DIY Herb Garden
Not only can setting up a herb garden and tending to your plants be therapeutic and a great life skill to teach your kids, but it also produces many great flavourings and seasonings to add to your cooking. Your children will love seeing the herbs grow from seeds to mature plants, and then featured in their favourite dishes. A home garden will also mean you have a ready supply of fresh herbs to go, so you can cross those expensive items off your shopping list.
Benefits of a DIY herb garden
- Ready supply of fresh herbs.
- You know exactly which products have been sprayed on them.
- Save yourself money and time at the supermarket.
- Gardening is said to lower your stress levels.
- Teach your children about growing their own food.
Popular herb varieties
- Rosemary: Fantastic for meat dishes, particularly sprinkled over roasts.
- Mint: Ideal for a home brew of tea.
- Vietnamese mint: This has an intense flavour and is fantastic in fresh, spicy salads.
- Chives: Their mild onion flavour makes them ideal for potato salads, mashed potato and egg sandwiches.
- Parsley: Very adaptable and great for soups, casseroles and pasta dishes.
- Basil: Great for Italian pasta dishes and salads.
- Coriander: This herb is great in Thai dishes and hearty winter soups.
- Dill: You can use the leaves either fresh or dried; they're great in sandwiches.
- Sage: Dried sage leaves are great for meat dishes like roasts.
Where to plant your new herbs
Herbs are fairly durable and will survive in a large range of soil and environmental conditions. Generally, they love full sun and a cool climate, so find a lovely sunny spot to set up your patch. If you're living in some of the more northern, humid parts of Australia, you might be wise to find a space that also offers a bit of afternoon shade.
A raised herb garden is best as this will allow adequate drainage. Herbs generally don't like saturated soil so make sure you don't overwater them. If you have the space, create a large garden so you can create distance and airflow between the various types of herbs. Remove all existing weeds and fill with quality soil, then add a top layer of mulch to prevent future weeds from sprouting up.
Maintaining your herb garden
You may wish to use a slow-release fertiliser when first setting up your herb garden, but as they mature, these plants generally don't need too much in the way of fertilisation.
As mentioned above, herbs don't like wet conditions, so ensure that they're planted in a garden with good drainage. Try not to water them too much -- a light sprinkling of water each day will suffice.
Like a routine haircut, regular pruning helps encourage growth in your herbs. Simply remove the dead parts of the plants, cut a bunch to be used in the kitchen, and prune any branches to just above the leaf node. It's also important to pay attention to the herb's growing season when pruning. For example, don't over-prune during autumn before they become dormant in the winter.