Kitchen Garden Spring: Soft Herbs
The key to a thriving herb garden is to give each plant the conditions it needs to prosper. The result is easy gardening, and delicious pickings.
Some herbs prefer hot, sunny conditions on the dry side, other like to live rich. These five are our favourites for morning sun in rich soil with plenty of homemade compost dug through. These herbs like regular water and need a sharp eye out against attacks by snails, slugs and caterpillars, which love their soft tasty growth as much as we do.
Give each plant the conditions it needs to prosper
The flat-leaf, Italian-style parsley has a milder flavour than the curly types and is preferable in the herb garden. Planted in spring or autumn, plants will last for two years until flowering and going prettily to seed. Add parsley to soups, fish, salads, salsa and tabouli.
Sow seed in September, when the soils are warm, for thickets of thriving basil all summer long. Continuous picking is the secret to fresh-tasting leaves. Pick long stems rather than a few leaves to encourage new growth to come from lower down. At the end of the season collect seeds to sow next year.
This superior selection of mint has naturalised in a moist shady corner of our garden. It’s always there when we need it to pop into a mint tea, salad, or cool drink. Watch out for caterpillars through the summer months.
This is a winter-spring herb only, as it bolts to seed in warmer weather. Sow or plant it in early April, and enjoy the leaves until it goes to seed once the weather gets hot. Let the seeds fall and reseed in the same spot year after year.
This lovely soft herb with a subtle aniseed flavour is known as the gardener’s herb as it spoils easily in packaging. In autumn, choose a semi-shaded spot and sow seeds in situ as each plant has a taproot that doesn’t like being transplanted. Pair the lacy delicate leaves with buttery potatoes, fish, chicken or eggs. Add fresh leaves just before serving to avoid loss of flavour.