Growing Healthy Herbs
Updated: Sep 9, 2019
This year at Dragonfly's Early Learning we are making a herb garden. We have been mulching and composting the soil for the past month, ready for planting in early Spring
Growing fresh herbs is a wonderful way to enjoy gardening and access delicious fresh flavours at any time. The children take an avid interest in what they grow and it is a great way to introduce "green" into the children's diet at a time when "green" is abhorrent to them.
Herbs were originally known as herbaceous plants (soft fleshy stems and foliage) and used by Herbalists or anyone wanting to improve their health. Today many plants are considered herbs or healing plants and are used in many ways, including;
Edible and Culinary foods
Dyes for natural materials
Herbs can be grown in any location, any size garden and are perfect for growing in pots and decorative containers. They are wonderful for getting a garden started and especially good for growing in small spaces.
Here are a few delicious, easy to grow herbs:
Flat leaf parsley is a must-have in any garden!
It’s one of my favourite and most used herbs.
Parsley is easy to grow and perfect for newbie gardeners or growing in small spaces. Grow Parsley in a container near the kitchen to pick and use as needed. Parsley has a long list of medicinal uses but is mainly known for its high vitamin C content and for aiding digestion. I guess that’s why it’s widely used as a garnish…to help digest our meals!
This useful little plant is considered a biennial (which means it has a two year growth cycle) as it grows well for the first two years and will then flower, produce seeds and die off. The seeds, if left to disperse, will spread throughout the garden and sprout when enough water, sunshine and warmth are available. Parsley is best harvested as needed and the stems and leaves are both used in cooking. The more stems picked the more stems will grow!
TIP – To encourage new strong growth, apply a dose of natural liquid fertiliser to the leaves and soil each month. Ensure plant foliage is washed or sanitised prior to use.
Rosemary is grown and used in many sunny locations worldwide.
Being the herb of Remembrance, it’s used to strengthen memory and also to lift one’s spirit. It has a distinctive scent, course foliage to touch and releases an oil that lasts for some time on the skin. It’s used as a sensory plant to enjoy the sight, smell, touch and taste of foliage and small flowers. You can grow this versatile perennial shrub in the garden or in a decorative container in well-drained soil. Perfect for that ‘hot spot’ where other plants won’t grow. Rosemary benefits from a good pruning prior to spring to encourage compact growth and to keep at a suitable sized shrub.
Thyme is another herb that’s easy to grow and best suits a warm, sunny location with well-drained soil. There are many species of Thyme, including Lemon, Variegated, Caraway or French. Thyme is a perennial ground cover, which grows nicely along the ground or looks lovely spilling over a pot or hanging basket. The stunning small grey leaves, with a delicious aroma, make Thyme another must-have plant in the kitchen garden.
Thyme is used in bouquet garni, along with Parsley, Rosemary, Bay Leaves. Tarragon or Chervil could also be included for extra flavour. Trim Thyme sprigs (small stems) with small kitchen scissors or garden shears as needed. The flowers are also edible so gather sprigs with flowers and sprinkle petals over meals.
Tarragon (Artemisia dracunculus) is a beautiful plant to grow in an ornamental or edible garden. Varieties include French and Russian with the Mexican or Winter Tarragon (Tagetes lucida) being similar in appearance, taste and scent but from a different plant family. These plant species grow well in a sunny location with well-drained soil and suited to garden or container grown. Plants die back in winter, so trim old brown stems to encourage new growth in spring.
All Tarragon varieties grow best from propagation of cuttings, which makes this plant very useful as a part of any kitchen garden. The stems will also grow from ‘layering’ on the earth and producing small, fine roots. These stems can be removed and potted up to easily grow new plants at no cost. The strong aniseed flavour is released when leaves are crushed or chopped and can be used fresh or dried and used as required although the leaves will lose some of their distinctive flavour when dried. Tarragon varieties grow lovely small yellow flowers which are also edible and have a slight citrus-anise flavour.
Mint is another very popular herb, which has too many varieties to mention here! Mint has been cultivated for its medicinal purposes for centuries and is now one of the most common herbs grown by gardeners. All mint varieties grow a creeping root which can take over a garden bed if left unrestrained, so it’s best to grow mint in a wide pot or large decorative container…old wheelbarrows are perfect!
Grow mint from cuttings off an existing plant and place stems into potting mix or a glass vase to grow new roots. Mint grows best in a part-shady location with damp soil to prevent it from drying out. A plastic saucer under pots helps to keep moisture in soil. Varieties include common mint, Japanese menthol (makes peppermint tea), spearmint, apple mint and my favourite chocolate mint…yes it tastes like choc mint and is delicious!! Enjoy fresh mint with a slice of lemon or lime in iced water during summer, chopped and added to fruit salad or other desserts, as an herbal tea (either warm or iced tea) or with cream cheese and other fresh herbs as a lovely summer dip. Also delicious in an Asian Salad
TIP – herbs are best used fresh for extra flavour and access to a high level of nutrients, so trim plants as needed. This will encourage the plant to grow extra foliage and flowers which will be ready next time you need them!
Growing Herbs in Containers
A fun and creative way of gardening, especially if you’re limited for space, is growing plants in containers. For many people this is a great method to start off with gardening and growing in containers may fit perfectly into your residential outdoor space.
There’s many advantages to growing in containers, including;
Limited space – use any size container to grow in the space you have available.Containers can be moved to catch the sun – potted plants can be placed in any area that receives at least 4 hours of sunshine.
Easy access – if you have limited space, you can place containers at any height to easily access plants.
Be creative – any item that can hold potting mix, be planted into and has good drainage is considered suitable to grow plants in, even old wheel barrow, buckets or foam boxes.A garden can be created anywhere – this is great if you’re limited for space and like to have herbs close at hand.
Ways to Grow
Plastic pots are quite common and suitable for all plants, they are available at all garden centres and hardware stores and in a range of colours and sizes. Terracotta, clay or ceramic pots are great for rosemary, thyme, oregano, marjoram or lavender as they prefer a drier, well-drained potting mix. For small spaces try growing herbs in hanging baskets or vertical wall planters.
TIP – Avoid growing in containers that have stored chemicals or have sharp edges.
If your choice of container has no drainage holes then using a drill, place at least 3 or 4 holes in the base of the container to allow water to drain away.
To learn more about Dragonfly's Early Learning our Coolum Beach Kindergarten, go to https://dragonflys.com.au/contact-us
or phone 07 5471 6500 to arrange a walk through or play date for your little one.
This information on growing herbs has been taken from an article by Cath Manuel, Horticultural Consultant