How To Grow Herbs
With certain exceptions, the growing of Sweet Herbs from seeds is altogether advantageous. The plants come perfectly true, and are so vigorous that it is easier to raise them from seed than to secure a succession from slips or cuttings. To meet a large and continuous demand in the kitchen there must be a proportionate plantation in the border; but in gardens of medium size we do not advocate the culture of Herbs on an extensive scale, unless there be a special object in view.
A moderate number of Herbs will meet the necessities of most families. Still it is a fact that the tendency is always in the direction of increased variety, and gardeners are called on to provide frequent changes of flavouring Herbs, some of which are quite as highly prized in salads as they are for culinary purposes.
In the smallest gardens, Mint, Parsley, Sage, and both Common and LemonThyme, must find a place. In gardens which have any pretension to supplythe needs of a luxurious table there should be added Basil, Chives, Potand Sweet Marjoram, Summer and Winter Savory, Sorrel, Tarragon, andothers that may be in especial favour. Large gardens generally contain aplot, proportioned to demands, of all the varieties which follow.
Several of the most popular Herbs, such as Chives, Mint, Tarragon, andLemon Thyme, are not grown from seed at all events, those who ventureon the pastime might employ their labour to greater advantage. Butothers, such as Basil, Borage, Chervil, Fennel, Marjoram, Marigold,Parsley, Savory, &c., are grown from seed, in some cases of necessity,and in others because it is the quicker and easier way of securing acrop.
Angelica and Mint flourish in moist soil, but the majority of aromatic Herbs succeed on land that is dry, poor, and somewhat sandy, rather than in the rich borders that usually prevail in the Kitchen Garden. Happily they are not very particular, but sunshine they must have for the secretion of their fragrant essences. A narrow border marked off in drills, and, if possible, sloping to the south, will answer admirably. Thin the plants in good time, and the thinnings of those wanted in quantity may, if necessary, be transplanted. The soil must be kept free from weeds, and every variety be allowed sufficient space for full development.
Borage (Borago officinalis). A native hardy plant, which thrives in poor, stony soil. The flowers are used for flavouring purposes, especially for claret-cup. Borage is also a great favourite with bee-masters. Sow in April or May in good loam, and thin to fifteen or eighteen inches apart. The rows should be from eighteen to twenty-four inches asunder, for the plant is tall, and strong in growth.
Chamomile. A hardy perennial. Flowers used medicinally.
Caraway. A biennial. Leaves used in soups, and the seeds in confectionery and medicine.
Chervil, Curled (Anthriscus Cerefolium). Used for salads,garnishing, and culinary purposes. To secure a regular supply of leavessmall successional sowings are necessary from spring to autumn, andfrequent watering in dry weather will prevent the plants from beingspoiled by throwing up seed-stems. For winter use, sow in boxes kept ina warm temperature.
Chives (Allium Schænoprasum). A mild substitute for the Onion in salads and soups. The plant is a native of Britain, and will grow freely in any ordinary garden soil. Propagation is effected by division of the roots either in spring or autumn. The clumps should be cut regularly in succession whether wanted or not, with the object of maintaining a continuous growth of young and tender shoots. At intervals of four years it will be necessary to lift, divide, and replant the roots on fresh ground.
Coriander. A hardy annual. Cultivated for garnishing.
Dill. A hardy perennial. Leaves used in soups and sauces, also in pickles.
Fennel (Fæniculum officinale). A hardy perennial which has been naturalised in some parts of this country. It is grown in gardens to furnish a supply of its elegant feathery foliage for garnishing and for use in fish sauces. Occasionally the stems are blanched and eaten in the same way as Celery, and in the natural state they are boiled as a vegetable. The seeds are also employed for flavouring. Sow in drills in April and May, and thin the plants to fifteen inches apart.
Finocchio, or Florence Fennel (Fæniculum dulce, DC). Asweet-tasting herb, very largely grown in the south of Italy, where itis eaten both in the natural state and when boiled. Sow in the openground during spring or early summer, in rows about eighteen inchesapart, and thin or transplant to six or nine inches. When the basebegins to swell, earth up the plants in the same manner as Celery. Iftransplanted, pinch off the tips of the roots.
Horehound (Marrubium vulgare). A well-known medicinal herb, fromwhich an extract is obtained for subduing irritating coughs. Sow inApril or May, and thin the plants until they stand fifteen inches apart.
Hyssop (Hyssopus officinalis). The leaves and young shoots are usedas a pot-herb, and the leafy tops and flowers, when dried, are employedfor medicinal purposes. Hyssop is also occasionally used as an edgingplant. A dry soil and warm situation suit it. Sow in April, and thin theplants to a foot apart in the rows.
Lavender (Lavandula). Universally known and valued for its perfume.Although the plant is generally propagated from cuttings, it can easilybe grown from seed sown in April or May. The plants attain a height ofone or two feet, and the stems should not be cut until the flowers areexpanded.
Marigold, Pot (Calendula officinalis). Employed both in flower andvegetable gardens: in the former as a bedding annual, and in the latterthat the flowers may be dried and stored for colouring and flavouringsoups; also for distilling. In April or May sow the seed in drills onefoot apart, and thin the plants to the same distance in the rows.
Marjoram, Pot (Origanum Onites). One of the most familiar Herbs inBritish gardens. The aromatic leaves are used both green and when driedfor flavouring. Strictly the plant is a perennial, but it is readilygrown as an annual. Sow in February or March in gentle heat, and in theopen ground a month later. The plants should be allowed a space ofteninches or a foot each way.
Marjoram, Sweet Knotted (Origanum Majorana). This plant is used for culinary purposes in the same way as the Pot Marjoram, and it is also regarded as a tonic and stomachic. The most satisfactory mode of cultivation is that of a half-hardy annual. Sow in March or April and allow each plant a square foot of ground.
Mint (Mentha viridis). Known also as Spearmint. It must be grownfrom divisions. Between the delicacy of fresh young green leaves andthose which have been dried with the utmost care there is so wide adifference that the practice of forcing from November to May is fullyjustified. This is easily accomplished by packing roots in a box andkeeping them moist in a temperature of 60°. Where this is impossible,stems must be cut, bunched, and hung in a cool store for use duringwinter and spring. Mint grows vigorously in damp soil, and the bedshould have occasional attention, to prevent plants from extendingbeyond their proper boundary. To secure young and luxuriant growth afresh plantation should be made annually in February or March. Ifallowed to occupy the same plot of land year after year the leavesbecome small and the stems wiry.
Parsley (Carum Petroselinum) will teach those who have eyes exactlyhow it should be grown. There will appear here and there in a gardenstray or rogue Parsley plants. No matter how regularly the hoeing andweeding may be done, a stray Parsley plant will occasionally appearalone, perhaps in the midst of Lettuces, or Cauliflowers, or Onions.When these rogues escape destruction they become superb plants, and thegardener sometimes leaves them to enjoy the conditions they haveselected, and in which they evidently prosper. The lesson for thecultivator is, that Parsley should have plenty of room from the veryfirst; and this lesson, we feel bound to say, cannot be too oftenenforced upon young gardeners, for they are apt to sow Parsley far morethickly than is wise, and to be injuriously slow and timid in thinningthe crop when the plants are crowding one another.
Parsley, like many other good things, will grow almost anywhere and anyhow, but to make a handsome crop a deep, rich, moist soil is required. It attains to fine quality on a well-tilled clay, but the kindly loam that suits almost every vegetable is adapted to produce perfect Parsley, and every good garden should show a handsome sample, for beauty is the first required qualification. To keep the house fairly well supplied sowings should be made in February, May, and July. The first of these will be in gentle heat. When large enough prick out the plants into boxes, or on to a mild hot-bed, and transfer to the open ground at the end of April, allowing each plant a space of one foot each way. In the open, it is best to sow in lines one foot apart, and thin out first to three inches, and finally to six inches, the strongest of the seedlings being put out one foot apart. By following this plan sufficient supplies for a small household may be obtained from one annual sowing made in April. It should not be overlooked that Parsley is indispensable to exhibitors of vegetables, especially as a groundwork for collections, and due allowance for such calls must be made in fixing the number and extent of the sowings. When the plant pushes for seed it becomes useless, and had best be got rid of; but by planting at various times in different places a sufficiency may be expected to go through a second season without bolting, after which it will be necessary to root them out and consign them to the rubbish-heap. Parsley is often grown as an edging, but it is only in large gardens that this can be done advantageously, and then a very handsome edging is secured. In small gardens it is best to sow on a bed in lines one foot apart, and thin out first to three inches, and finally to six inches, the strongest of the thinnings being planted a foot apart, to last over as proposed above. When Parsley has stood some time it becomes coarse, but the young growth may be renewed by cutting over; this operation being also useful to defer the flowering, which is surely hastened by leaving the plants alone. For the winter supply a late plantation made in a sheltered spot will usually suffice, for the plant is very hardy; but it may be expedient sometimes to put old frames over a piece worth keeping, or to protect during hard weather with dry litter. A few plants lifted into five-inch pots and placed in a cool house will often tide over a difficult period. In gathering, care should be taken to pick separately the young leaves that are nearly full grown, and to take only one or two from each plant. It costs no more time to fill a basket by taking a leaf or two here and there from a whole row than to strip two or three plants, and the difference in the end will be considerable as regards the total produce and quality of the crop.
Pennyroyal (Mentha Pulegium) is a native perennial which must bepropagated by divisions, and this can be done either in spring orautumn. The rows may be twelve or fifteen inches apart, but in the rowsthe plants do well at a distance of eight inches. The taste forPennyroyal is by no means universal, but some persons like the tendertops in culinary preparations. The belief in its supposed medicinalvirtues is slowly dying.
Purslane (Portulaca oleracea). This annual plant thrives best in a sunny position. Seed should be sown from mid-April onwards to insure a succession of young leaves and shoots which may be cooked as a vegetable or eaten raw as a salad. Space the rows nine inches apart and thin the plants to a distance of six inches.
Rampion (Campanula Rapunculus). Both leaves and roots are used inwinter salads; the roots are also boiled. If the seed be sown earlierthan the end of May the plants are liable to bolt. Choose a shadysituation where the soil is rich and light, and do not stint water. Therows need not exceed six inches apart, and four inches in the rows willbe a sufficient space between plants.
Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis). A hardy evergreen shrub easilygrown from seed, the leaves of which are used for making Rosemary teafor relieving headache. An essential oil is also obtained bydistillation. A dry, warm, sunny border suits the plant. Sow in Apriland May.
Rue (Ruta graveolens). A hardy evergreen shrub, chiefly cultivatedfor its medicinal qualities. The leaves are acrid, and emit a pungentodour when handled. The plant is shrubby, and as it attains a height oftwo or three feet it occupies a considerable space. Sow in April.
Sage (Salvia officinalis). Although Sage can be raised from seedwith a minimum of trouble, yet this is one of the few instances where itis an advantage to propagate plants from a good stock. The differencewill be obvious to any gardener who will grow seedlings by the side ofpropagated plants. Still, seedlings are often raised, and as annuals theplants are quite satisfactory. Sow under glass in February and March,and in open ground during April and May. Prick off the seedlings into anursery bed before transferring to final positions, in which each plantshould be allowed a space of fifteen inches.
Savory, Summer (Satureia hortensis). An aromatic seasoning andflavouring herb, which must be raised annually from seed. Sow early inApril in drills one foot apart, and thin the plants to six or eightinches in the rows. Cut the stems when in full flower, and tie inbunches for winter use.
Savory, Winter (Satureia montana). A hardy dwarf evergreen which can be propagated by cuttings; but it is more economically grown from seed sown at the same time, and treated in the same manner, as Summer Savory.
Scurvy Grass. The small leaves are eaten as watercress.
Sorrel (Rumex scutalus). The large-leaved or French Sorrel is not only served as a separate dish, but is mingled with Spinach, and is also used as an ingredient in soups, sauces, and salads. Leaves of the finest quality are obtainable from plants a year old, and when the crop has been gathered the ground may with advantage be utilised for some other purpose. Light soil in fairly good heart suits the plant. The seed should be sown in March or early April, in shallow drills six or eight inches apart, and the seedlings must be thinned early, leaving three or four inches between them in the rows. To keep the bed free from weeds is the only attention necessary, unless an occasional watering becomes imperative. In September the entire crop may be transferred to fresh ground, allowing eighteen inches between the plants, or part may be drawn and the remainder left at that distance. In the following spring the flower-stems will begin to rise, and if these are allowed to develop they reduce the size of the leaves and seriously impair their quality; hence the heads should be pinched out as fast as they are presented.
Skirret. Hardy perennial. Sweet, white, and pleasant; the tubers are boiled and served up with butter.
Tarragon (Artemisia Dracunculus). This aromatic herb is used for avariety of purposes, but is most commonly employed for imparting itspowerful flavour to vinegar. The plant is a perennial, and must bepropagated by divisions in March or April, or by cuttings placed ingentle heat in spring. Later in the year they will succeed under ahand-glass in the open. Green leaves are preferable to those which havebeen dried, and by a little management a succession of plants is easilyarranged. For winter use roots may be lifted in autumn and placed inheat. Those who have no facilities for maintaining a supply of greenleaves rely on foliage cut in autumn and dried.
Thyme, Common (Thymus vulgaris). An aromatic herb, well known inevery garden, and in constant demand for the house. Seedlings are easilyraised from a sowing in April, or the plant can be grown from divisionof the roots in spring. Thyme makes a very effective edging, and isfrequently employed for this purpose on dry, well-kept borders.
Thyme, Lemon (Thymus Serpyllum vulgaris). This plant cannot begrown from seed; only by division of the roots in March or April. It isan aromatic herb, generally regarded as indispensable in a well-orderedgarden.
Wormwood (Artemisia Absinthium). An intensely bitter herb, used formedicinal purposes. The plant is a hardy perennial, and is usuallypropagated in spring by taking cuttings or dividing the roots.