It was school holidays…
Our first attempt at school holidays in fact. So to pass the time, we decided to include setting up a herb garden as one of the achievements of the two weeks off. This is easily an activity that could be done without kids (obviously). The added benefit of little ones around is there are some parts of this process they can contribute to and even entertain you with!
The plan went like this:
- Keep kids busy, and therefore mum happy
- Teach the children about what grows in a garden and how it works
- Get everybody outside. Once to buy the plants, pots and soil, and second, while setting up and planting
- Reap the benefits of a herb garden for aesthetics (the look and fragrance when herbs are brushed past) and practical use though cooking. Whether that be homemade pesto, or some excellent tasting herbs in a refreshing drink (alcoholic or not)!
And it unfolded as follows:
- After breakfast, we sat outside and chose where the herbs would go and measured the space (to get the right pots)
- Then went to the local garden centre to pick up pots, soil, plants, mulch etc
- Once home, we unloaded the car, had a relax and ate lunch
- When everyone was pumped up with energy again, we placed pots where we wanted, filled with soil, planted the herbs, added mulch
- At afternoon tea we had a refreshing beverage, watered the new garden, and cut some herbs ready for cooking later on!
What was planted and how
Location and set up
It’s important to choose the right garden set up for your lifestyle and location. We are renting, so it makes sense to use pots on pot stands that are easy to relocate. I’d noticed the morning sun on the family room window and how well some potted flowers did growing out there. So it made sense to have the pots there. Firstly, you can see them every morning from the kitchen and family room. Secondly, it seemed like a great location for growing based on the success of the other plants.
Also, there is a bit of a spare corner between the hose and the barbeque which could do with a bit of greenery. This will also be a good spot to extend the garden over to. It means that all the herbs are going to be easily accessed by both the kitchen and the barbeque area (where freshly cut and washed herbs could transform any dish that was cooking).
Using different textures, heights and shapes can create a more interesting look while keeping the colours consistent. We have a couple of old pots and a recycled drink stand of aluminium and black metal hanging around so these will come in handy as well. The picture above shows what the corner between the barbeque and the hose looked like after we planted in pots both new and old. To see what we did with the drinks stand and the next patch of herb garden keep reading.
Off to the garden centre we go!
In this case, it was Bunnings. So we started the trip off with the obligatory sausage on bread outside. Then, we bought:
- Pots and pot stands. Buy based on your own taste, and your budget. Measure the pots to make sure they’ll fit your space. Choosing different heights and sizes can make for an interesting feature. We went for a neutral tone so they would blend in with any background. We also got the small pot stands so they are lifted off the ground so as not to stain any concrete they may be sitting on at the rental.
- Next, the herbs. We chose:
- Oregano and marjoram for the largest pot. Some lemon thyme will be added to this pot which is already growing at home. Did you know these herbs will also grow splendidly in shallower, smaller pots? Reusing old teapots, or other kitchen containers, with holes drilled in the bottom also look great.
- Coriander which will be put in a smaller pot we already had a home
- Parsley and basil to flavour mostly anything from meat dishes to salads. We will put these in a shallow, smaller pot and set them in a recycled metal drinks stand next to the newer pots.
- Bay leaf tree so we can use the bay leaves as a fabulous addition to meat sauce for lasagne, or when cooking corned beef, or any vegetable soups or stocks. This will go in a separate pot.
- Cherry tomato and chives was a must according to the kids, and this will go nicely alongside companion plant basil. The basil we bought was large enough to split into two so we could keep some with the parsley.
- Potting Mix soil. Go with the best you can get or afford
- Mulch. We chose a small bag of sugar cane mulch. By spreading a thick layer around the plant this will help keep the moisture in the soil.
Potting and Watering the Herbs
Make sure you’ve got all the right equipment for this part, especially with kids involved. Protecting your hands and other parts of your body is important with any gardening. With hats, gloves, long sleeves and sturdy shoes on, we placed the pots where we wanted them. Next, filled with soil using gardening tools, making sure we weren’t breathing in any dust etc from the dirt. Then planted the herbs in the various pots as mentioned above, making sure the companion plants were together and those that needed a different kind of space, watering, or love were separated. We gathered any other herbs currently growing (e.g. the kaffir lime tree) and added them, along with some flowering plants, to the garden.
Once we planted and tidied up, we carefully placed mulch in each pot, taking care again not to breathe in any dust etc. Now all that was left was watering. If you’ve got distance from your taps to your garden it’s worth investing in a longer hose and the right garden hose reel for your space. This can be a fun job for the kids or a very relaxing, meditative job for any herb garden owner.
See how the herbs brighten up the window area. Now when we eat breakfast we can look out over the herbs to the garden. And when relaxing on the patio we can also get a glimpse of these beauties. The texture of the rustic Tuscan looking pot goes nicely alongside the metal drinks stand.
Of course, relaxing is minimal with kids around, but at least any few minutes of rest feel like a beautiful holiday. Also, while the kids enjoyed running around the backyard, mum kicked her feet up in the outdoor setting and enjoyed the new garden and a well-deserved gin and tonic (with a kaffir lime leaf thrown in for good measure).
The following day we cut some of the basil, coriander, parsley and oregano and make a pesto to enjoy for lunch (featured at the top of this post). You can really enjoy the herb garden for a long time, and it’s a great investment for many lifestyles. You can manage pests and maintain your herbs well with a few easy steps.