Herbs are some of the easiest and most versatile edible plants to grow. Most need nothing more than a sunny spot but some even grow with a little shade. Grow herbs in the garden, in a dedicated herb bed or popped in among the vegetables. Herbs are also easy to grow in containers such as a pot, hanging basket or trough.
As there are literally hundreds of herbs, start with the ones you love to pick fresh to add to your favourite meals or to use to make homemade herbal teas such as chamomile. Another reason to grow herbs is to bring pollinating insects to gardens. Some of the most popular herbs are parsley, mint, basil, thyme, chives, coriander, rosemary, sage, dill and oregano. Borage is an easy herb to grow to attract beneficial insects.
Herbs can be roughly divided into annual, biennial and perennial:
Annual herbs Include basil, coriander and borage, which can be grown as seed or seedling each year usually in late winter or spring.
Biennial The popular ones can include parsley, which can be sown from seed or planted as a seedling. In its second season, parsley will flower, seed and new plants will appear.
Perennials They grow year-round and include lemon verbena, curry leaf, rosemary, sage, mint and thyme. They can be grown from seed, seedling, potted plant or from a cutting or root division.
Tip: If you are new to growing herbs and/or are unsure of the varieties that will grow in your area. A wide selection of herbs is always on offer at your local hardware or garden centre to get your new herb garden under way.
Aspect Most herbs need a bright, sunny location with sun all day. Not only does the sun encourage good growth, but it also brings out the herb’s aromatic flavour. Herbs that grow with a little shade include mint, parsley, coriander and lemon balm.
Soil Herbs grow in a wide range of soils but most require excellent drainage. In areas with poor drainage, grow herbs in raised garden beds (raised at least 30cm) or in large containers. Mint is one of the exceptions as it needs moist soils.
Climate Although many of our popular herbs are Mediterranean or subtropical plants, they grow in all temperate climates. In tropical zones, grow Mediterranean herbs through the dry season or in containers that can be sheltered from excess rain.
Watering Once herbs are established many become drought hardy. Water more frequently if plants are in hot, dry or exposed conditions or if they are growing in containers. Herbs that need more frequent watering include basil, coriander and chamomile.
Feeding and mulching Herbs are not heavy feeders. Feed perennial herbs such as rosemary, thyme and sage every season with a slow-release fertilizer such as PowerFeed All Purpose including Natives. Other herbs can be liquid fed monthly with PowerFeed All Purpose including Natives while they are growing (spring to autumn). Many herbs that like a warm, well-drained spot also benefit from a mulch of fine gravel.
Pruning Picking herbs regularly keep them controlled and compact. Give excess herbs to family, friends and neighbours.
Watch out Herbs usually grow without too much trouble but can be attacked by caterpillars (especially prevalent on mint), aphids, snails and slugs, and other leaf eaters such as possums and grasshoppers. Where possible, control by hand removal or try EarthCare Natural Pyrethrum insect spray, by spraying on both sides of the foliage. Repeat spraying may be required 14 days later.