Long, warm growing season: Alice’s luxury

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By GEOFF MIERS

New gardeners in The Alice soon get used to the luxury of our endless long growing season.

While we should be finishing off planting out vegetable and flowering annual garden beds thought should be given to establishing or replanting the herb garden. Summer herbs thrive in the warm conditions and the warm soils we are now starting to experience.

Basil and Dill are two summer herbs that will thrive if planted now. Of course these aren’t the only summer herbs that can be planted now but they are a start.

Summer herbs for planting now include oregano, tarragon, lemon balm, rumex raspberry dressing, lemon grass, borage, afro and Italian parsley, cress and sage.

All these are annuals that are generally best grown for the warmer season and harvested as required and as it cools are mass harvested and dried and them put into containers to use out of season.

There are also several perennial herbs that will live for years that can also be planted now, the principal one being rosemary.

Borage is a herb that is best grown to attract bees to the garden and is generally used as an accelerator to add to the compost bin.

To also clarify Rumex raspberry dressing is actually lemon sorrel. This plant has red veined green leaves and is an excellent addition to any culinary or ornamental garden or container. Its young leaves have a tangy flavour that is similar to spinach or chard. It can be used to flavour sauces or egg and fish dishes.

Basil is really the king of the summer herbs, an appropriate name actually as the name basil is said to be derived from the Greek word meaning king.

Basil loves the hot weather and equally hates the real cold. Sow basil either directly into the bed where you want it to grow or sow into seed raising trays with a view to transplanting out after a couple of weeks.

Rumex Raspberry Dressing

Basil is both a thirsty and hungry plant, unlike many other herbs that do not like the soil too rich. Water lots and feed regularly to promote good healthy growth.

Basil makes for a great companion plant especially with tomatoes, is a good border plant as it sends out a strong aroma when brushed against and can be grown in the garden or in pots.

Basil is often used as a companion plant with tomatoes. Aside from the fact many summer dishes have both tomatoes and basil in them it is said that by growing basil next to tomatoes it improves the taste of the tomatoes.

Other plants aside from tomatoes that love basil are cucumbers and sweet corn.

Basil comes in so many forms these days. There’s Thai basil, lemon basil, cinnamon basil, the compact bush basil and or course the decorative purple basil. Each has a slightly different flavour, all adding interest to salads and other summer dishes.

Thai basil can even be grown as a water plant in a pond. Thai basil is an essential ingredient in Thai, Vietnamese, Lao and Cambodian cuisines and it is great when added to both red and green curries.

Dill is another summer herb that in the Middle Ages was used in magic spells and was thought to ward off witches. People wore little bags of dill around their necks to protect them from witchcraft.

It’s not likely many people grow dill to ward off witches today however it is still a popular summer kitchen herb.

Dill can grow to almost a metre so when choosing a site select a location not exposed to strong winds.

Basil-summer-herb

Sow dill where you want it to grow as dill doesn’t transplant that well. Feed the plants regularly with a liquid fertilizer, possibly every two to three weeks to promote good healthy growth.

Dill can be grown in the garden proper or equally it grows well in pots and containers.

Dill leaves do well with fish and a range of other seafood dishes. Smoked salmon hors d’oeuvres would seem incomplete if they’re not topped with sprigs of dill. Chopped dill added to potato dishes will provide both colour and flavour. Dill can also be preserved in oil.

As the dill plant matures it will flower and seed. The plant can be harvested when the flowers brown. Pick the whole plant and hang upside down to dry. Dill seeds are traditionally used in pickles but they can be chewed to sweeten breath and sprinkled to replace salt in salt-free diets.

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