Growing herbs is rewarding and popular among gardeners.

They are grown mainly for their fragrance or value in cooking.

Many herbs are regarded as practical medicinal remedies and many are being cultivated for medicinal or culinary uses in different parts of the world.

This has been so for thousands of years and today research into medicinal herbs is on the increase. Before the days of refrigeration and the wide availability of food in so many forms, herbs were often an essential part in the preservation and flavouring of foods. Today the major use here is flavouring and garnishing food.

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The most commonly used herbs in New Zealand are basil, chives, garlic, parsley, thyme, marjoram, sage and mint. Other frequently used herbs are coriander, dill, horseradish, hyssop, oregano, rosemary and tarragon. These are generally readily available as plants.

Herbs are ideal for growing in pots either as a mixed group or as single specimens. Always plant mint in its own pot because it is so vigorous it will outgrow all the others.

Cold-sensitive herbs such as basil and coriander if grown in pots can be bought inside when the weather turns. For best results herbs should be harvested regularly and given a liquid feed every fortnight during the growing season, and put down bait for slugs and snails.

With much more interest in what sprays and chemicals have been in contact with the food we eat, many more people are going back to growing some of their own vegetables.

However growing vegetables at home and with little use of sprays for pest control can mean our crops are less than satisfactory. Some gardeners are very aware of companion planting and that planting certain plants together can result in far more successful crops that if planted otherwise. This is an area we can explore and try some different planting arrangements that will improve home vegetable production.

Here are some notes on some herbs outlining what beneficial companions they really are in the garden.

Basil

Basil repels white fly and makes a good companion to tomatoes, both in the garden and in the kitchen. You need three basil plants to every tomato plant for it to be effective. Basil also helps to repel flies and mosquitoes so a pot or basket is handy in the kitchen and outdoors near the barbecue. Basil dislikes being planted near rue. Basil attracts bees for general garden fertility.

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Chives
Carrots grow larger and healthier when planted near chives. Chives help delay parsley going to seed. If grown underneath apple trees, chives help to prevent apple scab. They are also said to help control aphids and black spot on roses. Cooled chive tea, made from the chopped herb with boiling water, helps combat downy and powdery mildew.

Coriander
Coriander repels aphids. Don't grow it near fennel as it hinders fennels seed formation.

Fennel
Fennel repels fleas, so grow it around the dog kennel. Don't grow it in the vegetable garden as it is disliked by tomatoes, beans and caraway.

Hyssop
Hyssop is good for both cabbages and other brassicas as well as grapes. It helps deter white butterfly. A good insect repellent if planted in the vegetable or flower garden. Keep away from radishes.

Lemon balm
Lemon balm improves the growth and flavour of tomatoes as well as attracting bees which aid pollination.

Mint
Mint repels cabbage butterfly, so grow near your brassicas. It also repels fleas, ants and mice. Keep mint and parsley away from one another.

Oregano
Oregano should be planted near broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower to repel the cabbage butterfly and improve the flavour of these veges. It also seems to benefit grapes.

Parsley
Parsley aids the growth of roses, tomatoes, asparagus, beans and carrots. It is great grown near chives but should be kept away from mint.

Have a great week!