be a sustainable gardener; how to grow herbs plus get the dirt on their amazing multifunctional uses

Posted by on Dec 20, 2015 in Home | 28 Comments

While I wilt, fade and become lifeless in summer there is an upside. Most herbs appear to thrive even in challenging, sub-tropical Brisbane. If it can be done here, it can be done anywhere. So if you’re not already doing it, you need to grow herbs! It can mark the beginning of future gardening ventures. My theory is that herbs are a gateway to growing more food. Growing herbs is sustainable gardening at its best due to their many functions including delicious culinary uses, flowers, medicinal properties, attracting pollinating insects and repelling unhelpful ones. The scent of a herb comes from the etheric oil found in leaves and flowers so during the warm heat of summer the amount of volatile oils are at their highest and most fragrant. Herbs are beyond easy to grow, low maintenance and provide a sense of achievement. Just imagine nipping out to the backyard or balcony to snip some herbs, throwing it in a teapot and pouring tea for visitors. You will appear to be a very together person.

Most herbs enjoy sun for the majority of the day with a bit of shade on the side. They are pretty forgiving and tolerant when it comes to soil but good drainage is very important. Moist is good but soggy soil is not, particularly in a humid climate where fungal issues can be a problem around the roots. Planting herbs with some sand or drainage gravel along with your soil and compost can help with this. Grow them in close proximity to your kitchen for regular use or in permaculture speak, Zone 1 (“oftenest is nearest”). I grow about half of mine in containers (need to water more in summer) and the other half in the garden mainly for companion planting and attracting and repelling insects. When planting in containers, use an organic potting mix and add water crystals to help survive the summer heat. I tend to fertilise every now and then with comfrey tea. Perennial herbs tend to die off in winter but return to their glory in spring and summer. Make sure you regularly harvest to keep them growing well.

So here is some herb porn from my garden with notes on my growing some of my summer favourites that I love to cook with. Check out my other posts on herbs…lavender, peppermint, bay leaf, curry leaf, basil, nasturtiums and rocket. They make a great gift for family/ friends during the merry season. Have a fabulous and safe xmas readers! :: Jem x

herbs1

B A S I L

I beg you to plant your basil next to tomatoes. Not only a divine culinary marriage but choice companion planting. Basil has the ability to repel fruit flies and mozzies if you grow heaps of it. It’s an annual herb that will die off in winter so I let it drop seeds wherever and always seem have a constant supply. So easy to grow from seed (sow in spring and summer). You’re supposed to pull off the tips before flowering but I leave them on as my bees love them. Basil is said to relieve headaches, anxiety and mild depression and can also help with digestion issues and upset stomachs. Something is wrong if I don’t have pesto in my fridge during summer (also check out my recipe for basil semifreddo). I grow purple ‘dark opal’ (Ocimum basilicum ‘Purpurascens’) and sweet ‘genovese’ (Ocimum basilicum ‘Genovese’).

O N I O N  C H I V E S  (Allium schoenoprasum
)

I grow them in pots and throughout my garden around the borders. Chives are a perennial herb that grow in clumps and die back in winter but are resurrected in spring when they produce pretty heads of mauve flowers. Don’t forget that the flowers are edible and awesome in salads. Chives also famously pair up with any egg related or gloriously cheesy dishes. In the garden they act as a natural pest repellent and can prevent apple scab and deter aphids (and blackspot under roses). Sow seed in spring and autumn.

M E X I C A N  T A R R A G O N  (Tagetes lucida)

This tarragon packs a punch with its full on aniseed scent and flavour. It’s similar to French Tarragon but is much stronger so don’t go too crazy with it. In summer it produces pretty golden yellow flowers on the top of the plant. I often infuse tarragon with white wine vinegar and this year it will be chopped and thrown into my roast duck fat potatoes for xmas eve. You can pretty much grow tarragon in any climate, it’s so so easy. Sow seed in spring.

R O S E M A R Y  (Rosmarinus officinalis)

A perennial with evergreen leaves that loves hot weather (it’s Mediterranean) and will stand the test of time. I grow it everywhere, in pots and all over all my garden to deter cabbage white butterfly and attract beneficial insects. I think rosemary has the best fragrance ever and the aroma is meant to clear the mind. No wonder I grow so much of it. So delicious to cook with especially lamb and roast veggies. It grows to a decent height of around a metre and a half so it’s great for hedging as well. In summer it produces pale mauve flowers and it grows really well from cuttings.

L E M O N  B A L M  (Melissa officinalis)

A perennial herb that has the most beautiful lemonade fragrance (it doesn’t flower in south east QLD). I often use fresh leaves (you can also dry them) to make herbal tea (seep in hot water for 5 mins) and it can be used as a remedy for fatigue, stress, insomnia and headaches. You can use fresh leaves in drinks, desserts and savoury dishes. Great for fruit salads, pairing with apples and making a herb butter. I also add it to my gin of course. Lemon balm attracts bees and butterflies and is a good companion plant to fruit trees, anything from the onion family, roses and tomatoes. Make sure you give it more shade when the weather gets really hot. Sow seed in spring.

 

28 Comments

  1. Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella
    December 21, 2015

    There are some great tips here Jem! And the companion planting of tomato and basil is a dream come true! They were clearly meant to be together 😀

    Reply
    • lostinutensils
      December 21, 2015

      Thanks Lorraine, there is nothing better than homegrown tomatoes and basil 🙂

      Reply
  2. Function 9
    December 22, 2015

    You are growing so many herbs! Great post. Merry Christmas 🙂

    Reply
    • lostinutensils
      December 22, 2015

      Thanks so much and merry xmas to you and yours. A girl can never have too many herbs! I’d be lost without them 🙂

      Reply
  3. Gourmet Getaways
    December 22, 2015

    Your garden looks so tidy!!

    Mine has run amuck!
    I love everything you have growing, I’m missing my basil at the moment. Everything else I have in the garden is doing well but this year the basil hasn’t done its thing for me.

    I just made a huge supply of tomato chili relish from the garden. I wish I could swap a jar for your homemade pesto 😊
    Thanks for sharing
    Julie
    Gourmet Getaways

    Reply
    • lostinutensils
      December 22, 2015

      Yum-tomato chili relish! Usually I can count on basil in this horribly humid climate…everything else tends to suffer LOL.

      Reply
  4. emma
    December 23, 2015

    Oh this is so timely and awesome. Great tips too (I tend to over water because I worry about them drying out but then worry I’ve watered too much, argh).

    That’s an interesting tip with the comfrey tea for fertilising too. I’m going to took into that.

    And summer in Queensland – so breathtakingly humid yet with gorgeous fruit, vegies and herbs, you can’t beat it.

    Have a gorgeous Christmas Jem! See you next year.

    Reply
    • lostinutensils
      December 23, 2015

      I know what you mean Emma…it can be a fine line at times with watering in our climate. Early morning (for the day ahead) is often a good time as well. I’m watering my herbs in pots twice a day at the moment. I find this time of year very challenging…even just going out to the garden lol. Have an awesome xmas-will see you next year for sure 🙂

      Reply
  5. Anna @ shenANNAgans
    December 27, 2015

    Your garden is beautiful! So neat. 🙂
    Our garden is in pot plants so we can move them around for perfect sun or if we want to make the pots a feature for our out door dining setting.
    Really great tips Jem, I’m gonna head to the nursery for a supply of Mexican Tumeric. Yarm!

    Reply
    • lostinutensils
      December 27, 2015

      Thanks Anna. Having a container garden is an excellent idea so you can move around with the seasons-great to hear!

      Reply
  6. Sky
    December 29, 2015

    Wow, a great collection you have. Excellent information and tips. I will definitely take a second look when I revive my herb garden from the rampant squash vine that knows no boundaries. Thanks for the great information.

    Reply
    • lostinutensils
      December 29, 2015

      Thanks Sky, herbs definitely need to be revived every now and then. And yes, squash can have a bit of garden domination going on! 🙂

      Reply
  7. Nicole - Champagne and Chips
    January 1, 2016

    Excellent tips. We have just started a little herb garden (on a top shelf away from the hound) and it is doing quite well.
    Rosemary is my favourite thing though, it grows wild down here. There is a huge bush on my walk home from the train and the novelty of free rosemary never wears off. 🙂

    Reply
    • lostinutensils
      January 2, 2016

      That’s fantastic Nicole, herbs are just essential particularly for someone who loves to cook like yourself. Rosemary is just the best 🙂

      Reply
  8. Cailee
    January 4, 2016

    This is awesome! Great tips! Thanks for sharing! 🙂 I’m all about sustainability!

    Reply
    • lostinutensils
      January 4, 2016

      Thanks Cailee. It’s the way to go, we all need to try and live more sustainably.

      Reply
  9. Nagi@RecipeTinEats
    January 6, 2016

    Excellent tips here! You have a wonderful collection.

    Reply
  10. lucie
    January 10, 2016

    Just found your blog – so inspiring! One of my absolute dreams is to move to brisbane (or Australia in general!) and another dream is to have my own herb garden (which is pretty much impossible with the continuous flooding/rain/wind in England!

    Reply
    • lostinutensils
      January 13, 2016

      Thanks so much Lucie, It’s great to meet you! I shouldn’t complain about Brisbane’s climate…we have it pretty good here. However there are challenges regardless of where we live with what we grow and England has its own special set 🙂

      Reply
  11. sherry from sherrys pickings
    January 18, 2016

    oh how i would love to grow herbs again Jem. But we have possums and turkeys and horrible weird slugs etc….i had a beautiful pot of chillies growing last month but it now looks like Hiroshima after the bomb. bugger!

    Reply
    • lostinutensils
      January 18, 2016

      Horrible weird slugs sound terrifying Sherry lol! Don’t worry, I’ve had a few pests this summer but I have a “do nothing” approach most of the time. I know you’ve said you’ve had trouble with bush turkey’s before. I’m very glad our backyard is netted for that reason!

      Reply
  12. e / dig in hobart
    February 11, 2016

    we (mum and I ) have never been lucky enough to have basil self sow! and saldy this year, not enough to make pesto… but it is a summer favourite and yes I grow it near my tomatoes!

    Reply
    • lostinutensils
      February 11, 2016

      Yah! Growing tomatoes and basil together are the best companions ever. I’m definitely grateful for eternal basil 🙂

      Reply
  13. Sam Rutherford
    April 9, 2016

    Good post Jem. I had heaps of herbs growing a couple of years ago but lost touch will it. Very inspiring to get it all going again. Thanks so much 🙂

    Reply
    • lostinutensils
      April 9, 2016

      Thanks so much Sam. I’m glad you feel inspired to do what you already know how to do! Herbs are really easy to grow if we just pay attention to a few things.

      Reply
  14. Agness of Run Agness Run
    February 12, 2017

    I am a passionate lover of herbs, Jam! Thanks to your post, I can now grow my own herbs in my garden. You incorporated some of the most beneficial herbs and how they should be grown.

    Reply
    • lostinutensils
      February 12, 2017

      Thanks Agness. Herbs are always the way to go and low maintenance (especially in summer!)

      Reply

Leave a Comment