grow herbs

  • Grow at Home: Chives

    Chives_flowers_on_plantsChives are a low maintenance perennial herb.  The botanical name, Allium schoenoprasum, derives from the Greek meaning reed-like leek - a very accurate description as they are a member of the onion family.  Their leaves therefore have a mild onion flavour and are great when chopped up finely and added to dishes.  They add that little extra to a potato salad and give scrambled eggs a boost. 

    They are a great addition to your diet as they are a rich source of vitamin K, C and folic acid and minerals such as manganese, magnesium and iron. As well as eating the leaves, they also have edible pink flowers that make an attractive garnish for salads.

    Sowing

    In early spring, sow a few seeds thinly across the surface a 3 inch or 4 inch pot or into plugs.  Cover with a thin layer of vermiculite, water and place in a heated propagator or warm windowsill to germinate.

    If you forget to sow seeds or want to save time, buy ready-grown plants.

    Growing

    Chives form 1ft (30cm) tall clumps.  They grow well in ground or in pots of soil-based compost  preferring a moisture retentive, well-drained soil.  Outside, plant them in a sunny or partially shaded position.

    Chives are very low maintenance.  Just keep them well watered, especially during long dry spells in summer.

    Lift plants every 3 years or so and divide them.  Simply cut with a sharp knife and replant the sections.  This will rejuvenate congested clumps in the ground or pots.  If they are in containers, either divide them or you could move them to a slightly larger pot.

    Chives die back in late autumn. Clear away any dead leaves to discourage pests.

    Harvesting

    Chives_chopped_and_cutYou have a win win situation with chives.  The more you cut the more they will produce. Simply snip the leaves with scissors close to the base of the plant.  To keep plants going, remove the flowers as they start to fade.  Don't forget to or use them for your salads.

    Chives are best used fresh.  If you want to store them then snip them up finely, pack into an ice-cube trays and add a little water and freeze.

    Pests & Diseases

    Aphids: Greenfly may be seen on the soft shoot tips of plants.  If you catch them early then you can just wash them off or pick them off with finger and thumb and squash them.

    Leek rust: This is a fungal disease causing bright yellow spots on the leaves.  You are more likely to see this when the weather has been wet.  Mild attacks of rust won’t harm the plant.  There is no control for rust once the plant has it.  so the best option is prevention.  Avoid crowding the plants, to keep humidity down.  Cut any badly affected leaves and don’t grow other members of the onion family: garlic, leeks or onions in the same spot for three years.

  • Grow at Home: Rosemary

    rosemary_bushes_along_side_of_pathRosemary is a must-have herb native to Southern Europe. The bush form grows up to 1.2m tall - large enough to double as an evergreen shrub in the border. The low growing prostrate varieties are perfect for tumbling over a dry sunny wall or the edge of a terrace.  They make an excellent ground cover plant.

    As well as being a useful culinary herb, Rosemary is also a beautiful, drought resistant plant.  It  is great in landscaping in place of box or lavender. The attractive blue flowers that are a great source of nectar for bees.

     

     

    Soil and Aspect

    Rosemary thrives in a well-drained soil in a sunny position.  It is slightly tender and will suffer if it is planted in a wet soil during the colder winter months.  It is, however, an excellent plant for coastal areas.

    Rosemary is one of very few plants that thrives on neglect.  It will die if you fertilise or water it too much!  It also prefers a sparse soil without too much nutrient so is ideal for a stony dry corner where not much else will survive.

    Rosemary does well in containers with plenty of grit for good drainage and will benefit from protection In cold winters - Easy Fleece Jackets are ideal.

    Propagation

    rosemay_in_open_rootrainers_showing_roots

    Rosemary is best bought as an established plant or raised from cuttings.

    Cuttings couldn't be easier - on a cool morning snip off shoots of new growth without flowers  10-15cm long.  Remove most of the lower leaves so you have a clean length of stem.

    Use a sharp knife to cut off the base of the stem just below a leaf node – the point from which the leaves grow.  You can dip the ends in hormone rooting powder to speed up the rooting process.

    Fill Rootrainers with a gritty compost mix and insert one rosemary cutting into each cell.

    Water in cuttings from above to settle compost around their stems.  Then place in a cold frame or a sheltered area, using the Rootrainer lid to retain moisture.

    Once they have a good root system - which you will be able to see by gently opening your Rootrainers to inspect -  pot up individually into a loam-based compost. Plant cuttings out in their final position in Spring or Summer to get established before the temperature drops.

    One plant is usually ample for culinary use but if you do want to grow more then allow 75cm between plants.

    Growing from seed is not recommended as the germination is slow and often erratic.  If you wish to try it though, sow the seeds in good quality seed sowing compost about 1 cm deep. Keep them warm on a sunny windowsill or propagator.. Once you have some seedlings make sure you don’t overwater them.  Rosemary is drought tolerant and even at the seedling stage it is easy to overwater them.

    Harvesting and Storage

    Harvest the young, tender stems and leaves, taking off no more than one third of the plant at once.  For drying, harvest just before flowering and store the dried leaves in an airtight jar for use in the kitchen.

    Culinary Uses

    Use rosemary leaves for making tea, in sauces or for flavouring many dishes.  It is great over oven roasted potatoes and perfect with meats - especially lamb.

    Use it fresh or dried.  It has a powerful yet aromatic flavour and is excellent in herb breads or infused in oil.

     

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