We sell our herbs at around one hundred shows and markets per year and love meeting people and answering all the herbs questions we are asked. Some herbs seem to cause more grief than others growing-wise and below are the answers to those questions asked the most.
Why does my basil die?
Basils are very tender herbs that dislike the cold and wet weather we have in the British Isles. The best months for growing basils outside are June, July and August. Either side of that, the best place for them is a sunny windowsill inside where they grow very happily. If we have a wet and miserable summer, it wouldn’t be worth growing them outside at all.
My coriander always goes to seed.
The best growing conditions for coriander are areas of light shade and fertile, well-drained soils. Being an annual, it is going to flower and go to seed. This process is speeded up if the plant suffers any stress – such as not enough food or a watering or two is missed in warm weather. Keep cutting the leaves, feed and water regularly and when it does flower, don’t rip it out. Save the seed and resow or if it is in the ground allow it to self-seed. You should never be short of coriander again.
My bay died in the winter.
Bay trees grow very well in this country, but a bay tree in a South-facing position is prone to having its leaves burnt when the sun shines on cold frosty leaves. The best position is either a Northern aspect (full shade) or a Westerly one (morning shade). If you have a bay in a pot, you can move it for the winter. All is not lost if the leaves are burnt off, however. In the spring, cut it right back, give it a good feed and wait. Often as not, they will sprout again from the bottom.
My thyme always dies in the winter.
Thyme is a real sun worshipper and though it can cope pretty well with cold temperatures, it copes less well with wetness. If you have a heavy clay soil that retains lots of water, it is always going to be a struggle to keep your thyme alive. In a pot, they enjoy well-drained compost. Lifting it onto a brick in the winter also helps it drain more effectively. The other trick is to cut it back by about fifty percent after the flowers have died in the summer, this helps stop it going woody so quickly.
Why does my parsley die after a year or two?
Parsley is a biennial – it puts on lots of leaf growth in the first year and then flowers and dies in the second. It will self-seed if grown in the ground.
Should I cut my chives back when they flower?
You can do, but why not eat them. They are delicious and attractive broken into their individual florets and put into a salad. Insects love them too. They will put all their energy into the flowers, so you will find very few new leaves growing at the same time.
Which is the best sage for cooking with?
Personally, we would recommend either the common green one or the purple-leaved type. Both have an excellent flavour. The golden and tricolour have a little less flavour, but make up for it in sheer attractiveness. The tricolour is a little less hardy than the others.
Should I contain my mint?
That depends on how much space you have and how much mint you eat/drink. Mint certainly likes to spread itself about, particularly in heavier soils so people often opt to grow it in a pot. The roots will fill a container very quickly, so if you find after a while that your mint is less than luscious and growing sparsely all around the edge of the pot, tip it out, chop the whole root ball in half, and replant one half into fresh compost. Give the other half away. Your mint should romp back in no time.