ADD flavour, aroma and colour to your favourite meals and dishes with fresh herbs from your garden.

For lots of gardeners, growing herbs is a rewarding experience. Most herbs are very easy to grow and don’t require a lot of space, which makes them the perfect plant for children and new gardeners. Herbs are not only great in our culinary dishes, for thousands of years herbs have been used for medicine throughout the world and today the research into medicinal herbs is well documented. They are also the source of many classic fragrances such as lavendar.

Before the days of refridgeration herbs played an essential part in the preservation and flavouring of foods. However, the major use for herbs in today’s society is flavouring and garnishing.

Herbs can be grown in small pots on the windowsill, or in pots around the patio where they can be easily accessed from the kitchen. Herbs add beauty, colour and texture to the garden so include them in the flower or vegetable garden as well.

Some herbs are also a natural deterrent to unwanted insects, which is perfect for the organic gardener.

Most herbs require good drainage to encourage lush growth and generally prefer soil of a gravelly nature. With the addition of compost or well rotted animal manure you will be rewarded with a bounty of herbs to pick from.

Most herbs prefer sunshine, low humidity and evenly distributed rainfall. With regular watering and mulching you’ll prevent them from drying out.

Small leaved herb varieties generally come from the Mediterranean, so they thrive best in open sunny positions and protection from cold winds. Aromatic herbs prefer to be grown in a more sheltered position.

Herbs produce well if they are regularly trimmed which helps promote a bushier plant.

Regularly replace plants that have lost their vigour ensuring you have a full plant to pick from and can simultaneously discourage disease.

Leafy herbs should be harvested just before the plant flowers, when the concentration of aromatic oils is high. Roots should be harvested in winter when the plant is dormant. Many herbs are easy to grow and do.

Top 10 herbs for your garden

  • Parsley – the ultimate garnish
  • Basil – an Italian favourite with a sweet scent; good to match with tomatoes
  • Coriander – great in many Asian dishes as well as salads, soups, and salsas
  • Mint – so cool. Make fresh sauces, teas and garnish cold drinks
  • Rosemary – an intense pine flavour and great on grilled meats, especially lamb
  • Thyme – fantastic in any food; it pairs particularly well with lamb, poultry and tomatoes
  • Oregano – best in tomato dishes like pizza and pasta
  • Chives – a mild onion flavour; chop fresh into any dish
  • Dill – Sharp tasting with a feathery texture. Perfect with fish or try in sauces and pickles
  • Sage – A popular poultry and meat seasoning; use fresh and dried.

Enjoy your favourite herbs fresh out of the garden, dried and crumbled into any dish or preserve in ice-cube trays, ready to use in sauces and stews.

Prepare for a new flush of roses

AUTUMN in the rose garden is a case of finishing off one growing season and starting to prepare for the next.

It is also a time to enjoy the blooms on the roses. There will not be as many as with a spring flush, but they make up for this with more vibrant colours. Stop dead-heading and leave for the colourful hips to form. This is a feature often overlooked on roses.

Autumn is also a good time to assess the performance of individual roses over the past season. For any that are not up to standard sometimes shifting them to another part of the garden can give them a new lease on life. However, for others they are probably best discarded.

New season’s roses can be ordered from garden centres and also from specialist nurseries via mail order or the internet. It pays to get in early as varieties new to the market and popular favourites always sell out early.

Look around public rose gardens in your area to see which varieties are performing the best.

If you are planning on planting some new roses in winter, autumn is the best time to prepare the soil. If replanting into a spot where a rose has grown before, replacing the soil with some from another part of the garden can be beneficial. Add some compost or well rotted animal manure to the hole.

For new garden beds, do the same and also add some lime and a sprinkling of blood and bone. Do not add any other fertiliser.

Continue to water your roses with a good soaking every few days rather than lighter applications. Also keep the push hoe going to keep the surface loose and the weeds under control.

April and May is also a good time to take rose cuttings.

Select stems that have previously flowered and are about the thickness of a pencil for large roses, smaller stems will do for miniature type roses. Cuttings should be 15-20 centimetres long. Make a flat cut above a growth eye for the bottom cut and a slanting cut above the top eye, just as you do for winter pruning and remove all the leaves.

Plant either into the garden or into containers with sand or pumice and always keep moist. Label and don’t be tempted to take a peak and see if roots have formed.

There will still be some rust and powdery mildew around during autumn. If it bothers you and you are into spraying, control with your usual fungicides. Insect pests such as caterpillars and aphids may also be present and these can be controlled with an insecticide.

Leading into May, it is time to start cleaning up around your roses. Hygiene is important as it helps to prevent diseases such as rust and black spot from overwintering.

Pick up all fallen leaves and dispose of in the rubbish rather than the compost.