In this blog we will talk about perennial herbs, when to prune them, how to divide them and which plants they will make for excellent companions. As always, there are a lot of these, so I will focus on the most common ones for now and put them into blogs each month. If there are any particular herbs you would like mentioned, please flick me an email through the website.
Herbs are such an important part of the garden and tasty delights in the kitchen. You can simply and easily make herb vinegars, infusions, oils and tinctures. They not only add flavour to your cooking, but are nutrient-rich and power healers, helping immensely with health, especially in treating the common cold.
If you are signed up to my newsletter, next week you will receive a link to my prized recipe printable for colds, coughs and sore throats – perfect just in time for the season’s change!
From Monday April 9th it is a good time with the moon to prune all perennial herbs. They can be pruned right down and the prunings can be either dried or infused into oils or tinctures.
Thyme (Thymus Vulgaris)
This particular variety of thyme is also known as ‘common thyme’ and is an upright plant, growing to 20 -30 cms. This is the most medicinal of thyme’s different varieties, with vast and potent properties – the flowers and leaves can be used for colic, sore throats, whooping cough, bronchitis, mucus and even a diuretic. It has anti-fungal and antibacterial properties, so is a must in all gardens.
Thyme likes sunlight and is pretty drought tolerant, which is great for those of us on tank water. Thyme likes a fairly rich soil and will benefit from feeding a few times a year. My best recommendation though (and what I do in my garden at home) is to feed the soil twice a year and then foliar spray in the hotter months, as the plants can absorb this much quicker.
Thyme is a great companion that will thrive amongst other herbs, but will also be of benefit to strawberries, cabbages, broccoli (the brassica) family, tomatoes and eggplants. Thyme is a great plant to put around your fruit trees or chicken pen.
When I had chooks I used to cut the thyme and hand in the chook pen and put in their laying boxes to deter mites.
All the other varieties of thymes are either culinary or ornamental. The above thyme is the only upright version, the rest are cascading or spreading thymes. I grow pizza thyme, lemon thyme and also a woolly spreading thyme. If my thyme bed gets too big, I will take a spade to it and chop a chunk off and replant somewhere else and cover with 90% soil as this will encourage it to take root.
What a wonderful and versatile herb this is! It is a member of the Allium family, along with leeks, garlic, shallots and spring onions. They grow into biggish clumps and are easily dividable in autumn by putting a spade through the middle of the clump and through the roots. Chives, although quite drought tolerant, can be prone to black aphids in the summer months when the ground dries out.
Chives can grow in full sun and partial shade and benefit greatly from regular cutting.
The beautiful lavender coloured flowers are also edible and look fantastic on the plate.
Did you know that 2 tablespoons of chopped chives gives you a good dose of Vitamin K which is great for brain function? They are also an excellent source of Vitamin A, so this is another powerhouse herb that I love.
Chives are a great companion in the garden, being especially beneficial to carrots, parsley, broccoli, cabbage, potatoes and strawberries to name a few. Chives repel beetles and aphids and are very successful when planted under apple trees and under roses.
I tend to keep chives away from Asparagus as they compete for the same nutrients, and I’ve found that they also appear to stunt the growth of beans.
Oregano and marjoram
There is a lot of confusion around the difference in these two plants. I won’t go into the technical detail here, as my aim is to make it simple for you. The taste difference between these two herbs is the easiest way to tell.
Oregano is the stronger flavoured of the two, even sometimes seeming quite spicy. Marjoram has a much sweeter flavour, more used for a subtle infusion, rather than a bold flavour of oregano. Oregano is hardier and will survive a frost, whereas marjoram tends to be frost-sensitive.
Both of these herbs are great for the garden and have a spreading habit. They are fantastic for growing over the edge of rockeries or raised beds, or as a ground cover in the garden.
I tend to let them go for it and cut a hole in them where I want to plant a seedling.
They are both pretty drought tolerant and have great medicinal properties. Oregano has superb anti-fungal and antibacterial properties, which can boost the immune system.
Beneficial insects, such as lacewings, love oregano and it also helps to repel pesky aphids. Brassicas and grapes really benefit when planted near oregano, but overall, it is a really friendly herb in the garden with no enemies.