This page contains some short notes on growing herbs for culinary use.
Basil and its smaller leaved relative Greek Basil can usually be picked up in supermarkets and will survive most summers in the UK. The plants need good drainage and preferred to be watered in the morning as they dislike wet roots overnight. In most cases, Basil won’t survive winter and will also probably struggle indoors as it likes as much sun as possible.
Chives will grow best in full sun, but a partially sunny spotted is also an option. The purple flowers are highly attractive to bees when they appear in summer. Plants can be divided up at any time, or grown from seed if necessary. The plant does die down at the end of the season however new growth will emerge as the soil begins to warm in early Spring.
Beware of slugs when growing coriander as they tend to quickly damage smaller plants. They prefer fertile soil and can be grown in full sun or partial shade, with plants grown in partial shade actually producing more leaves. They also grow purple flowers during the summer.
The Curry Plant as the name suggests smells strongly of curry. It should be planted in full sun and requires chalky or loamy soil that freely drains as it likes relatively dry conditions. It should also be sheltered from strong winds. In summer, the plant produces bright yellow flowers.
Dill can be grown as annuals or biennials, and has a scent of aniseed. When planted, it should be in a site of full sun and must be kept in a sheltered location. Dill can be propagated by seed sown in spring.
Fennel can grow up to six or seven feet and produces small yellow flowers which are highly attractive to flies, bees, and wasps. When the flowers die back, they turn to seed which are used in cooking, and are also the best method of propagation. To achieve the best from fennel, ensure the plant is placed in sun or part sun.
Many Lavender varieties can be used in cooking, but there are particular types which are best suited and most commonly used – known as culinary lavender. Typically, they have a sweet fragrance, and the flowers can produce a citrus flavour. Ensure the plant is placed in full sun.
Lemon Balm can be somewhat similar to mint in that it spreads well, however it can be cut back hard to restrict growth and also promote new leaf growth. The plant can also be divided in spring and autumn. Protection against excessive wetness in winter is vital to overwintering the herb, and a site in full or part sun should be used.
The one rule of mint is to keep it under control, otherwise it will run rampant in a garden much like a weed. The preference is to grow in pots, and divide once it outgrows its home – this is made easy as mint is relatively tough. If growing in the ground, plant it in a plastic pot and bury the pot into the ground, lifting each year to check the roots haven’t rooted out. Ensure it is planted in full sun as it prefers dry conditions.
Parsley is another herb commonly available in supermarkets, with the most common being flat-leaf and curled varieties. It should be planted in full or part sun, but the site must have loamy soil as Parsley can not tolerate any other soil types. The plant can be overwintered, however leaves become coarse in the subsequent years so it best grown as an annual.
The ‘Compactum’ and ‘Aureum’ varieties of Oregano are particularly helpful to pollinators when the flowers appear in Summer. The plant tolerates all soil types except clay, as long as the planted site gets full or part sun. It is also preferable to grow in alkaline soil.
Rosemary is a particularly fragrant shrub and commonly used with potatoes when cooking. The plant gets blue/purple flowers which are good for bees, but the plant must be planted in full sun. If planted in part sun, it will grow but not flower readily. Rosemary also prefers poor quality soil, particularly sandy types which are free draining.
Sage, also commonly known as Salvia when grown as a decorative plant, is highly attractive to pollinators such as bees and butterflies with their purple flowers. Purple Sage is a common is frequently grown for culinary uses, though whichever variety is planted requires full sun and well drained soil.
Tarragon has an appearance similar to that of Rosemary. It is a plant that requires full sun and a loamy or sandy soil. To promote new growth, the plant should be trimmed in spring. Yellow flowers will appear in late summer.
Various varieties of Thyme are good for pollinators, but they require dry conditions in full sun. They are commonly used on rockeries and screes. If grown in pots, it is important to ensure they have some medium to prevent soil splash such as gravel. The plants should also be cut back in Spring.