Herbs: a Novice’s Guide

Head over heels for Herbs

The delicious pungent addition to a salad- the backbone of a good sauce- the topical healer for burns and stings- the floral undertone of your mixed gin. Herbs have been the base of medicinal tinctures, the foundation upon which tea’s have been headily brewed, and the pillar of essential oils and essences for centuries. 

There is proof of the use of medicinal plants dating back as far as 60 000 years ago. Talk about living legends.

If you find yourself heady over herbs and rooting for rosemary, mad about mint and mellowed by Chamomile– you’ve found your tribe. Join us as we delve into the art, mystery and simplicity of growing, and enjoying, your own herb mix.

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What Herbs are available:

Available for planting from seeds or in seedling trays and individual herb pots at Lifestyle Home Garden, the variety of herbs out there can be phenomenal and perhaps overwhelming. That’s why we have teamed with Starke Ayres to bring you this divine ready-to-sow mix. Perfect for a novices herb window box, container collection or for planting in a trough, we will help you find the solution to getting the most out of your seed mix.

We already have a handy Seed Sowing Guide for detailed instruction on sowing all your favourite seeds.

Which seeds are included in my seed mix packet?

Chives can be used in a myriad of dishes as a fresh chopped garnish to salads, egg sandwiches, potato dishes and soups. They lend a delicate onion flavour and a bright green aesthetic to any dish they are added to. Mixed into softened butter or cream cheese, they add zing to breads and as a butter-melt on steaks.

Fennel is the fragrant bulb you need growing in your garden! The raw bulb’s beautiful anise flavour pairs amazingly well with citrus salads- shave it delicately as the flavour is strong. Chop up the bulb for use in soups and stews, and add the chopped lacey leaves into salads for pungent crunch. If allowed to go to flower, the heads form wide sprays of yellow tiny flowers, which attract butterflies and bees, and lend visual interest and height. For more information on how to attract bees click |HERE|

Parsley is a staple in tabbouleh salads and no middle eastern stuffing would be complete without it. Packed with folic acid and vitamin C, the nutritious herb is well worth incorporating into your green juice recipes. It is an attractive edible landscaping plant, adding height and bold colour to any bed.

Coriander is the must have companion to any curry! It is a herbaceous annual, with dark green leaves which are distinct in flavour. The leaves should not be confused with coriander seeds, which taste very different. The “cilantro” or Chinese Parsley is an easy to grow and prolific herb which will add zing and floral scent to any eastern dish. It’s leaves damage easily and much like chives, it should be added to dishes at the end of cooking to retain it’s structure and colour. We have a separate blog about this divine herb |HERE|

Today, Borage is cultivated primarily for its oilseed. But for the home gardener, Borage yields a delicious fresh-tasting vegetable (the leaves) which can be added to salads and soups. It’s beautiful Ultra-violet coloured flowers make it an excellent attraction for pollinators, and are edible too! For more on Ultra-violet coloured plants click |HERE|  There are many medicinal uses for this plant too; increasing breast milk production in mothers just to mention one.

Chervil is the slightly more pale cousin to parsley, it’s fine fronds a delicious addition to egg dishes such as omelets. Dubbed French Parsley for it’s inclusion in the French herb mixture “fines herbes” (which comprises parsley, chives, tarragon and chervil)

Chamomile has all the letters of the word CALM in it, and with good reason. A soothing tea concocted from these leaves will have you relaxed and calm in a naturally sweet way. It was even used to calm Peter Rabbit down after Mr McGregor chased him, so we know it’s the real deal. Belonging to the family Asteracae, the abundance of white and yellow daisy-like flowers make this herb beneficial to both tea-drinkers and pollinators. (Interestingly,  it’s not advisable for pregnant women!)chives green onion lifestyle home garden nursery plant shop blog johannesburg gauteng herbs

Placing your seeds

Your easy to grow herb mix can be sown year-round. It is suggested that they be planted in full sun, but in extreme heat, herbs appreciate semi- shade. Find a spot where your seeds will get morning sun and afternoon shade for optimal germination.

If you are planting in the cooler months, starting seed in seed trays indoors is a safer bet.

How do I plant my seeds?

Seeds can be sown Direct, into Seed beds or into Seed trays. Direct means sowing straight into the prepared soil. Prepare the soil properly as for the seedbeds. Don’t sow seeds too close together and thin out to the spacing indicated on the seed packet.

Seed beds are prepared beds where seeds are sown, from where the seedlings will later be transplanted. Dig the soil over to a depth of about 15cm, remove all stones and clots and dig in a generous amount of compost and Fertilis.  Dampen the soil. Sow the seeds in rows and cover with soil to the depth indicated on the packet.  Water well with a fine spray and cover with straw or mulch to retain moisture.  Thin out weaker seedlings to allow space for stronger ones to develop.

To sow into Seed trays, a good mix of equal parts of a good topsoil and compost is required. Fill the trays with soil and level off. Compact it very lightly and spray to dampen the soil. Sprinkle the seed evenly over the top and cover with soil to the depth indicated on the packet. Water very gently with a fine spray and cover the seed trays with newspaper or black plastic for protection and to keep moisture in.  Do not place in the hot sun at this stage. Water daily and check for germination. As soon as the seeds start to germinate, remove the paper and gradually expose it to more sunlight.

For more information on these methods of sowing and to decipher the instructions on the back of your seed packet, click |HERE|

Here is a break down of the requirements for your seed mix:

POSITION: Sun (preferably morning sun) / Semi-shade

SOIL: Very well composted fertile loose soil. If you do not know if your soil is in good condition, feel it with your hands. It should be loose and aerated without being compact. Add plenty of compost and potting soil to your mix if you are unsure.

WATERING: Your herb mix needs to be kept moist, but not waterlogged. Water twice a week in beds and every second day in pots. Never allow water to pool in the container or trough- this means there is too much water. If you stick your finger into the soil it should feel moist without being too wet or too dry.

FEEDING: Feed once a month with an organic, water-soluble fertilizer of your choice. Lifestyle has a wide array of fertilisers- ask any of our staff who will assist you in choosing the best one for your needs.

PLANTING: Planting directly into soil is easiest, and seeds will begin to germinate in 7-21 days. However, planting into seed trays can also be done. In colder weather it’s sometimes wiser to start seed off indoors where temperatures are more regulated. When they begin to germinate and show a few leaves, this is when they are stronger, and they can be transplanted into the ground.

Harvesting your seed mix:

Pick the fresh leaves regularly to promote new, vigorous growth. They should be mature and ready to pick within 40- 80 days. If you find your herbs have bolted (grown really tall very quickly and perhaps produced a seed-head) in the heat, trim them, or save the seeds to plant again. When plants become tall and lanky, cut them right down and they will experience a growth burst, providing you with a fresh flush of leaves.

Uses for your herb mix:

With a fresh and fragrant mix of herbs, the uses are endless. Add to soups or light and fresh salads, bake into breads, sugar them and decorate cakes, or add to cocktails for freshness and zing. Crush in a mortar and pestle to make herb salt, or mix into sauces and stews for an antioxidant-packed punch.

Tie into bundles with string and dip into olive oil, to use for basting meat on the braai. (for more on Braai herbs click |HERE|) Or use these herb bundles to baste bread rolls before baking. Chop finely, add to ice cubes and freeze- the perfect way to preserve your fresh herbs. The same can be done with olive oil instead of water. Let your imagination run wild with ideas.

How do I get my free Mixed Herb seed packet:

Simply visit our Lifestyle Loyalty Club Kiosk and sign up for our Loyalty program. You will be given a free seed packet with your sign up.

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Ancient Greeks and Romans used to scream and curse whilst throwing Basil seeds into their vegetable beds, believing this would encourage vigorous growth. For more interesting (and sometimes, downright arbitrary) facts about herbs and spices, click |HERE|

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