In our humble opinion, a good herb garden is critical to any good garden. I (Hannah) grew up on a small herb farm in inner city Brisbane where my dad grew over 300 varieties, so I don’t feel ‘right’ until I’ve got all the basic herbs available at my back door. Not only do herbs create delicious smells coming out of your kitchen they are also riddled with medicinal properties. Here’s a snapshot of what’s in our herb garden, plants we couldn’t live without…
Common garden mint (we also have peppermint elsewhere) is a stable in salads, savory meals and gin and tonics. It makes everything fresh and zesty. It’s also a fantastic ground cover which will go ‘weedy’ if you let it, to prevent this from happening, plant it into the ground while still in a plastic garden pot, but with the bottom cut out. As mint’s roots are shallow runners they want spread, the plastic garden pot will keep them isolated.
Rau ram (Vietnamese mint) – has a unique strong taste which is great used fresh in rice wraps or curries.
‘Borage for courage’ is the old saying. Apparently Napoleon would give borage flowers to his troops before battle to help them feel brave. I have no idea whether this is actually true – but it sounds impressive. The flowers look like blue stars, we mostly use them in salads, but you can also make tea with them.
Feverfew is the go-to herb when you have a headache, we make tea out of the flowers and lie down to help those headaches melt away.
Echinacea – one of the most stunning herbs you can grow and profoundly medicinal. It’s generally used for preventing sickness and to boost the immune system. This is the first time I’ve grown it, as we’re nearing Winter the flowers have already died back, this photo was taken a couple of months ago.
Technically an annual, calendula is considered a perennial in our garden as it’s constantly self seeding and is everywhere, which we love and foster by throwing their dry seeds all over the place. The flowers are the bits you eat and make any dull looking salad look like a party.
Chamomile, a low ground creeper/cover is a beautiful plant to include in your herb patch. We harvest the flowers, dry them and use them for tea which has calming, soothing and a sleep inducing effect. Once the flowering has finished, I cut it back down to the ground which allows fresh growth to come back (as seen above left).
If you let it, pineapple sage will grow massive – the largest I’ve seen it is around 2m. We prune ours heavily to keep it compact. Those red flowers you can see are delicious in salads or perfect for decorating cakes… or anything really.
Rosemary is a stable in our cooking (sweet and savory dishes), all those little red flowers are actually from the pineapple sage bush above it – not the rosemary.
Nasturtiums are one of my all time favourite plants – you can eat the whole plant, although I don’t know of the roots. The leaves and flowers are scrumptious in salads and you can harvest the seed pods and make ‘poor man capers’ out of them. They’re also a fantastic living mulch and can be planted amongst perennial plants/orchards to protect the soil, attract beneficial insects and just make things look really good.
Oregano – a super tasty addition to pretty much anything you’re cooking.
Lemon verbena is one of the tastiest and refreshing teas you can make, simply pick the leaves, pop them in a tea pot and enjoy.
Did you know as well as making anything taste good, sage is also great as a tea for sore throats?
Purple sage, because it’s not enough to just have the common blue/grey one above, the more diversity and colour in your garden the better!
French tarragon – hmmmm, I admit I’m not sure how this one made it in. But it’s in, and we like it!
We use so much thyme in our cooking – when we’re struck by illness we’ll also make tea with it as it helps get rid of infections. Blend it with sage and make a tea for maximum health giving properties.
Curry bush really does smell and taste like curry, and guess what? We use it when cooking curries, surprise surprise.
The young, productive and full herb garden is also helping to stabilise a steep bank and is edged with a rendered brick wall/seat. This allows us to just ‘be’ in the herb garden, enjoying the smells and the large amount of beneficial insects attracted to all the flowers (there is always something flowering here).
In other parts of our garden we also have yarrow, comfrey and plantain growing semi-wild – I couldn’t live without these. Comfrey (also know as knit-bone) and plantain get a good work out around hear. You can literally use plantain as a bandaid – it’s got magic properties which help heal small cuts. And comfrey? Well, if you break any bones or sprain your ankle, mush up some comfrey leaves to make a poultice and strap them to your damaged body part and it will help heal you SO quickly it’s slightly unbelievable. We mostly use yarrow as a compost activator in our compost piles (comfrey and plantain also fit into this category of nutrient dense plants), but you can also make a tea out of its’ flowers which is good as an anti-inflammatory, helps break fevers and good for the digestive system.
On top of all these we have parsley, coriander (thrives in the cooler months), basil (in warmer months) and chives thriving around the garden which we’ve integrated into some of the annuals veggie beds (chives are a great border plant).
If you’re looking to find out more about growing herbs – you must explore Herbal Harvest, a book/bible written by Greg Whitten who lives in Tasmania and runs the Goulds Herb Farm.
* Your blogger is Hannah Moloney, co-director of Good Life Permaculture and lover of all things fun and garden-esk.