Wednesday, 8 January 2014

Green thumb: At home with herbs

Whether you grow herbs for cooking, healing, beautification, pest control, fragrance, crafts or a stunning garden display, rest assured, these delicate plants will prove super easy to grow. All they need is a spot in the sun. Follow the simple guidelines and treat your mind, body and soul to your very own blissful herb garden.
Most herbs will do surprisingly well in containers of different sizes, picked depending on usage. For culinary use, you can plant fennel, basil, thyme, sage, parsley and rosemary; lavender and chamomile to soothe senses; tansy and mint to deter mosquitoes and flies; and chives to stop pests from attacking vegetable plants. And if you have a larger space, plant majestic herbs like marshmallow, honeysuckle, bronze fennel and foxgloves.

Patios and balconies
In sheltered areas that get sunlight only for a few hours, plant shade-loving herbs such as mint, parsley and yarrow. If your balcony or rooftop braves strong winds, plant herbs like rosemary and lavender that can tolerate strong winds and ensure that they are well protected.
To create an aesthetically appealing combination of herbs, get a larger window box and try planting different herbs together. Basil coupled with climbing roses and parsley at the base look striking. Even hanging pots of nasturtiums and chives can do the trick, and if you prefer all green, then simply plant coriander, tarragon and marjoram together.

Planting herbs
Herbs are either planted by sowing seeds or by taking time-saving cuttings from existing plants. Always read the seed pack and follow the sowing instructions that vary depending on the type of herb and size of the seed. For instance, lavender might not germinate as easily as other herbs. It requires a moist/cold treatment to break dormancy and is best planted during the winter season.
Each herb needs to be tended to separately as they have different growing habits and needs. Some herbs like rosemary and lavender are drought tolerant and grow better in loose, light, well-drained soil, while herbs like lemon balm grow in moist soil. Parsley and basil grow in rich, moist and deeply dug soil and sage requires dry, alkaline and well-drained soil.
While unique in their own way, all these herbs come together to brighten up your home and lives with their magical properties.

Some must-have herb combos:
Salad Herbs: Red salad bowl lettuce, chives, mizuna mustard and rocket salad.
Aromatic Herbs: Lavender, mint, sage, rosemary, lemon balm, white jasmine and climbing rose.
Moonlight garden: Forget-me-nots, rosemary, thymes and evening primrose.
Pakistani culinary herbs: Oregano, dill, fenugreek, coriander, mint, bay tree, saffron, fennel, garlic and basil.
Zahra Ali Husain is a sustainability education specialist, writer and an environmentalist. She tweets @Zahrali.
Published in The Express Tribune, Sunday Magazine, December 22nd, 2013.


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