Herbal remedies

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There’s a word which, although small, means a lot of things to a lot of people. If you grow herbs, you’ll know what I mean; if you don’t grow herbs, then perhaps it’s time you did because they are an integral part of the garden – and the kitchen.

During winter, an established herb garden can still provide plenty of offerings – many evergreen plants might look a bit past their best but they can yield fresh leaves, so don’t write them off.

Remember, the glass is half full, not half empty. If you’ve never grown herbs, now is the ideal time to think about it; to plan; to find the best site; to decide just what you want to grow and why. Is it just for the beauty of herbs, the scents, the culinary uses?

To be honest, none of those really matters. What does is finding that perfect site and getting growing. If there isn’t much space, don’t worry, because many herbs are just as happy and at home in a pot as they are in the ground. The added benefit of container growing is that you can move plants when and to where you want.

Herbs are adaptable, they will grow in most sites and situations, but the majority come from hot countries where the rainfall is low and the soils are poor. They have adapted to these conditions, so to expect them to thrive in a grey, damp, humus-rich soil in England is expecting a bit too much.

They don’t need a fertile soil (there are exceptions, of course) and they don’t need a moisture-retentive soil. But they do like to be out of cold, drying winds.

Just start them off in ordinary soil in the sunniest spot you can find. Add a bit of fine gravel to help with drainage. In pots, make a compost/soil a bit beefier because the plants will not be able to extend their roots in search of nutrients. Again, make sure the container is relatively free-draining. Unfortunately, in a dry spell this means you’ll probably have to water your herbs.

Better still, grow them in pots which you can move around to make the most of site and situation. You can also bring some indoors in winter to maintain a supply of fresh herbs like parsley.

You don’t need loads of space to grow them – some herbs are small, compact and will grow happily in a small area or container. Small really is beautiful.