Keeping herbs happy
Few plants are as easy-going as herbs. You can pop them in any spare corner and they'll settle in without fuss. Many of the herbs you'll find in our Donaghadee, Bushmills, Ballymena and Ballyclare garden centre are evergreen, too, so they'll perform all year without demanding much in return.
But to encourage your herbs to produce plenty of fresh growth for you to pick, it's worth paying them a little extra attention. Follow our top tips to enjoy heavenly herbs all year round.
- Improve drainage: shrubby herbs like rosemary, sage and thyme hail from the poor, stony soils of the Mediterranean – and that's what they'll enjoy in your garden. If your soil is slow-draining clay, dig in bagged grit, available from our garden centre, before planting.
- Sun or shade? Most herbs like to bake and prefer a spot in full sun, but there are exceptions. Parsley bolts if it's too hot, and chervil too prefers shade. Other herbs for shady spots include lemon balm, sorrel and sweet woodruff.
- Sow annual herbs little and often: coriander, dill and chervil are quick-growing, leafy herbs, ready within a couple of months of sowing. Make sure you don't run out by sowing a new batch every month, ready to take over once your first harvest is finished.
- Give flowering herbs a haircut: mint, marjoram and thyme flower profusely in early summer, and bees adore the blossoms. After the flowers are over, though, trim back the plants by about a quarter to encourage a new flush of leafy growth.
- Repot mint every year: always grow mint in containers, as it's incredibly invasive (sink the pot among your other herbs for a more natural look). To keep it healthy, knock the plant out of the pot each spring, divide and replant in fresh compost.
- Bring in frost-tender herbs: lemongrass, French tarragon and stevia don't tolerate temperatures below zero, so each year before the first frost dig them up and pot up in compost with added grit for drainage. Overwinter in a frost-free greenhouse or on a windowsill till late spring.
Please ask the staff in our garden centre in Donaghadee, Bushmills, Ballymena and Ballyclare for more information and advice about growing herbs.