Make a fresh and healthy start to the New Year with a few pots of fresh herbs and spices. These plants will grow in small spaces in the garden, in pots and window boxes, hanging baskets and even survive in certain indoor areas. What is the difference between herbs and spices? Herbs are usually fresh or dried leaves while spices are the seeds, roots, fruits, flowers or bark. Herbs tend to have a milder flavor, while spices tend to be stronger and more pungent.

At little or not cost, your kitchen can abound with the aromas of parsley, thyme, basil, oregano, chives, bay and celery. Be adventurous with caraway, coriander, fennel, lemon grass and borage. Go oriental in the cooler months with tat soi, kaisoi and pak choi. Exotic names with exotic flavours.With a fertile soil, full of natural compost and a good organic fertilizer, herbs and vegetables are easy to grow from seed or seedlings, will produce in abundance.

Uses outside the kitchen

  • Those pesky bugs that insist on sharing the fruits of your harvest can sometimes be kept at bay with strong scented herbs such as rue, pyrethrum, garlic, cotton lavender and garlic chives. Try basil next to tomatoes to keep the bugs away.This form of pest control will ensure that your garden stays within the organic way of growing.
  • Rubbing lavender leaves with your hands can remove strong odors, like garlic or onion.
  • Add comfrey to the compost pile. Its leaves are rich in nitrogen and help break down organic materials.
  • Anise and basil are just some of the herbs known to attract beneficial insects to your garden.

Tips for Heb Growing

  1. To encourage parsley to sprout more rapidly, soften the seeds by soaking them overnight in warm water.
  2. Thyme plants should be started from seed every two to three years. Older plants are poor in quality for cooking or other uses.
  3. Mints need more water than most herbs. They want fairly moist but not soggy soils. Harvest mint often to encourage vigorous growth - but grow it in a container or it will take over your garden.
  4. Many herbs like dill and sage self sow if the flowers are not removed.
  5. Do not use garden soil as a potting mix in containers. It may drain poorly and is likely to contain insects, diseases, and weed seeds.
  6. In many cases, adding garden compost to the upper surface of the soil in the spring is all the fertilization herbs will need for the year.Mulching around herbs will discourage weeds and maintain the moisture level of the soil.

Drying Herbs

Pick seeds and leaves just before the plants flower for the most flavour.

Seeds often take longer to dry than the leaves, up to 2 weeks for larger seeds. Place seed heads on dry paper cloth. When they really start to dry out, rub the seeds gently between your palms removing dirt and hulls. Then spread the clean seeds in thin layers on cloth or paper until completely dry. Another way you can dry herb seeds is by hanging the plant upside down inside a paper bag (make sure its paper! Plastic will hinder drying). The bag will catch the seeds as they dry and fall from the pod.

When storing herbs don't use a paper or cardboard container. This material, over time, will absorb all of the aromatic flavor.