These are some of the questions I'm often asked by my customers:
Why has my basil died? Basil is a very tender plant and should not be planted outside until the temperatures are warm, probably not before June. In a poor wet or windy summer it is better to keep the plant inside on a sunny windowsill or in a conservatory. Plant in a good sized container, filled with well-drained compost and try to avoid watering the leaves. Remove any flower heads and when harvesting take the growing tips which will encourage a bushy plant.
Why has my dill not come back this year? Dill is an annual and needs to be replaced each year.
Why do my thymes become straggly or not even survive the winter? Giving your thyme a trim after flowering will encourage new bushy growth and will stop it becoming too leggy. To help your thyme survive the winter, plant in well drained soil. It can cope with cold temperatures but not with being waterlogged. Mixing some grit into the soil will help and if in a container lifting the pot onto a couple of bricks will also help.
All the leaves have fallen off my lemon verbena, is it dead? If you have protected your plant by keeping it frost free for the winter then there's a good chance it’s alive. If you cut a small amount off the end of a twig you should see green in the centre. Even if you can’t it’s probably best to keep until late spring when you should see new shoots appearing.
Why does my coriander always go to seed? Coriander, being an annual, will flower and go to seed in one season and seems to be determined to do this as quickly as possible. Growing in light shade in well-drained soil will help. Keeping the plant well fed and watered will also help especially in hot weather. Cut the leaves regularly and pinch out any flower shoots as they form. Coriander is best grown from seed sown directly into the soil several times throughout the summer.
I’ve planted my mint in a container to keep it under control but now it’s stopped producing leaves. Is it dying? Because mint has a very vigorous root system it can become pot bound very quickly. Remove the whole plant from the container and split into two. Place each half in its own container with new compost, (or give one half away).
Why have my leaves gone brown and fallen off my bay tree this winter? Although bays are fairly hardy, the leaves are liable to get burnt by sun shining on frosted or snow covered leaves. If your bay is in a pot you can move it out of the sun for the winter. If planted in the ground, cut back in the spring and feed and hopefully it will re-sprout.
I only planted my parsley last year, why does it look sickly this year? Parsley is biennial. The first year it produces lot of leaves and the second year it flowers and dies. Although it will survive a winter it is probably best to replace each year. Parsley also has a very vigorous root system which needs plenty of food and space. If planted in a container make sure it is large enough and feed regularly.
What is a good herb to use with lamb / fish / chicken? Aah, you've got me there. As a vegetarian who spends as little time in the kitchen as possible, I'm at a bit of a loss when it comes to suggesting recipes.
I can tell you that the following herbs are very tasty added raw to salads: Lovage: (small, young leaves), have a celery flavour Chives: Mild onion flavour Sorrel - French & Red Veined: Use young leaves Parsley - Flat Leaved Basil - Good with tomato Salad Burnet - Delicate cucumber flavour
For summer drinks add: Lemon Balm - refreshing lemon flavour Borage - Cucumber flavour - used in Pimms
The flowers of the following herbs can be used in salads or as an interesting garnish: Borage, Basil, Dill, Chives, Fennel, Mint and Rosemary.