Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Herbal tonics

A few weeks ago I decided that some of my herbs were looking a bit tatty in one way or another, and so I took to them with my favourite herbal tonic: my trusty secateurs. With February's rain and warmth, all of them have bounced back very nicely, and so I thought it's time for a little herbal show and tell.

The big surprise is how happy my sage plant is. This Mediterranean herb ought to cark it during a month of torrential rain and humidity, but after I cut off all the daggy, saggy, wilty bits in late January it has thrived. This is one herb I never water, never feed. All I do is cut it back occasionally. It gets a savage cut-back at the beginning of spring each year, and then I simply cut off anything crappy looking whenever I notice it at other times of year.

Mint is the opposite to sage, in that I'm always watering and feeding the thing. But I do also cut it all back down to the pot-rim level every few months, when it gets leggy and scrappy. This morning, it's really getting going again.

The French tarragon was in dire trouble, as the clump had grown so dense that it formed a tight ball in the pot. There was moss forming on the soil surface, so bad was the drainage. And so I unpotted it, cut off the bottom half of the rootball with my pruning saw, then pulled the remaining clump apart to make several plants (tarragon forms runners, so each 'plant' is actually a set of runners). Then, into fresh potting mix, I created two new pots of bare stems and roots. Later on, I fed them with a high-nitrogen liquid food as soon as the first green shoots appeared (which didn't take long at all, just a week or so).

Here's the other pot, doing equally well. I love the slightly aniseedy flavour of tarragon, which goes especially well with either egg dishes or chicken. It's nice to have a good, healthy supply once more. These plants will die down slightly over winter, but they'll bounce back once spring arrives. I'm not sure how old my tarragon plants are, but they've been here for a long time and with this rejuvenation they'll last for many years more.

The only tonic my thyme plant needs is an occasional trim with hedge shears. Just cutting off an inch or two all over creates a new flush of growth. Like the sage, the thyme never gets watered or fed. Our plentiful natural rainfall is all it needs.

I know I often bang on about herbs here in this blog, and that's because I'm a keen cook. And when I cook, I use herbs almost every time, most of the time my own home-grown herbs. And in my small garden herbs are one of the best ways to use precious space. By comparison, vegies are just a bit of fun on the side. I could never hope to grow all the vegies I need, but I do come quite close to growing all the herbs I need.


Liss said...

I love my herbs too - My Thyme and Oregano got a haircut this morning in fact - I'm very envious of your sage! I have some in a pot - when our new garden planters are finished I'm looking forward to growing lots more - I just adore it with chicken and pumpkin!

michelle said...

The herbs in my garden behave so much like yours. The sage soldiers on with just the occasional haircut, the mint is constantly demanding food and water, the tarragon is just making its annual spring comeback and will need a bigger pot soon, the thyme is undemanding and plentiful, the rosemary grows like a weed. Funny, I hardly ever mention them, I take them for granted in the garden and the kitchen, always there when I need them. Perhaps I should give them a little time in the spotlight.

gilbert landscaping said...

Looks like the herb garden is all alive and well. The sage looks great! I decided to plant a few herbs in my box garden this year. Hopefully they do well! Cheers~