According to research done by the Energy, Environment and Transportation Division, more than half of Canadians grow herbs, these amazing and versatile plants are not only beautiful, but can also be used in cooking and medicine.
Herbs generally grow exceptionally well in pots and they don’t need a lot of space. 82% of people grow them in their backyard, but 30% of people use their balconies and you can even grow them indoors.
Fast Growing Herbs
There are several types of herbs that grow extremely quickly and are prone to not only taking over a garden pot, but also to self-seeding elsewhere. Garden mint, ginger mint and peppermint are common culprits.
Lemon balm is also extremely fast growing and will even grow in the cracks in between patio stones. These herbs are best grown in large containers away from your other herbs. You can make a real statement using planters of different sizes, just make sure that you choose pots that are frost resistant, or they may crack in winter.
Terracotta is a good material for pots and will generally survive the cold, Canadian winters. If you want your herbs to grow even quicker, make sure that you fertilize them every week with a natural fertilizer, such as water that has had stinging nettles or comfrey soaked in it.
Some of the Mediterranean herbs like Basil, Greek Basil and Lemon Verbena are not particularly hardy and will wilt at first frost. If you are growing these herbs in pots, then it is important that you bring them indoors during the cold months. They will fare well on a sunny windowsill or in a conservatory.
Out in the backyard it is important that you keep these herbs in an area that is as sheltered as possible to protect them from getting wind burn. When you are removing Basil leaves to use, then take the leaves from the top of the plant. You can remove a third of the height and the plant will still thrive.
Cut above a leaf pair rather than below it and the plant will still grow. Lemon Verbena can get quite woody if you are keeping it for more than one season and even though it may look like it has died off over winter, it will still grow back next spring, so don’t throw it away.
In the winter months, there are still some perennial herbs that will thrive outside, even if there has been snow. Rosemary is the ideal candidate to keep outside, it is hardy and slow-growing, but you should make sure that you repot it regularly so that it always has space to grow. Both curly and flat-leafed parsley are resilient to the cold weather.
These plants commonly self-seed, so they will get bigger (and more unruly) every year. Although many species of thyme originate from warmer European countries, it is a herb that will last well in cold weather and have plenty of new growth in spring. Winter savory is also very hardy, it has a flavor that is very similar to thyme and is a welcome addition to soups and stews.
Herbs to grow for the seeds
Some herbs have delicious leaves, but it is the seeds that are really prized in cookery. Fennel is a beautifully sculptural plant to grow in a large garden pot. In the summer it can easily grow to 1.5 m tall. The bulb is often used in cooking and the fronds make a lovely addition to a salad, but the seeds are arguably the best bit.
One fennel plant will produce hundreds of seeds. These can be used fresh in sauces, or sprinkled onto a pizza, they have a delightful aniseed zing. You can even caramelize fennel seeds in sugar for a sweet treat. Dill is another great herb that produces tasty seeds. They are commonly paired with fish, but work easily well with many savory dishes, such as potato salad or sprinkled on a jacket potato.
Herbs have been used for their healing properties for thousands of years. When you are choosing the herbs for your garden pots, pick a few varieties that might be good for some home remedies. Chamomile is an excellent all-rounder with a delicious sweet scent.
Research has found that it is an excellent herb to help treat the symptoms of the common cold. It is also commonly used to help treat restlessness and insomnia.
Lavender is another scented herb that is often used in traditional medicines as well as lending it’s perfume to soaps and shampoos. Lavender has anti inflammatory and antiseptic properties. The flowers can be added to warm water to help treat cuts and bruises or even added to your bath to help soothe the symptoms of sunburn.
It is also used to aid sleep and help relax the mind and body. All you need to do is put some lavender flowers underneath your pillow at night to help you drift off to sleep.
Looking after your herbs
When you are keeping herbs in pots, the soil has a tendency to dry out quicker than it would do if you were keeping them in a bed. Make sure that you regularly water them, daily in the summer months. You should also make sure that your pots have drainage, so that the roots don’t get waterlogged. Rosemary in particular needs plenty of drainage, although will thrive well in even poor soil.
Make sure that you harvest your herbs regularly as this will encourage new growth and you will always have new leaves and seeds. If you don’t use all the leaves fresh, then you can dry them out and store them in a waterproof container. You can also freeze the fresh leaves – this is how they are often kept at restaurants.
Herbs are perfect to grow, even in a small space. Keeping them in pots means that you can move them around as the seasons change.