Herbs, in most cases, are tough wild plants which, when spoilt by the lush conditions of a garden, will thrive and romp away.
It’s a myth that all herbs like full sun, even good old basil likes partial shade at midday. So when planning your garden, you can divide your plants into two sections, those like thyme, sage, rosemary, french tarragon and oregano that like full sun; and those that like partial shade, such as rocket, sorrel, mizuna, mustard, parsley and chervil.
Containers and window boxes
If I had to choose some ‘must haves’ to put in a window box on the sunny side of the house I would include chives, oregano, lemon thyme and creeping rosemary to drape over the edge. However, on the shady side of the house I would have a salad herb window box which would include wild rocket, chervil, French parsley and red mustard.
When growing herbs in containers, use soil-based compost like John Innes potting compost. This is because there are very few herbs that grow in peat, and soil-based compost retains moisture which is a must to stop containers drying out.
Water in the morning rather than the evening because this gives the plants a chance if the temperatures are hot during the day, especially for containers grown in full sun.
Feed container plants weekly from March until September. This keeps the plants healthy, helps them produce leaves, especially on cut and come again salads.
Herbs look good, smell good and do you good. They have been used ever since humans have been on the earth, as medicines, perfumes, insect repellents and, of course, in food and flavouring.
This huge group of plants includes trees, shrubs, annuals and even cacti, to name but a few. The most important thing to remember when growing herbs is that they are the foundation of all modern medicine. They are not the gentle namby-pamby things some would like you to think. They are healers, therefore they should be treated with respect, and if you are considering them for specific medicinal use always consult a doctor or qualified herbalist. If you are growing herbs for use in the kitchen then you need to learn about their flavour and how they can aid digestion.
Rosemary with your roast lamb, basil with your spaghetti, sage with your pork, there are so many ways to use your herbs in the kitchen. And a handful of crushed rosemary leaves steeped in boiled water, strained, and cooled makes a lovely rinse for brunette hair.
Lavender placed amongst your sheets and towels in the linen cupboard makes them smell wonderful, and helps keep insects at bay.
Medically, herbs have been used for centuries, but unless you are a qualified herbalist, do NOT attempt to treat any medical condition with herbs. They could react with medication you may be taking, or you could do yourself damage.
Always consult your doctor before attempting any remedies.
Angelica was used in medieval times to protect ones self from evil spirits and witchcraft.
It was also used to counter spells and enchantment.
Aniseed was used in spiced cakes amongst the Romans and was said to prevent indigestion.
Caraway was said to keep lovers together and create unity among people. This was the main ingredient for a love potion.
Chervil The roots of this herb were used to counteract bites from snakes and dogs.
Coriander Used widely by the Romans before the birth of Christ. It was used as a stimulant and carminative.
Fennel Used in medieval times, fennel along with St.Johns Wort was used to prevent against witchcraft and all evil.
Horseradish was once used to get rid of a cough after a bad cold.
Sweet Marjoram was made into an ointment which rubbed on would sooth and heal bruises and sores. If the herb was boiled in water and then drunk it would cure cramps, toothache and convulsions.
Spearmint Medicinally spearmint was used to treat stomach complaints but now is used to add flavour to toothpaste and sweets.
Rue The Greeks claimed it had anti-magical qualities. In the middle ages it would protect you from witches. Roman carpenters, painters and sculptures would eat rue as it was said that it could protect and preserve their eye-sight.
Sage As well as being used to add flavour to foods, it has been used to clean teeth.
Sage boiled in water to make tea was said to strengthen gums and whiten teeth.
Savory Savories rubbed on wasp and bee stings gives instant relief.
Thyme In the 17th century it was used to counteract dullness of sight and remove any pain. An ointment was made from thyme to cure hot swellings and warts.