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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Which 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.

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

Which seeds are great to start with?

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 pot collection!

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.

For a dedicated post on Coriander head to this |BLOG|

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. (If you are pregnant however, it is not advisable to consume chamomile at all)

What’s truly great about these herbs is that they can all be planted on a sunny kitchen window sill and they will thrive.
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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. Your kitchen window sill pots or balcony planters should ideally get morning sun and afternoon shade for optimal germination. In the cooler months, start your seeds indoors in seed trays before transplanting to pots outdoors.

Here is a break down of the requirements for your seeds:

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 seeds needs to be kept moist, but not waterlogged. Water 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.

A fabulous and helpful tool in your quest for keeping your pots moist, is Lifestyle’s array of water-regulating tools. The Diffus’o and the Smart Irrigator both keep water levels at bay, ensuring pots don’t dry out. For more see our selection in-store.

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.

With potted foodstuffs it’s a wise idea to add water-retention aids to the soil. Wonder Stockosorb Waterwise Crystals increases your soils water retention. This is valuable on hotter days when pots do tend to dry out rapidly.

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 your outdoor pots.

For a comprehensive guide to container planting click |HERE|

Harvesting your herbs:

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 quite quickly, and perhaps produced seed heads) 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. 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.

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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|