More people are reaping the rewards of growing their own herbs. Brisbane-based horticultural and sustainability expert Claire Bickle shows us how it’s done in part 1 of this Live for Less series.

Herbs are by far one of the most grown and used edible plants around the world. They add so many different flavours to our fresh food, drinks, desserts and cooked dishes.

Most of the popular herbs are classed as annuals or short-lived perennials except for rosemary lavender, curry leaf trees and bay trees. Of course, there are many more plants that fall under the herb banner, but for this article we will look at the most popular ones.

What to grow when in Brisbane

Brisbane’s growing season is virtually non-stop since we have very mild winters. Many of the popular herbs will happily grow and thrive all year round. But there are some herbs that prefer the heat and some that prefer the cool. Here’s a breakdown:

  • All year-round herbs: oregano, parsley, Italian parsley, chives, garlic chives, lemon balm, thyme, all the mints, curry bush, marjoram, perennial basils, mother of herb, rosemary, lavender, bay tree, sage.
  • Brisbane autumn & winter lovers: coriander, dill, fennel, French tarragon, borage, calendula, mustards, chamomile and rocket.
  • Brisbane spring and summer lovers: sweet basil and other annual basils, curry leaf tree, Vietnamese mint, lemon grass, ginger, turmeric, galangal, cardamom, perennial coriander, chillies.

Location and planting

All your herbs need to be grown in a sunny location, which equates to around 5 hours direct sunlight per day. Some herbs will tolerate less, but if there’s not enough sun your herbs will be prone to pest and disease attack and quite often loose a lot of their flavour.

1. Growing herbs in a garden bed

Prepare your soil by digging in a good amount of organic matter such as composted animal manures or regular compost. At planting apply an organic manure-based pelletised fertiliser and after planting water in well with an application of liquid seaweed. All these items are readily available at garden centres and hardware stores. Then mulch your herb garden to suppress weeds, retain soil moisture and stop erosion.

2. Growing herbs in pots

Once a sunny location is chosen your container of choice should be of a reasonable size and have adequate drainage holes to allow excess water to drain. Always use a good quality premium Australia Standard potting mix. If you use pots that are too small – anything under 140ml diameter – you are going to find that they dry out too quickly and will not thrive. Be aware that terracotta is porous and will dry very quickly too. You can still have the terracotta look by either using a pot sealer or by slotting your original pot into a terracotta pot.

Continued care for your herbs

Your annual herbs should be grown quickly and harvested often. What this means is that you will need to fertilise every 2-4 weeks with a fish emulsion-based fertiliser and harvest your herbs weekly. Or harvest even more often once they are established and actively growing. This will encourage fresh new growth to come through and will extend the growing life of your annual and short-lived perennial herb varieties.

Perennial herbs will also benefit from regular applications of organic liquid fertilisers and applications of organic pelletised fertilisers or side dressings of compost every 6-12 weeks.

Next: how to store and freeze your harvest glut

So what happens when you have a harvest glut of all those wonderful herbs you’ve been motivated to grow yourself?

In my next Less for Less article I’ll show you how to preserve your fresh herbs.