Growing Advice

Herbs are fairly easy to please, after all, most of them grow vigorously in the wild and some may even be classed as wildflowers or weeds. You will find that the majority need little more than a sunny situation and a free-draining soil. There are exceptions of course: herbs such as bogbean grow naturally beside ponds and streams, while woodland plants, such as woodruff, prefer shade; these are useful for those difficult spots in the garden. It does pay to find out which conditions your herbs prefer and then to accommodate them as closely as possible this way your plants are more likely to flourish and produce the healthiest, best-looking results.

Another factor you will want to consider is the size of each plant, and herbs offer plenty of variety for tubs and borders alike. Some species, such as angelica and fennel, can grow to well over 150cm tall, while others, including thyme and chamomile, are ground-huggers that produce a delightful carpet effect.

Herbs can be chosen for hedging - rosemary and santolina, for example, are ideal and can also be clipped into formal effects - or grown as an ornamental tree, such as bay, or as shrubs - juniper, myrtle and witch hazel are good examples. Then there is the wonderful range of colours to choose from: silver-leaved herbs, such as southernwood or santolina, the purple hues of fennels, sages and basils; the golden glow of marjoram and thyme; the bright reds, blues and yellows of bergamot, borage and marigold. Many herbs have attractive variegated foliage, too
Winter jobs

A herb garden can look magical sparkling in frost or snow. Tidy up your garden - but only to remove wet leaves, weeds, ugly dead stalks, and the tops of plants that might rock in strong winds and loosen roots.

The old growth of many of the herbs will protect young buds and shoots growing lower down woody stems. Leave the tall seed heads for the birds.

Remove any weeds, and gently fork around plants to loosen soil. Cover anything that might prove tender in your area (eg Myrtle) with netting or frost protection. Pots of chives, parsley and French Tarragon placed in a well lit, warm environment will produce new shoots and provide flavour and garnish during winter.

Sage, Rosemary, Thyme and Savory can all be collected from the garden. Why not use some of them in your Christmas arrangements, in addition to their traditional uses in food. An infusion of Thyme with honey will ease coughs and colds.
Planting hints

If plants seem dry when arriving home or just delivered, soak the whole pot for a few hours in a container of water.

Spring planting is fine for plants, make sure the roots have sufficient moisture and mulch well in case a sudden dry spell occurs.

Autumn planting is ideal for many plants, as the roots will grow into the soil ready to support vigorous plant growth in the spring.

If planting in winter do make certain the ground is not frozen or waterlogged, if in doubt hold plants in pots until weather more suitable. The plants may be repotted into larger pots with a good compost.

Soil Conditions: If your soil is dry, fork over base of planting hole adding a good scattering of compost, leaf mould or similar material. Water hole thoroughly before planting. Firm plant into hole, tuck in soil around up to original soil level, and press firmly but gently.

Do not compact the soil. Water again, then mulch with compost, gravel or any other mulch available to conserve moisture and deter weed growth. In cold, damp, clay or soil make certain the drainage is adequate by deep forking base of planting hole. If possible raise bed a little.

Lavenders should be planted 12 - 18 inches apart depending on the speed with which one wants to form a hedge.

Lavender should be pruned lightly in summer after flowering to just below base of flowers, also to shape plants as necessary.

Any more drastic pruning and shaping should wait until end of March and April.