By Nat Mady, Co-founder of Hackney Herbal
Winter is the perfect time to plan your herb garden so you are ready to go as soon as spring returns. When choosing your plants it’s good to think about your space, how much sunlight it receives and whether you want a garden that keeps you busy through the season or something more low maintenance. Hardy evergreen perennials like sage and bay will give you greenery and interest all year round compared to herbaceous plants like lemon balm and echinacea which will die back over winter leaving a blank space.
Annual herbs like chamomile and borage will only grow for one season and so will need re-planting from seed each spring. If you only have a small patio garden or a balcony herbs are a good choice because they are happy in pots and will tolerate urban spaces as long as they get at least half a day of sunshine.
The rule goes that the bigger the pot, the bigger and more healthy your herbs will be. Bigger pots will also require less watering and less frequent re-potting. Ensure that your pots have drainage holes to avoid them getting waterlogged. You can sit these on plant saucers or inside a ceramic pot if you want to keep things tidy. I would recommend investing in large pots, at least 30cm deep for perennial herbs. You can get away with a smaller size for annual herbs as these will only grow for one season. It’s good to have a mix of organic and peat free compost and topsoil in your pots. Mediterranean herbs like lavender and thyme will also benefit from a few handfuls of horticulture grit added in to enhanced drainage.
Here are a few of my herb garden essentials:
An essential herb for the kitchen. It also has extensive uses as a herbal remedy – you can make a tea to help your memory or add a few sprigs into the bath to restore sore muscles and aching joints. Easy to grow from seed or from a cutting.
Its leaves carry an amazingly sweet sherbet lemon scent. It can be used to infuse sugar for desserts and sorbets as well as making a calming infusion that aids sleep. It is a tender perennial so will need a bit of protection from harsh frosts in the winter. Can be tricky to grow from cuttings so worthwhile buying an existing plant from a nursery.
All basils can be grown from seeds indoors on a sunny windowsill and will benefit from the extra warmth. Try varieties like cinnamon, lemon or red rubin for a more fragrant twist than common sweet basil.
Pot marigold. A very easy herb to grow from seed that will give you lovely bright orange flowers throughout the year. The flowers are edible and you can also use them to make an infused oil to create your own skin nourishing balms, soaps and creams.
Hackney Herbal are hosting two workshops as part of our Overwinter programme:
Herbal Teas for Winter Wellbeing
Tues 21 Jan, 7pm
Designing your Herb Garden
Tues 31 March, 7pm