I've noticed that my herb garden is starting to look a little neglected and so I've plans this year to revitalise this corner of the smallholding. I planted my herb garden when I first created a vegetable patch and many of these early herbs are still flourishing. But when I planted them, I did so with an "I think I'll probably need this" approach and now, thirteen years later, I know a lot more about the herbs I'm regularly using in the kitchen and the herbs I don't use at all. At the same time, I'm now looking at growing herbs for other reasons; I've learnt more about their uses in companion planting (so that pests are lured away from the fruit and vegetables) and I'd love to try using herbs in homemade hand creams, shampoos or even old-fashioned medicines. But, most of all, I'm keen on growing herbs for my bees and other pollinators. Many herbs provide excellent forage for pollinators and I have a vision of creating drifts of herbs that will hum and buzz with pollinators for almost every month of the year.
As well as the herb garden, I also grow herbs in other areas on the smallholding (among the cottage garden flowers, the wild flowers and in pots by the back door). I've started to sketch out a plan of where my herbs are and whether they are still in the best place i.e. are their growing conditions ideal. Most herbs prefer full sun and well-drained, moist soil - and over the years, some of the herbs I've planted are now being overshadowed by other plants. My mint is one of the offending plants that is now overshadowing others; it's flourished a bit too well in its current position and will have to be moved.
I've made a list of the herbs that I would like to grow for pollinators, but I also have to consider that pollinators love herbs when they flower - and the leaves of some flowering herbs can taste bitter. So when I'm looking at these herbs (like basil) that I want to use in the kitchen, I'll have to keep some flower-free and let others go on to bloom.
I've decided to grow the following herbs for pollinators in the herb garden; chives, hyssop, sweet marjoram, rosemary, sage and thyme. This list includes some must-have herbs for bees; rosemary is a good, early source of nectar and pollen for bees when there is little else about and flowering thyme is one of the best of all bee plants.
|Honeybee on borage|
In my cottage garden flower area; I'm growing bergamot - a favourite bee herb. On the edge of this area I'm growing lavender (I've chosen lavandula angustifolia "munstead"). Lavender is loved by different pollinators.
Other herbs I'll grow in pots (like the invasive mint) or in the greenhouse - basil, for example, I'll grow both in pots and in the greenhouse as a companion plant to my tomatoes.
I've made a note to regularly look at where and how my herbs are growing and to spend more time tending to the herb garden; I won't leave it for another thirteen years (adding herbs here and there in the meantime). Herbs are going to be an important part of the smallholding, for so many reasons, from now on.