In this post, I have reproduced my third entry in the Yates spring veggie growing challenge, which I am entering this year.
Herbs have a very importance place in our garden. They are generally incredibly easy to grow. We really enjoy adding them to dishes to bring out their flavour. As they can be very expensive to purchase, they’re a good thing to have in the garden. It also avoids waste, as you can just pick what you need. Herbs are also important for medicinal reasons, although we don’t really use our herbs for this purpose. September is a good month to start growing herbs from seed and plant out seedlings. In the past couple of days, I have been doing quite a bit of both and will continue to do this later in the month.
As I mentioned in my first post, I purchased lots of seedling punnets from Kings Plant Barn a couple of weeks ago, as they had reduced them to just 99 cents each. When September began, I planted coriander and parsley seedlings (both triple curled and Italian) into our garden. I purchased a few punnets of chives but the plants are still quite small, so I’ve left them to grow a bit bigger before I plant them out later in the month. I also had some Yates Italian Plain Leaf parsley and Rocket seeds which expire this year, so I sowed them directly into our front garden, next to some existing Italian parsley and rocket plants. I also ordered some herb seedlings from a great mail order company called Awapuni, who deliver seedlings wrapped in newspaper direct to your door, saving you the hassle of having to go to the garden centre! Their plants are always a bit more established than the seedlings in punnets which you would find at the garden centre, so I put in some of their triple curled and Italian parsley so we could get a head start on growing. Last year, we had hardly any parsley in the garden, but this year, it seems that I may have gone the other way because we have so much now! We love using parsley in salads, omelettes, soups and other dishes. It’s a very versatile herb. Because there was a problem with my order and I didn’t receive all my plants at once, when Awapuni dispatched the remainder of my order, they included some complimentary plants as a way of apologising, which was very kind of them. The second part of the order arrived yesterday. One of the items was a large bundle of mixed herb seedlings, including some incredibly healthy looking thyme, oregano and dill seedlings, as well as some coriander and triple curled parsley. I planted the thyme and oregano in pots soon after the plants arrived. I added them to our patio, which already contains quite a few different herbs in pots, including pizza thyme, marjoram and sage. The wwoofers who are staying with us at the moment helped me plant the coriander and dill in our herb garden at the back, near our washing line. It’s looking pretty packed right now! I do have a packet of Yates Dill seeds in my seed collection, but I may just hang onto them until next year since I received those complimentary plants from Awapuni unexpectedly. They don’t expire until next year anyway. We don’t use dill as much as the other herbs in our garden but when we do, it’s mostly to have with salmon. We also used to use dill in the recipe when we bottled gherkins from the garden in summer, but now that mum and I both have Type 2 diabetes, we don’t tend to do that anymore due to the amount of sugar used in preserving recipes.
In addition to some mature dill and coriander plants in our herb garden at the back of our house, we also have mint, chives, Italian parsley, triple curled parsley and rosemary, all of which were planted as seedlings during the winter. Normally we always have mint in the garden (it can get quite invasive!), but while wwoofers were weeding our herb garden back in April, they unfortunately pulled it all out as I forgot to tell them to leave it there! We were therefore in a somewhat unusual situation of having to purchase some mint plants from Bunnings when they left!
As temperatures increase in spring, I’ll sow more coriander. I have a packet of Yates coriander seeds, which I have sown in the past with good results. Like dill, coriander does best when sown direct, as its roots really resent being transplanted. I’ve noticed that coriander performs best in our herb garden at the back, where there is only partial sun. If planted in full sun, it tends to bolt to seed. I’ve also noticed that it tends to perform better in the garden beds than in pots, so I’ve put it all in our herb garden at the back of the house. We love using coriander in raita to have with falafel salad (I’m on a health kick and trying to be low carb, which is why I no longer have a wrap). We also enjoy using coriander in Asian and Indian cuisine. It is a key ingredient for homemade Vietnamese rice paper rolls. We haven’t made them for awhile, but it’s something I’m looking forward to making when I have a bit more time on my hands.
In spring, we always have blue borage in the garden. A few seasons ago, I sowed a packet of Yates blue borage seeds and since then, it comes up by itself year after year. We don’t use the flowers or leaves for anything, it instead functions as a bee-attracting plant to aid pollination in the garden. I do understand that the leaves and flowers can be used as a herb and also for medicinal purposes.
Luckily, our catnip overwintered so well that I won’t need to sow any more this spring. Not only does Ginger, our cat, enjoy smelling and lying on it but it also attracts nearly every other cat in the neighbourhood! We also have a tub of catmint in our back garden by the washing line which overwinters every year, although Ginger isn’t too fussed with it. When the cat grass which I sowed with the wwoofers two days ago germinates, I’ll put one of the trays near each of the catnip and catmint. Ginger has little corners of the garden which are devoted to her, but she generally enjoys and appreciates the garden, especially while we are working in it. It’s lovely to have some company while I’m working, especially when we don’t have wwoofers staying with us.
One herb that is essential to our summer garden is basil, but it’s still a little early to be thinking about sowing it yet. I just love it – its appearance, the flavour, the fragrance – everything about it! Over the years I’ve been gardening, I’ve found that basil does best when sown direct around about the beginning of November. Normally I grow basil in pots, to save space. I have a packet of the variety “Genovese” from the Yates range, as well as Italiano Classico from Franchi seeds, which is a firm favourite in our garden every summer. These two types of basil have large leaves and are perfect for making pesto, which we enjoy with a variety of dishes, including as a base on pizza (just like they do in Genoa in Italy!) and pasta. Sometimes we enjoy it just shredded and sprinkled over tomatoes from our garden drizzled with some olive oil, salt and cracked black pepper. Yum!
Even though I’ve been gardening for about six years now, every now and then I’ll have a moment when I ask myself whether it’s the right time to sow or grow a particular veggie or herb. Or I’ll want to grow something new and I’m unsure of when I should sow the seeds. Admittedly I can be lazy and just message my best gardening friend Minette Tonoli, who knows everything there is to know about gardening. But my ultimate go-to hand book on gardening is the Yates Garden Guide. It’s basically a bible for gardeners, with information on what to sow when, as well as how to care for different plants. I try to update my copy whenever I can afford to, so I always stay up to date with developments in gardening.
Another tip from me is to keep a gardening diary, so you have a record of all the different things you’ve sowed and when you’ve done so. It can be very helpful to refer back to sowing dates. If you have a very large garden like ours, it’s hard to remember everything you’ve been doing! It can also be interesting to compare your entries with previous seasons so you know when to do things and what works in your own microclimate. You can purchase the NZ Gardener diary, as I’ve done in previous years, although these days I tend to note sowing dates in a column on an excel spreadsheet which doubles as my seed catalogue because I find there’s not enough space in commercial diaries to record all my sowings! It need not be anything fancy, even a basic exercise or note book will do the job.
I’ve included a picture of our herb garden at the back, so you can see the progress we have made on it over the past few days.