There’s just something magical-seeming about having your own herb garden. And Australians aren’t immune. But is herb gardening really practical? Let’s look at the benefits and practicalities of having your own herb garden – and what it takes to achieve this. The bottom line? Herb gardening is among the easiest and most useful hobbies – even if all you have is a brightly-lit windowsill. We investigate the possibilities.
Herb Garden Benefits
Apart from giving you a passtime, there are enough practical benefits to herb gardening in Australia – or anywhere else – to give inspiration for a book. To sum up, however, herb gardens provide:
Flavourful Food: A fresh sprig of thyme; a dash of aromatic basil, a twist of fresh mint; the fragrance and flavour of oregano: these are things all of us will know and relish. Dried herbs are expensive enough. Fresh herbs are premium-priced items in high-end grocery stores. What if you could get them from the garden, or even your kitchen windowsill?
Herbs for Authenticity: You love Mediterrianian cuisine, or you want to try your hand at some Oriental or Middle-Eastern delicacies. What’s the secret? The basic ingredients are only the beginning – it’s all about the herbs and spices. Both come from plants, and you can grow them!
Beauty Products Straight From Nature: The beauty products industry is huge, and its offerings are notoriously pricey, especially when they can boast “all-natural ingredients,” or even natural additives. So, why not try a Rosemary hair rinse or a Rose Geranium toner? From hair products to skin treatments, nature’s garden offers you the real thing at a fraction of the price and without dicey ingredients like potentially carcinogenic parabens.
Health from God’s Garden: Once assumed as the basis of all medicine, the possible health benefits of herbs have become a controversial topic. The problem with proving herbal health claims is knotty. Plants contain hundreds of natural alkaloids. Science expects proof, not only of a single natural compound, but of the full combination and the interactions between each ingredient, the medications you may already be using, and your individual health status. Our conclusion? If you’re seriously ill, consult a doctor. If you’re generally healthy and happy to experiment, there are ages-old folk medicine uses for many herbs. Looking for a relaxing tea or general tonic? Herbs could give you what you want. Anyone for a sprig of mint? It is said to freshen breath and aid digestion.
Repel and Control Insects: If you’re an organic veggie grower, or would like to be one, you’ll find that many of the aromatic herbs control or repel insects. My favorite insect repellant included just about any “smelly” plant – including lavender – soaked to form a tea-like conconcotion and sprayed on with a little dishwashing soap in the mix. While it didn’t work for everything, I’m confident that it saved me from a lot of insect problems.
A Rewarding Hobby: Growing herbs is truly rewarding. Just touching the plants to release their natural aroma will brighten your day. A sprig of fresh herbs for garnishing ; a fresh, green shoot in your sundowner drink; fresh herbs to add to your cookery; and the simple joy of watching plants grow – these are among the rewards you’ll enjoy when you grow your own herbs.
Herb Gardens in Tiny Spaces
When we think of the herb gardens of centuries past, we’re thinking of space, rural ambiance, and maybe a sundial in the center of a traditional, French-style potager. But although herb gardens can occupy a niche in a castle’s gardens, your home is your castle, and you can do a lot with only a few potted herbs to help you.
Outside my kitchen door, I have a single plant pot containing rosemary, basil, thyme, and marjoram. That’s a whole bouquet garni in a space of a few square centimetres. And it delivers what I need to flavour most dishes. I’d like to add to the collection, however. Already, I have visions of fresh garlic chives combined with lemon thyme (it’s way different to regular thyme) and maybe a creeping mint variety – it’s in my garden already – I’m just too lazy to venture there.
Back when I had an apartment, the sunny windowsill served as a home for a little window box and a few 10cm (4”) pots with some of the daintier herbs. You don’t need heavy yields to add flavour to food. A few leaves will do.
Big flavour – little space – what could be better?
Herbs in Suburban Gardens
Before I moved to the country, and even once I was settled there, I found that having a dedicated herb garden didn’t really suit me. Instead, I used herbs as edgings, groundcovers, and bedding plants between my ornamental plants.
Need an edging for beds? Looking for attractive flowering plants? Wanting to add fragrance among the flowers? Herbs fit the bill – and many of them help to control insects while looking and smelling great at the same time.. One day, I’d like to try having a formal herb garden, but for now, my mixed-up garden gives me the herbs I need. And that leads us to an interesting fact.
The more I research it, the more I find that “herbs” is a loose definition. Need a simple example? How do you like growing nasturtiums? Try using the seeds as a substitute for capers, enjoy the flowers as a vitamin-C-rich salad ingredient with extra tang, or use the leaves and stems to add unique flavour to salads or try using them to numb toothache. All this from a garden plant that most people would consider as an ornamental.
Your suburban garden can be pretty and full of flowers, yet still yield enough herbs to keep your home-doctor and chef instincts as happy as your eyes.
What Do You Need to Get Started?
Growing herbs in Australia is easy. The climate is favorable, and Seeds of Plenty has ensured that there’s a good variety to choose from. From the bite of coriander to the gentle fragrance of marjoram, to the fresh flavour of parsley, Aussie gardeners can enjoy the world of herbs with ease.
Most herbs require a sunny location, be it a garden bed or a windowsill. Well-drained soil or potting medium will suit most herb varieties, and space needn’t be an issue. Now, all you need is the starter stock, and Seeds of Penty has what you need.
Explore the magical world of herbs this summer. Perennial varieties give you years of pleasure. Annuals need a little more work but offer unique flavours. Can you resist?