Most herbs are easy to grow once you understand their habits and the conditions
they prefer. Herbs can be classified into six main plant types.
Annuals live for only one growing season. They die after flowering and producing
seed. (eg. dill, coriander, salad rocket). Some plants that would be perennial (ie.
everlasting) in their native conditions, but cannot tolerate our Irish winters, are
treated as annuals (eg. basil, lemongrass).
Biennials live for two growing seasons. In the first year they provide plenty of
green leaves, in the second year they flower, produce seed and die. (eg. parsley,
Herbaceous Perennials are long lasting plants that die back in winter.
(eg. chives, lovage).
Evergreen perennials are long lived plants that retain their foliage all year.
(eg. oregano, clove pinks).
Evergreen Shrubs also retain their foliage throughout the year. Most shrubby herbs are of
Mediterranean origin (eg rosemary, sage, lavender).
Generally, trees are not thought of as herbs, but many of them are important
medicinal plants (eg elder, hawthorn, gingko).
Contrary to the popular opinion that all herbs need a sunny site, many thrive in
moist, semi-shaded conditions. Plants that produce lush, green leaves (eg parsley, chives,
chervil, sorrel) will do well in partial shade. In full sun the leaves will be tougher
& tend to scorch. Plants with small or narrow, tough leaves generally need full sun
and well-drained soil, to thrive (eg lavender, rosemary, thyme).
All hardy annuals,
biennials and hardy perennials can be sown directly outdoors, from March through to
October, into a well-prepared seedbed. Rake in lightly and keep well watered and weeded,
until the plants are established.
Tender annuals and perennials are best sown in spring, in pots, plug trays or modules. Use
a fine, seed grade, compost. Fill pot or tray to the brim, water well and allow to drain.
Sow seed sparingly on the surface. Cover larger seed with its own depth of compost.
Cover the container to retain warmth and moisture and check every few days for signs of
germination. Do not allow the surface of the compost to dry out. When the seed has
germinated, move into the light, but protect from strong direct sunlight.
Late-summer and autumn sown seedlings may need some protection over winter.
For more detailed information on specific varieties, go to the seed list and refer to the propagation code.
Herbs are beautiful
plants in their own right and deserve a place in the decorative garden. They provide
flowers and foliage of outstanding beauty, colour and fragrance. Many also have decorative
seedheads which add height and structure to the winter garden. Herbs also attract birds,
butterflies, bees and many beneficial insects to the garden. Most herbs dry well and
retain their scent when dried, making them useful for winter arrangements and pot-pourri.
Elecampane, Foxglove, Hollyhock, Honesty, Meadowsweet, Monkshood, Poppies, Loosestrife,
Elecampane, Poppies, Teasel, Thistle
|Chamomile, Evening Primrose,
Honesty, Lemon Balm, Meadowsweet, Muskmallow, Pinks, Stock, Sweet Rocket
|Anise Hyssop, Balm of Gilead,
Chamomile, Dill, Fennel, Feverfew, Lovage, Marjoram, Oregano, Sage, Savory, Thyme
|Elecampane, Fennel, Teasel,
|Anise Hyssop, Campion,
Comfrey, Hemp Agrimony, Mallow, Marjoram, Nettle, Loosestrife,
Oregano, Sweet Rocket, Thistle
||Fennel, Teasel, Thistle
Herbs will grow
quite happily in containers, once they are given adequate care and attention. Make the
most use of available space by using large decorative pots, window boxes, strawberry
planters and hanging baskets. Use an organic potting compost. Keep containers well watered
in hot, sunny weather. Place a tray under the container to retain moisture.
Planning your Herb Garden
When planning a herb garden, position your evergreen shrubs and plants first, making
sure to allow them enough space to mature. These plants will form the structure of your
garden, particularly in winter, when annuals and
herbaceous perennials have died back. Use annuals and biennials to fill in the spaces
between the permanent plants. For a pleasing arrangement, height, foliage shape and
colour, flowering time and colour, must all be considered. Complimentary colours placed
next to each other will provide a gentle, calming effect, (eg. pink works well with blue,
purple or lavender tones). Contrasting colours will create a more vibrant picture, (eg.
blue with orange or yellow, red with green).
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