The Ecologist

 
WINDOWSILL POTS
More articles about
Related Articles

Five of the best...herbs to grow on your window ledge

Sophie Laggan

25th November

Got a window ledge going begging? Then getting to grips with herb gardening could be just what you need to fill it up. Herbalist Jackie Day has five to start you off

My compost may be thankful but my food remains insipid. I have been a victim of catatonic coriander and deceased dill for too long and frankly I have had enough. We are encouraged to grow our own but what are we to do if we don’t have the foggiest? Enter Jackie Day, a herbalist and keen gardener, whose mission is to get us acquainted with the benefits that home-grown herbs can bring. 'I don’t think the average person is going to go wrong with what are described as culinary herbs,' says Jackie. 'Examples include thyme, which is brilliant for the respiratory system, sage and rosemary, both of which are good for the brain amongst other things.'

The National Trust estimates that there are 600 acres of growing space going to waste nationwide in the shape of unused window ledges. And with DEFRA statistics showing that one in three of us wants to take up DIY food production, window box herbs are the perfect way in for frustrated urban gardeners or nervous beginners. But growing herbs on your windowsill isn't just a useful outlet for greenfingered urges; home-grown herbs can transform your supper. Most of herb family is flavoursome, low maintenance, robust and high yielding, which means you can keep going back. Shop-bought alternatives are often transported long distances and are subjected to artificial light, which kills most of their flavour. The conditions in which supermarket herbs are kept reduce the plant's lifespan and results in wilted leaves. They're expensive too, with most pre-packaged herbs costing around 80 pence a pop. Growing your own saves you money and enhances the flavour of even the blandest of dishes. So how do you keep them growing? According to Jackie, it's easier than you might think.

'My culinary herbs well and truly take their chances amongst the weeds and literally get hacked down with secateurs to keep them under control,' says Jackie. 'But, they seem to come back year after year. Herbs don’t generally need much in the way of fertilising and some do better in poor conditions but in window boxes I’d give them a bit of new soil or potting compost (but easy on the potting compost as it’s usually pretty rich in nutrients) each year. Aim for about 30 per cent new soil or compost.' Some herbs, including mint and lemon balm, can grow extremely prolifically so plant them in individual pots in order to prevent overcrowding.

The fabulous five: easy herbs to grow

Mint
Mint is almost as bad as ivy in the rampant growth stakes but if you plant it in moist, rich soil and hack it back regularly, you should be able avoid catastrophe. Wonderful first thing in tea form, it helps to improve digestion, and can be used to make a restorative essential oil.
How to cook it: Mint is a key ingredient in mojitos, which are perfect for a festive cocktail party and a vast improvement on cheap sparkling wine.

Parsley
Parsley thrives with only a moderate amount of light. It calms the digestive system while also promoting good digestion. High in iron and vitamin C, it can help to reduce bloating thanks to its diuretic properties.
How to cook it: Try parsley pesto for a pleasant change from basil or use as a simple garnish.

Sage
With anti-catarrhal properties, it helps to remove mucus from the airways and boosts the digestive system. 'Sage is great for the brain,' says Jackie. 'Hence the use of the term 'sage' for knowledgeable people.'
How to cook it: Sage butter is perfect with pasta or used in risotto.

Rosemary
Plant it next to sage to help it flourish. A natural form of pest control, rosemary's insect-repelling properties benefit every plant in its vicinity. In humans, it helps to relieve headaches, muscular pain, neuralgia, and dyspepsia.
How to cook it: Rosemary tastes great on potatoes, pizza or in vinaigrettes.

Thyme
Thyme is best sown in shallow soil because of its tiny seeds. Extremely bee-friendly, it also helps to treat coughs and asthma by loosening phlegm from the bronchial tract. It's also a good remedy for indigestion and is a great liver cleanser.
How to cook it: Do it like the Greeks and season your lamb with fresh thyme for a fragrant feast.

 

Add to StumbleUpon
  READ MORE...
GREEN LIVING
How to turn your garden into a winter wonderland
Make your garden into a magical place during the cold months with berries, coloured bark and winter-flowering plants
GREEN LIVING
Smallholding: the basics
From sheep to spinach, Gervase Poulden has the skinny on how to make your smallholding dreams a reality
GREEN LIVING
‘Blooming Britain’: a very different sort of garden
Henry/Bragg’s groundbreaking ‘Blooming Britain’ exhibition switches the focus from the slick professionals of Chelsea to the enthusiastic amateur gardeners found in every corner of the UK
GREEN LIVING
Five of the best…natural and organic fertilisers
Chemical free and perfect for an organic kitchen garden, Jeff Holman rounds up the organic fertilisers that will leave your plants blooming gorgeous
GREEN LIVING
Top 10… self-sustainability courses and workshops
Be it chicken keeping, foraging or organic gardening, if it's the good life you want, there’s a course out there for you. Tom Antebi rounds up some of the best

 

Previous Articles...

ECOLOGIST COOKIES

Using this website means you agree to us using simple cookies.

More information here...

 

FOLLOW
THE ECOLOGIST