups. This herb grows well in a container.

November Herb Garden

Things to do:

  • If the weather is still mild, herbaceous and clump forming herbs such as lemon balm (Melissa officinalis), sorrel (Rumex acetosa), sweet cicely (Myrris odorata) and vervain (Verbena officinalis), can be divided to make more plants. The new plants can be placed in the garden or potted up to give away, or use elsewhere in the spring.
  • Sow seed of plants which require stratification
  • Reduce watering of plants in pots and other containers.
  • Cut back and prune to shape cotton lavender (Santolina spp.) to create a tidy plant. This is often used for hedging in knot gardens.
  • Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) spreads easily from seed. Cut back after flowering in the summer and remove any remaining seed heads now to prevent it spreading all over the garden.
  • Take care when digging out herbs and weeding this month. Many plants, such as the mandrake (Mandragora officinarum) may be dormant and easily damaged.
  • Protect non-hardy herbs such as lemon verbena (Aloysia triphylla) and scented geraniums from winter frosts by bringing indoors into a frost-free greenhouse or conservatory
  • Pot up tender or herbaceous culinary herbs, such as chives (Allium schoenoprasum) and mint (Mentha spp.) in a well-drained compost to keep on your kitchen windowsill for using throughout the winter. However, do be aware that this exhausts the plants and they will only be good for the compost bin by spring, so be sure to leave some dormant in the garden.

Flavour from the garden this month

Herbs are very versatile. The following herbs can provide fresh flavours for the pot all through the winter:

  • Hyssop (Hyssopus officinalis) Perennial

This is a low growing aromatic herb with a mint-camphor-like flavour. It can be slightly bitter. Add in a small quantity to oily fish dishes and meat stews. It also adds a refreshing flavour to salads.

  • Bay (Laurus nobilis)

An evergreen tree, growing to about 25ft in Great Britain. Usually clipped to maintain as a compact shrub in the herb garden. Leaves can be picked and used fresh throughout the year, to flavour stocks, sauces and marinades, or in bouquet garni.

  • Rosemary (Rosmarinus sp.)

An evergreen shrub and leaves can be picked all year round. Use when roasting meat, potatoes or other vegetables. It can be added to a wood fire to give off a lovely aroma.

  • Sage (Salvia spp.)

An evergreen perennial used for flavouring stuffings and other fatty foods, including sausages. It has a strong flavour, and should be used sparingly. Cooled sage tea is an effective gargle to help sore throats and as a mouth wash for infected gums or mouth ulcers because of its antiseptic properties.

  • Chives (Allium schoenoprasum) Perennial

Lift clumps of chives and pot up for use throughout the winter. Place in a warm spot with lots of light, such as a kitchen windowsill.

  • Mints (Mentha sp.) Perennial

Lift clumps of mint and pot up for use throughout the winter. There are so many different species of mint available, with flavours ranging from chocolate to pineapple. It is a very versatile herb, suitable for use in drinks, salads and many other dishes.

 

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