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How to Grow Annual Herbs

Lets dive straight into the wonderful world of annual herbs. If you've ever dreamed of cultivating a thriving herb garden that bursts with flavours and aromas, you've come to the right place. Growing annual herbs is not only a rewarding experience but also a fantastic way to elevate your culinary creations and add a touch of nature's magic to your home. So, let's roll up our sleeves and get those green thumbs ready to dig into some herb-growing goodness!


Picking the Perfect Spot:

First things first, choosing the right location for your herb garden is crucial. Most annual herbs love the sunshine, so try to find a spot that receives at least 6 to 8 hours of sunlight daily.  A sunny windowsill, balcony, or a patch in your garden or patio will do the trick just fine. Make sure the area is well-drained to prevent your herbs from sitting in waterlogged soil – they like their feet dry!


Getting Your Hands Dirty:

Once you have found the ideal spot, it's time to prepare the soil. Don't worry; this part isn't as intimidating as it sounds!  Annual herbs generally prefer well-draining soil that's rich in organic matter. You can mix in some compost or aged manure to give your herbs the nutrient boost they crave. If you're growing in containers, make sure to use a high-quality potting mix to ensure your herbs have the best chance at success.


The Herb Squad:

Now comes the exciting part – selecting your herb squad!  There are plenty of delightful annual herbs to choose from, each with its unique flavours and uses. Some popular choices include:


1.  Basil - Ocimum basillicum:









A classic favourite with its sweet, aromatic leaves. Perfect for pizzas, pasta, and fresh salads with tomatoes.  Sow from August to November in a propagator, heated greenhouse, sunny windowsill indoors in pots or multi cell trays.  Sow direct outside from October/November onwards.  Basil likes warm sunny position and rich, well drained soil.  They are great for growing in containers/planters but keep an eye on the soil and don’t let it dry out.  Ideally water before late morning so the soil dries quickly.  Pinch out the the tips for a bushy plant and to stop flowers forming. 
Sweet Genovese is the most well know of the basil plants but there are others such as mini Greek basil (ideal for pot growing), Cinnamon basil, Dark Opal basil (deep purple colour), Lemon Basil are just a few.


2.  Coriander/Cilantro - Coriandrum sativum:









Known for its bright and zesty flavour, coriander/cilantro is a must-have in Mexican and Asian-inspired dishes.  Coriander can be slow to germinate so you can carefully crush the seed before sowing to aid germination.  It prefers direct sowing rather than in cell-trays but if using cell-trays remove carefully and do not disrupt the roots.  Coriander has a tendency to bolt as soon as the weather gets warm so best to sow in spring and late summer/early autumn. 


3.  Dill - Anethum graveolens:










Add a burst of freshness to pickles, seafood, and sauces with dill's feathery leaves.  Dill needs to be grown outside as it grows tall.  Dill can be sowed direct from late spring or in pots from in a greenhouse or on a windmill from late winter.  Dill and Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) are both members of the Apiaceae family (formerly known as the Umbelliferae family). Since they are closely related, they have the potential to cross-pollinate if planted near each other. This can result in undesirable hybridisation, which may affect the flavour and characteristics of both plants.  Dill requires well drained, loose soil and ideally some shade.  If it dries out it will bolt so keep well watered.


4.  Parsley - Petroselinum crispum:










A versatile herb that's great for garnishing and enhancing the flavours of soups, stews, and sauces.  There is flat leaf parsley and curly leaf.  The flat leaf has a stronger flavour and tends to be used more in cooking, where as the curly leaf tends to be used for garnishing.  Sow directly from late spring or in pots from late winter provided they are in a warm area.  Flat leaf likes rich and sightly damp soil, ideally with some shade.  Some varieties such as Gigante is a vigorous grower and produces lots of leaves.  Grows well in pots especially the variety Laura.


5.  Chervil - Anthriscus cerefolium: 










Otherwise know as French Parsley.  Well used in French cooking, having a subtle anise flavoured leaves and used exactly as you would use Parsley, in salads, sauces, raw or as a garnish.  Sow in pots or tray cells from late winter, or sow direct from early spring.  Likes loose, moist soil.  Pinch out flowers to encourage leaf growth.





With your herb squad in hand, it's time to start planting!  Follow the instructions on the seed packets for the correct planting depth and spacing between plants. Water the newly sown seeds gently, keeping the soil consistently moist until they sprout.  The ideal is to sow you annual herbs little and frequently rather than all at once.  If you sow seeds every four weeks from early spring it is likely that you will have an abundance of herbs right through to autumn.

If you prefer a head start, you can also find small herb seedlings at nurseries or garden centres, which can be transplanted into your garden or containers. Remember to give them a little extra TLC during the transition phase.

Herb Care:


Growing annual herbs is not just about planting and walking away; they'll need some regular love and care to thrive. Here are a few tips:


1. Watering: Keep the soil evenly moist but not waterlogged. Avoid wetting the foliage to prevent fungal issues.


2. Feeding: Feed your herbs with a balanced liquid natural tea (comfrey/seaweed etc) every few weeks to keep them happy and healthy.  


3. Pruning: Don't be shy to trim your herbs regularly especially if flowers start to form, cut them off. This will encourage bushier growth and discourage them from going to seed too quickly.


4. Pest Control: Keep an eye out for unwanted visitors like aphids and slugs. If you spot any, take appropriate measures to protect your herbs.


Harvesting the Goodness:



As your herbs mature, it's time to start enjoying the fruits of your labor! Harvesting is a simple pleasure: snip off the leaves or stems you need, and the plant will continue to produce more. Be sure to leave enough foliage on the plant to support its growth.


Preserving the Bounty:

With your herb garden flourishing, you might find yourself with more fresh herbs than you can use at once. Fear not – there are several methods to preserve their flavours. Drying, freezing, and making herb-infused oils or vinegars are all excellent ways to extend their shelf life and keep the deliciousness going all year round.

So there you have it – the beginner's guide to growing annual herbs!  I hope you feel inspired to kickstart your herb garden and embark on this flavoursome journey. Remember, gardening is a beautiful blend of science and art, so don't be afraid to get creative and have fun along the way.  Happy growing, and may your dishes be forever infused with the magic of fresh, homegrown herbs!

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