Weston's Mark Cox, of Baytree Garden Centre gives sage advice on herb planting
In his regular column, Out in the Garden, Mark Cox gives tips on how to plant up your own herb garden.
In the recreation room this week I was fortunate enough to enjoy watching Paddington 2. I think the wardens had put it on since it was based in a prison so hence in their eyes it was a documentary.
Well one scene in particular stood out for me and the G-Team and that was the scene in which Paddington teaches Knuckles how to make marmalade.
Now I remember watching the present Mrs Cox once make marmalade. She started with about 100kg of oranges, 50 bags of sugar and every pan in the house on the cooker hob. Fourteen steam filled hours later she emerged from the kitchen holding aloft one and a half jars of marmalade, the sum total of her efforts.
Anyhow my mind filled with visions of creating a herb garden from which our version of Knuckles McGinty who had earned title of Shawshank’s Toughest Chef could cook with.
After several meetings with the Governor whom I’d convinced that spending money on a kitchen herb garden might just attract the attention of a certain high profile celebrity chef called Mr Oliver he agreed.
After much discussion we decided upon Oregano, Chives, Basil, Coriander, Rosemary and Dill.
Mr Davidson who runs the wood work department had his team create long wooden planters for us but you can use pretty much any spare container you have.
It’s important to ensure good drainage in whatever you decide to plant your herbs in, so into the bottom of our wooden troughs which had been drilled to allow the water to run out we placed some broken pieces of ceramic pot (all of the sharp edges had been filled off). The troughs were then filled with John Innes Number 2 compost. This compost is a mix of loam, peat and sharp sand which young herbs will thrive in.
It’s important to note that when planting herbs that they will spread, so don’t plant them too close to each other.
Potting is very simple, gently tap the herbs out of their pots being careful not to damage the root system and plant them in the compost so that the crown of the plant is level with the height of the compost. Give them a good watering in when you’re done.
This is where the fun really starts as the best way to keep your herbs happy, healthy and growing is to continually crop them. Do not allow them to form flowers and run to seed.
However at the end of the season you may want to harvest some seeds. Dill seeds are particularly delicious in homemade bread. There may well be a few days or weeks when you don’t particularly need to use fresh herbs in your cooking, but it is really important to keep cropping.
I have politely instructed Knuckles that cropping our herbs even when we don’t need them doesn’t mean that they have to go to waste. He could dry them out by hanging the herbs in bunches in the kitchen or pantry before placing them into jars for use later in the year. I mentioned that he could create infused oils with our fresh herbs for salad dressing.
He looked at me blankly so for now we agreed to focus on creating the best vat of Bolognese we can.