You don’t need to be an experienced gardener to cultivate a herb garden, although a little inside knowledge helps.
The Cana Farm herb garden at Orchard Hills in Sydney’s west is thriving, according to its horticulture students. They’re growing loads of leafy and woody herbs like basil, thyme, chilis and sage.
Here are the questions you need to answer to get your herb garden off to a great start.
Which herbs should I grow?
Mint is one of the easiest herbs to grow – it will take over your garden given half a chance. Find a partially shaded position in the garden bed for your mint and keep the invasive root system from spreading by planting it within a container like a pot or a mesh bag.
Native to the Mediterranean region, rosemary thrives in dry conditions, and likes six to eight hours of sunshine a day. Grow it in well-drained soil and if you live in a humid climate, don’t overwater your rosemary. Once or twice a year add dolomite or lime to keep the soil pH high and your rosemary happy.
Chives are a low-maintenance herb that grow in clumps. Mix some compost with potting mix before you plant your chives in a sunny spot, and let them go. It’s normal for chives to become dormant during the colder months, but once the weather warms with the arrival of spring your chives should come back to life. Remove the pretty flowers when they bloom, but don’t discard them. Chive flowers are edible, making them a fun addition to a salad.
While parsley can be grown from seed, it is slow to germinate. Pick parsley leaves as soon as they start to grow – this will generate more growth.
What do I need to start my herb garden?
Herbs, like most plants, prefer to live outdoors. Find your herbs a sunny spot, either in a garden bed or in pots on a balcony. Once you’ve found them a home, all your herbs need to be happy is well-drained soil and regular watering.
If you plan to grow your herbs in pots, good drainage is essential. Invest in a good-quality potting mix rather than garden soil, which can become soggy and water laden.
Potted herbs need to be watered more often than those growing in garden beds. To work out how often you should water your potted plants, poke your finger into the potting mix. If it’s dry, it’s time to water your plant. If it’s moist, wait another one or two days before doing this test again.
How do I harvest my herbs?
Picking herbs promotes growth. Prune no more than one-third of a stem at a time, cutting above a set of two leaves that will form a junction and give you a bushier herb plant. Pinch out flowers as soon as you spot them to stop the plants from going to seed.
Enjoy the special privileges that come with joining the green thumb club! The sense of community that comes with a passionate green thumb is one of the reasons Cana Farm’s horticulture students relish their time in the garden. “The farm is a place that creates friendships and I love it,” one said.
Cana Farm has been supported by the Coca-Cola Australia Foundation. Click here for more information on grant applications, or check out our Coke in the Community stories.