Herbs are easy to grow and very rewarding. Their most common uses are culinary or medicinal. The majority enjoy full sun, or part sun part shade, and will perform well in the ground and pots. Good drainage is important. Some pungent herbs serve as a deterrent for bugs and some are beneficial as companion plants in the vegetable garden. Mint is best planted in pots to stop it from taking over.
Frequently grown herbs include Rosemary, Basil, Mint, Chives, Parsley, Oregano, Thyme, Curry Plant, Coriander, Dill, Fennel, Lemongrass. Wormwood.
Grow basil in a well-drained full sun position. The plants like the warmth and can get a bit of leaf rot and fungus if left in a cool damp place. Basil is a good companion plant for tomatoes and also goes well with them in cooking. Keep picking the tips or pruning and you will get a bigger crop and it won’t go to seed as fast. Makes a great pesto!
Chives are a perennial in the onion family. They grow from small bulbs and are clumping and grass like with strappy leaves. They will self-seed and quickly spread through your garden but it is easy to pull them out if they grow in an unwanted position. They prefer a well-drained soil, but take very little maintenance once established. Great for adding flavour in all sorts of cooked dishes as well as eaten fresh in salads or on sandwiches. Try the garlic chives for the garlic, onion mix!
Many people struggle to grow coriander in our area. It is more of a temperate climate herb, but if situated well you can grow it year round. In summer try planting in a cool shaded part of the garden. It will go to seed if stressed so water well. The seeds are a great culinary spice so if your plant goes to flower don’t just pull it out. The flowers are also excellent for attracting beneficial insects. If possible coriander prefers to be grown in the ground as it has a long tap root.
Dill is an annual herb growing up to a metre. It is hardy but because of its wispy fern like leaves it likes some protection from the wind and loves full sun. A good attractant for beneficial insects, it is also self-seeding. Both the leaves and seed are edible, with the leaves often used for flavouring fish and potato salads. The seeds are somewhat similar in taste to caraway.
Fennel is a very diverse herb. Its leaves, seeds, stem and bulbs can all be consumed. However, you will have to choose between the seeds and bulb as once the plant goes to seed the flavour of the bulb is ruined. The seeds and leaves have an anise taste, often used as a mouth freshener after meals in many Asian countries. The bulbs can be sliced and used instead of onion when frying. Grow in full sun in a deep, well-drained soil. It needs a fair amount of space and develops a large root system so it is not the best for pots or containers. It will cross pollinate with other plants and this can reduce flavour.
In the mint family, this tasty herb i s a mix of lemon and mint. It goes well year round in a semi shaded position with a rich, well-drained soil. It is aherb that likes to be pruned so harvest continually, plucking fresh leaves as needed. Its flavour does not stay once dried so it is best used freshly picked. Great on chicken and fish but only add at the end of the cooking process. Makes an excellent tea, good for soothing and relaxing the nerves after a big day or when feeling under the weather.
Do not plant mint in the garden. Containers only! It has underground runners that are impossible to get rid of and will spread quickly taking over your whole garden. Mint can be grown year round but will need plenty of water over the hotter months. A partly shaded position is ideal.
Oregano is an easy to grow, ground covering herb. It likes full sun and doesn’t need a rich soil and in fact a good soil can reduce the flavour of its leaves. Likes a well-drained soil and can be prone to root rot and moulds in humid tropical areas. Does well in containers and will send out runners. often used in Italian cooking, it is a herb that increases in flavour when dried. An essential in any spaghetti bolognaise!
Parsley is an easy, fast growing, herb well suited to the sub-tropics. It likes a full sun or part shade position in a rich well drained soil. Parsley does well in containers or planted straight into the ground. It is considered a biannual so given proper care it will keep giving for two years before going to seed. It is rich in vitamins and minerals and comes in two varieties, curl leafed or Italian.
Rosemary likes a hot, dry climate and is not tolerant of frosts. It can also tolerate some salt air so can be planted close to the beach – but keep it in a well-drained open area as it can struggle under high humidity. It is a perennial, evergreen with aromatic foliage and attractive flowers, growing to about a metre. Great on roast lamb and roasted vegetables.
A perennial herb, best grown in a dry, sunny position. Sage does not like wet feet and will get root rot if left in heavy soils, so plant in a well-drained soil. It is hardy and can adapt to non-fertile soils. It is versatile in the kitchen and also has a variety of medicinal uses. There are a number of edible varieties, some with a glorious scent such as the pineapple or fruit scented sage.
Stevia rebaudiana, commonly known as sweetleaf, sugarleaf or just stevia, is a herb native to subtropical and tropical regions of America. The leaves can be eaten fresh or added to teas and food as a sugar substitute.
Extract from the leaf is sweeter than sugar and has been used commercially over the past few decades. Unlike sugar, it is not a carbohydrate and does not raise blood sugar levels.
Grow in well drained soils in full sun in warm climates. Plants will grow to around half a metre and leaves may be dried like any other herb.
Tarragon is another easy to grow herb that is not too fussy about soil requirements. It does however like a well-drained soil and can be slightly susceptible to fungus and moulds. In a hot climate it is ideal to give it a bit of protection from the afternoon sun. French tarragon is the go to variety which has a mild anise flavour that goes well with most things, especially chicken. It makes a good companion plant.
Thyme is a perennial herb with small leaves and flowers and a strong, fragrant aroma. Ideally plant in full sun in a dry soil. Can be grown in pots and containers or in the garden. Both leaves and flowers are edible and are used commonly in stews and casseroles and Italian cooking. Comes in a variety of cultivars with lemon thyme and the ordinary garden variety the most common.