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Guest blog from Tessa The Thrifty Cook: Grow Your Own Herbs

Grow Your Own Herbs – Tips for Growing Herbs in the Summer

Whether you grow your own herbs in pots or in the open ground, the weather in the UK has been perfect this month due to the warm sunshine and regular showers.
I grow herbs in containers and find that they do perfectly well provided they are watered, fed regularly and are placed in the right position in the garden. All herbs need some sunshine but some prefer dappled shade.

Herbs which enjoy the sun include

Chives in a pot

Chives in a pot


Herbs which prefer more shade (and more moisture in the compost) include

It’s important to keep these herbs moist, because if the soil is too dry, I find that they try to flower and set seed quickly at the expense of growing new leaves, especially parsley, coriander and sorrel.
Feeding herbs once a week with a liquid feed is beneficial at this time of year and especially if the herbs are grown in troughs or containers.

Real fresh greens & herbs

Real fresh greens & herbs

Keep herb plants regularly trimmed throughout the summer.

This encourages them to become bushy and produce more leaves. Bay, rosemary, sage and mint will become more compact and productive if the top 2 or 3 leaves are pinched out between the thumb and forefinger.
Mid to late summer is the perfect time of year to dry herbs but some herbs are more suited to being frozen. Herbs which freeze well include borage flowers, chervil, coriander, mint, marjoram, parsley, tarragon and thyme. I freeze them in ice cube trays topped up with a little water for use over the winter.

My chives had a beautiful display of mauve flowers. I usually let them flower as the bees love them, then I give the chives a haircut and within a couple of weeks, they’re ready to start using again in the kitchen.
Some herbs can self-seed everywhere and become a problem. Fennel is the worst, as I have learnt from experience!

Mint. A joy to see it spread like nettles?

Mint. A joy to see it spread like nettles?

Although beautiful to look at, I don’t want fennel all over the garden. To stop them self-seeding, snip off the flower heads before they set seed and cut the plants back to about 12”/30cm. This will ensure a regular supply of leaves. Borage will also self-seed everywhere, so it’s best to snip off the flowers (and freeze or use in salads) before they set seed.

I use herbs almost daily in cooking and especially at this time of year. Simple salads made with salad leaves and a mixture of herbs are amazing. I use basil, chives, fennel, small mint leaves, marjoram, oregano, tarragon, rocket, sorrel and finely chopped rosemary in salads.

Mint has so many culinary uses but one of my favourites is to finely chop some leaves, mix into some softened butter and use it to dot on new potatoes or peas. Mint helps with digestion and these vegetables are easier to digest if served with mint.

Tarragon is particularly tasty in a salad served with fish or chicken.

Fennel tastes wonderful in a side salad to accompany fish or cheese dishes.

Marjoram and oregano go perfectly with tomatoes, cheese and in fact almost any savoury dish.
Basil is delicious when served with tomatoes, cheese and anything with garlic. It grows well next to tomato plants.

Rocket is perfect served on it’s own as a simple salad with some French salad dressing and curls of parmesan cheese.

I made a recipe recently which uses basil and rocket and the dish can be made in about 10 minutes so it is very quick and easy. I called the dish Summer Spaghetti and it is exactly that! Add a little marjoram or oregano for extra flavour.

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