If you are busy planning your container gardening projects for this year, give some thought to planting herbs. Many of us will not have space for a herb garden, or in some cases any garden at all, but that does not mean you cannot reap the benefits associated with growing your own.
A kitchen window herb garden can host a wealth and variety of edible and medicinal wonders if you know how to keep them.
The first step is to decide whether you will grow your herbs in individual containers or in one long window box style container. If you are growing your kitchen window herbs all together then be sure to choose herbs that are compact and will not spread and suffocate the other delights you are trying to grow. Herbs such as thymes, marjorams, and sage all work well in window boxes.
The more sensitive herbs like basil (which is not a perennial herb like the others mentioned) will need to be grown indoors for the best results in this part of the world.
Mint behaves like a total bully if you plant it out in the open ground spreading at will.
Contain it by growing it in a large pot or small, raised bed where it cannot spread beyond its allotted space, meaning you have enough fresh mint for the Mojitos and you don’t have a problem in the garden.
Rosemary is also happy in a pot or a window box, but when left to its own devices in a garden it is a perennial shrub that can grow to a beautiful size.
A rosemary plant growing well in the garden is said to bring good luck to a home. Parsley is another ideal herb for the window gardener as it will continue to produce edible leaves throughout the year.
The food chain begins with the garden in more ways than just growing herbs. Spraying your garden with harmful chemicals may get rid of the pests destroying your plants, but it also affects the herbs, vegetables and fruit you are trying to protect.
These good insects are an important part of the natural food chain in your garden for other wildlife to feed on.
Most of us know that ladybirds are helpful predators in the garden because they eat aphids and whitefly, but what other wildlife is beneficial in our gardens.
Bees, moths, frogs, mice, bats and birds are all responsible for keeping your flowers pest-free and are all necessary to maintain the natural balance.
But how do you keep this helpful wildlife around?
Use ornamental plants that provide a food source over a long period of time. Include nectar and pollen-rich plants for bees, butterflies and other flower-visiting insects, and fruiting trees and shrubs for mammals and birds.
Night-flowering or scented species will benefit moths.
Create a log pile to benefit insects, fungi, birds, mice, hedgehogs, and frogs. A pristine and manicured garden is not always the correct approach in the garden.
Leaving some plants such as ornamental grasses uncut throughout winter will provide seeds for food and shelter to birds and other creatures.
In particular, ivy, and other climbers and hedges offer shelter and potential nesting places for birds and over-wintering sites for butterflies.
Turning part of your lawn into a wildflower meadow does require some management but far less maintenance than keeping a pristine “putting green” look and it will also provide food and shelter for wildlife of all kinds year-round.
Some of the best garden helpers require some man-made shelter. It is possible to attract bats and hedgehogs by providing specially built boxes comfortable enough for hibernation.
Create a water feature without fish to enable frogs to spawn. They will return the favour by eating slugs and snails.
When natural food sources are scarce you can give the birds a helping hand by putting out a variety of nuts, seeds and fat snacks. Don’t worry about them filling up too much on the tasty snack you provide, they are guaranteed to want the bugs and aphids on apple trees for dessert.
Keeping your garden healthy and organic all year round is important for the plants you grow and the insects that protect them. All insects are an important part of the natural food chain in your garden for other wildlife to feed on.
So instead of spraying first and asking questions later why not try handpicking and removing weak plants that are heavily infested with pests, while at the same time employing some of the natural pest killers, like ladybirds, to solve the problem without chemicals.